2020 MXGP Preview: The Rookies
With the 2020 MXGP World Championship set to get underway next weekend at Matterley Basin, we take a look at the rookies in the class during the season ahead.
We still face a wait before finding out if Jorge Prado will race the first round of the MXGP World Championship after only getting back on the bike after fracturing his femur but either way there’s no doubt about his talents. The Spanish sensation comes into MXGP after two MX2 World Champion crowns on the bounce. At the Motocross Des Nations last year he made his 450cc race debut and had good weekend in Assen finishing fourth overall in the MXGP class.
There’s no doubt that Prado will be running right at the front battling with the likes of Herlings, Gajser and Cairoli as soon as he gets backs to full fitness and used to the demands of racing the bigger bike. He has the perfect technique for the bigger bike so it’s going to be exciting to see him in the premier class. Whilst he’s not expected to battle for the championship in 2020, he could be in the position to battle for the title in 2021.
Ten times world champion, Stefan Everts is a big fan of Prado’s technique. “It’s just a pity that Prado got injured already because I think he was a big competitor for all the others to get in there and show what he can do. I believe Jorge can do very well even in his first season because he is a very technical rider. I strongly believe in him but of course battling Herlings, he is one of the toughest guys when he is healthy”, Everts told GateDrop.com.
During the pre-season races, what a revelation Mitchell Evans has been on the bigger bike. When it was announced HRC Honda had signed with Aussie to contest the MXGP World Championship instead of keeping him in MX2 some eyebrows were raised but so far Evans really does look the real deal on the bigger bike.
The Aussie finished second in the International Italian Championship which lots of top riders contested and he was the only rider to beat Tim Gajser in a moto. Heading into the season with good form, Evans should start the season strongly but keeping the same level for a long season with twenty rounds in MXGP could be more challenging and something that hindered him last year.
However, as a rookie it’s all about learning for the future and he’s certainly confident he can provide good results in 2020. Evans hasn’t been surprised by his pace in pre-season, “I’m on the best team there is. I have been able to ride with Tim (Gajser) on the new bike, I’ve always said the 450 suits me better and it’s good to prove it, but there’s a long way to go”, Evans stated.
One of the riders moving up to the MXGP class that you’d have thought maybe needs time to adjust to the bigger bike is Henry Jacobi. The fast German has actually looked really good in pre-season though. Known for his aggression on the 250cc, Jacobi looks smooth on the bigger bike and could surprise a few people in the MXGP class as a rookie.
The true test will come for Jacobi when he gets a bad start in MXGP and is stuck in mid-pack, will he be able to stay smooth? As a rookie though it’s going to be important for Jacobi to learn as much as he can as the season progresses. The German tends to start slowly in classes but improves each and every year before being right at the front. There’s no doubt he’s a talented rider with plenty of speed.
After ending the MX2 World Championship with Kawasaki, Adam Sterry is back on a KTM for the 2020 season, a move that should suit him after signing with the JD Gunnex KTM team. It should do Sterry the world of good as he won’t have the pressure of being a factory rider and being expected to be at the front on a weekly basis. The MXGP class is so stacked it’s not going to be easy but Sterry definitely should suit the bigger bike more than the 250cc – he’ll be able to use the power of the bike.
The Brit is looking forward to his rookie season in MXGP and feels good heading into round one in front of his home crowd at Matterley Basin. “I’m just enjoying riding it at the moment. I’ve hardly made any mistakes with the 450cc as I can just use the power to correct it. I’m excited for the season, I have that underdog feeling again that I had in my first year of MX2, I have that same feeling going into the MXGP class. I can’t wait for the first round, I’m glad it’s at Matterley Basin”, Sterry told GateDrop.com.
Things were looking uncertain for Calvin Vlaanderen at the end of 2019 as to whether he’d even have a ride for the 2020 season! Thankfully, the Gebben van Venrooy Yamaha team stepped up to give Vlaanderen a ride for his rookie season in MXGP. Watching Vlaanderen ride a 250cc, he was so smooth and had a good technique, the way he rode it sometimes you’d have thought he was riding a bigger bike! The style shouldn’t be an issue for Vlaanderen but again it’s a case of learning as much as he can during his rookie season in the class.
With the talent Vlaanderen he has he should be looking to be a consistent top ten rider but it’s important for him to stay fit as injuries in the past have been a problem for him when it comes to putting a full season together.
Vlaanderen isn’t the only MXGP rookie under the Gebben van Venrooy Yamaha awning as Thomas Covington makes a return to the GP paddock after a year in America. Things didn’t go as planned for Covington in America and Epstein-Barr Virus eventually ended his season. After health issues and barely racing in 2019, it’s going to be important for Covington to just get races under his belt. It’s nice to see the American back in the Grand Prix paddock for 2020.
The American isn’t going into the season with any expectations. “I am really not putting any expectations into it, just going out to do the best I can. Do what I know I have to do, get a good start and if I get the bike set-up how I want it, I know I can run a pretty good speed so we will just have to wait and see, I’m not really sure where I’ll stand”, Covington told GateDrop.com.
One rider that was super solid in the MX2 World Championship was Michele Cervellin but he never really had the intensity needed to run right at the very front. The way of racing in MXGP should suit the Italian much better but the stacked class could be a problem if he gets bad starts. Cervellin has signed with the SDM-Corse Yamaha team and should certainly enjoy riding the 450cc as it should be a better fit for his style. At the tough hard pack tracks he should certainly excel. Riders like Cervellin shouldn’t be written off, Ivo Monticelli is a perfect example of a rider who’s turned his career around in MXGP.
It’s going to be a tough start to the season for Iker Larranaga after picking up an injury during the off season but he’ll want to get back up to full fitness and speed as soon as possible. It’s also worth mentioning that Larranaga is riding with a new team in the paddock for the season ahead – the MGR KTM team. It’s always nice to see new teams enter the paddock.
The 2020 season is a huge opportunity for British rider, Jake Millward. After an impressive 2019 in the British Championship where he finished third in the championship behind none other than Tommy Searle and Shaun Simpson, the Chambers Husqvarna racing team have decided to step up to contest the European rounds of MXGP. It’s a great opportunity for Millward and he should just enjoy racing at the highest possible level and try to improve as much as he can as a rider.
Two riders who are only contesting selected rounds during the season are Brent van Doninck and Vsevolod Brylyakov. Van Doninck is eager to impress to earn a full time ride in the paddock again in 2021 and should suit the 450cc much better. As for, Brylyakov he only got a ride last week with the KMP Honda team – he just needs to get plenty of laps under his belt and then when he’s up to full speed hopefully we can see him in the MXGP paddock.
Article: Andy McKinstry
Main pic: Taglioni S.