Team Suzuki Press Office – February 21.
With a successful pre-season under their belts, the Suzuki World MXGP team riders head to the Losail International Circuit in Qatar with a lot of excitement for the start of the new 2017 World Motocross Championships this weekend. All five riders competed well at the two International races and just as importantly came out of them relatively unscathed, in what was a good warm-up for both rider and machine.
With the launch of the new RM-Z450WS earlier this month, all eyes have been on bike to see how well it performed on the race track and under the guidance of Kevin Strijbos and Arminas Jasikonis, it has been a great start.
General Manager Stefan Everts gave his thoughts on 2017 so far: “We had a surprisingly good pre-season, but I don’t want to expect too much from the new bike too early. It has been well received after the launch and we had some good results with it after not doing too much testing. AJ has been riding well and Kevin has been steady in the pre-season races, so I think we’re heading in a good direction.”
At Hawkstone Park, the pair went 1-2 in qualifying and then proceeded to get third (Jasikonis) and fifth (Strijbos) overall in the racing, and then at Lacapelle, AJ again got third overall which included a first place in moto two that really impressed people on a hard-pack track that isn’t typically his strong suit. “So far, so good. I’m really excited for Qatar. These two pre-season races went quite well. Lacapelle was a really nice second moto, a quite unexpected win, but it brought some really good motivation to me. We still need to improve some stuff, but we are on the right path,” said the Lithuanian.
Strijbos again showed his consistency with a pair of fourth place finishes in France, after a fifth overall in England and now they both board the plane to Qatar highly motivated to continue this good early form.
“For a Qatar it will be good I hope. We have a new bike and we’ve done a lot of testing and riding now and every time we go out, we get better. I look forward to seeing how it goes for the GP now. I hope to get some decent results there as it’s the first GP and everyone is excited. I want to put in two good motos, leave the race healthy and go from there and see where our strong points are, where our weak points are; and improve for the next race,” commented the experienced Belgian.
In the MX2 class, things have also gone well for this three-man squad with Jeremy Seewer reminding everyone of his qualities, and why many have picked him for the title this year. The quietly-confident Swiss had this to say: “Everyone sees me as a favourite, which is normal after last year and that’s how it is. And my goal is to become World Champion of course, but that’s a really long way away and there are lots of other really good riders as well. I just want to be consistent from race to race and I know I don’t have to win, just be there all the time. Of course I want to win because this would be a really nice thing, but for Qatar I just need to be there and not lose too many points and then see how the rest turns out.”
In what is his first year in the MX2 class, Hunter Lawrence has also impressed many with his speed and now the young Australian is excited to show-off his skillset at the highest level. He had this to say about the upcoming weekend: “I’m super excited for Qatar, it’s something I’ve been training for, for a long time now and I’m really looking forward to it. Obviously it’ll be difficult, racing in the night time, that’ll be new and all the travel, with the jet lag, if I get that or not. But really I’m just so happy to be able to be doing what I love as a job, to be a professional motocross racer and I’m so thankful for this opportunity given to me by Suzuki. I’m just so looking forward to kicking this season off and just focusing on myself and how I know how to ride. Learning as much as possible.”
The final member of the team heading to Qatar is Dutch rider Bas Vaessen, who despite missing out in France due to a little knock, will head to Qatar for the first time, after stepping-up from third place in the EMX250 championship last year: “My expectations are to improve every single race, and in Qatar just to ride consistently and not make any mistakes. Obviously I want to do my best and get the best results possible and hopefully get comfortable racing in this class against the top riders,” commented Vaessen.
His thoughts were echoed by Everts who explained his hopes for the MX2 riders this year: “I think for Bas and Hunter, it’ll be their first GPs so I don’t put too much expectations on them in terms of results. I just want them to show good riding skills and put in a good effort and to ride at their best. Then we will see where they stand a little bit later in the season.
“For Jeremy, he’s one of the title favourites and I hope that he can handle that pressure. He should be ready for it, he’s quite experienced now and last year was a good year for him so I hope that he can perform well in Qatar and I hope that all the pieces fall into place for him for the rest of the year too.”
While a night race in Qatar is a lot different than a cold, wet European motocross track, preparations have gone well for the Suzuki World MXGP squad and each rider is extremely excited for the first gate drop of the 2017 world championships.
Unlike the rest of the rounds this season, qualifying is on Friday, with raceday starting on Saturday afternoon and running late into the evening under Losail circuit lights.