Andy McKinstry: It was one of the worst kept secrets in the MXGP paddock but it’s finally official, the Rockstar Ice One Husqvarna team will go into the 2019 season with a new rider line up. Gautier Paulin and Max Anstie have left the team with Pauls Jonass and Arminias Jasikonis being drafted into the team.
There’s been a lot of talk about the moves on social media and people don’t seem to rate the new rider line up. I have to disagree with many people though, I actually really do like the new rider line up. Now in terms of the short team and 2019, there’s a good chance Anstie and Paulin will probably beat the new riders. However, if we think about the potential Jasikonis and Jonass have for the future then it could be rather exciting.
Let’s not forget Pauls Jonass is an MX2 World Champion – that’s something Anstie couldn’t achieve even though he’s a very good rider so the Latvian had a better MX2 career than the Brit, who’s to say he won’t go on and have a better MXGP career too? I do feel like even though he’s world champion, Jonass is a bit under rated. Gajser, Febvre and even Seewer showed they had no problem moving up to MXGP and I think Jonass will be fine – probably a 5-10th placed guy which is fine for his first year in the class. The only worry for him going into his rookie season is the knee injury, it means he won’t be the best prepared but he should continue to improve as the season goes on.
Jasikonis genuinely excites me for the future, I honestly do believe he has what it takes to be a podium guy in the future. People forget just how good he was on the Suzuki and that was his first opportunity to race MXGP. It was a real shame he had no other options than to go to Assomotor Honda this year but he certainly deserved better. He’s still young but now he has a good bike and his two years in MXGP have made him a better rider. This guy is good so don’t be surprised if he gets on the box this year. AJ might be under more pressure to perform than Jonass as he only has a one year deal whereas Jonass has a two year deal. I’d have given AJ a longer contract length due to the potential he has in the future – he is the youngest rider in the class after all!
Jonathan McCready: There is a definite change of direction at Ice One Husqvarna in 2019 as they look to develop the younger riders as they make their way in the premier class in motocross, and both signings appear to be very astute.
Both Gautier Paulin and Max Anstie had done well in the team over the last couple of years, both showing flashes of brilliant but the young riders coming in are talented and determined to make their names in MXGP too.
Pauls Jonass has a world title to his name so it shouldn’t be any surprise how sought after he was. The guy is a superb rider and was close to being a two-time world champ in 2018. For me Jonass has a similar level of talent as Tim Gajser (they battled for the 2016 MX2 title after Herlings’ injury until Jonass had a big crash at Loket) and has matured a lot. The dedicated Latvian should be a great long-term signing for the team and ticks all the boxes in terms of being a previous world champion, possessing a ton of raw speed along with high professionalism.
With his knee injury, Jonass might not be as prepared as he would like to be for round one but he should suit the 450 and as Seewer, Gajser, Febvre and Herlings have shown the pace at the front of MX2 is very high and they can adapt to the MXGP quickly and be competitive straight away.
Jasikonis burst onto the scene in 2017 thanks the eagle eye of Stefan Everts and the then teenager showed some brilliant speed and raw talent to take a podium in his first GP season. That takes some doing and can’t be understated, but with Suzuki pulling out this year Jasikonis was left off factory equipment and in a smaller privateer team, but again he was still showing good speed hovering around the top 10-15 until injury.
Both years were impressive in their own way, Jasikonis showed he’s a fast learner with a lot of talent in 2017 but also showed he had the grit to persevere in 2018 and he still had speed on a team that isn’t on the level of Ice One racing. With more experience and now a good structure again to maximise his potential, Jasikonis has the tools to get to the next level, and he has the talent and the platform to really become a major player in MXGP over the next few years if he takes his opportunity in 2019.