Heading into the 2019 season there’s no doubting that Jorge Prado is the clear favourite to bring home the title yet again. Last year the Spanish sensation had a great season winning twelve GP’s out of a possible twenty to win his first World title.

It’s the first time Prado will go into the season as clear favourite for the title – last year Pauls Jonass had that pressure and lost out to Prado in the championship chase. Prado looks great in pre-season so it really would be a shock to see him get beat in Argentina but you just never know.

The last two season’s have been very good for Thomas Kjer Olsen as he’s ended up third in the world back to back times which is certainly not an easy thing to do. The Dane has a lot of speed and his consistency is very impressive. The question with Olsen is can he turn his podiums into race win’s at this level? It’s not like he doesn’t know how to win because he has an EMX250 title to his name but doing the same in MX2 is obviously much harder. TKO isn’t helped out of the gate either due to his massive build so Prado usually gets the start on him and it’s hard always coming back from behind.

Olsen on his Factory Husqvarna at Hawkstone. Pic: Scott Dunne

Having said that, Olsen’s consistency could mount a series championship threat, especially if Prado has a few bad moto’s. After finishing third in the series, two years in a row Olsen will be going into this season with a different mindset too – he wants to win!

What a year 2018 was for Ben Watson, the young Brit has always had the potential to become a top GP rider and signing with Kemea Yamaha has been the making of his career. Working with guys like Jacky Vimond and Marnicq Bervoets has really helped Watson make the step up. There also seems to be a lot more self-believe about him now too which is great to see. The young Brit had a lot of fourth place finishes in 2018 and that’s also where he ended up in the championship but he did stand on the podium once in Russia. He’ll be hoping for plenty of podiums this year and why not challenge the likes of Prado and Olsen?

Watson in action at Hawkstone International Pic: Scott Dunne

“I’m just going to go to where I feel comfortable and I’m sure that’s going to be the top to be honest. I’m not saying I’m going to win or anything but I would like to come away with a top five for that first round and stay consistent and keep telling myself it’s a long season. I just want to come away from Argentina with a good feeling and not worry about the result”, Watson commented on going into the season.

Last year was a great year for Calvin Vlaanderen as he really stepped up his game. In the past the South African always showed plenty of speed but it almost looked like he was pushing too hard at times. Last year he looked a lot more relaxed on the bike and had a really smooth style. He even won a round of the series in Indonesia which was a dream come true but he’ll be looking to do that on a more regular occurrence this year. He still has to win a round in Europe which will feel even more special. The problem for Vlaanderen could be with his HRC Honda and will it be reliable enough to mount a championship challenge – they had a few problems with it last year. Fingers crossed they will have sorted all the issues out!

“It’s pretty natural. I mean the years before maybe I was just pushing too hard because I wanted it really badly. The years when I was winning the South African championships I was a really smooth rider and everyone knew me as a smooth, fast rider and I think that’s coming back now with the smoothness. The Calvin that should have been here a few years ago”, Vlaanderen commented on his style last year.

The dark horse heading into the new season has to be Belgian’s big talent, Jago Geerts. In his rookie year he finished eighth in the championship and considering he was still at school with the extra pressure of studying for exams he had a great rookie season.

During Prado’s rookie year in the class, he only went one better to finish seventh so look out for Geerts improvement this year. He might just be the guy that surprises everyone if everything clicks.

When you add in riders such as Henry Jacobi, Michele Cervellin, Conrad Mewse as well as the new blood in the class, it’s a deep class full of talent which should provide some great racing.

Article: Andy McKinstry

Pics: Shot by Bavo and Scott Dunne

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