2021 MX2 Preview: Fresh new blood
With the 2021 World Championships getting underway this weekend at the hard pack track of Orlyonok in Russia, we thought we’d preview the young and hungry rookies entering the MX2 World Championship.
There’s no better place to start than with the reigning EMX250 champion in the form of Thibault Benistant. The young French talent was so impressive in the EMX250 championship last year he’s earned a Factory Yamaha for his rookie MX2 season and it’s thoroughly deserved.
There’s no denying the talent that Benistant has as he has both an EMX125 and an EMX250 title to his name and now it’s time for him to chase a World Championship title. At the end of last year Benistant contested two GP’s at Arco di Trento and he was already on the pace. Having a full factory bike and the likes of team manager, Marnicq Bervoets and trainer, Kenny Vandueren around him should only make him stronger going into the new season. At the recent Crisolles International not only did Benistant run with the top MX2 riders but he also had the pace of the MXGP riders which shows just how fast he is.
Vandueren started working with Benistant this winter and is pleased with what he has saw. “As we have all seen, he has some talent, he has been able to show that at the last GP’s nicely at the front of the MX2. Despite his young age he has surprised me several times how he lives for his sport and is also very smart about it to achieve his goal. As you say, he took the EMX250 title last year with Herjan Brakke next to him as a trainer on the bike, which is still the case this year, and with the full factory he is more motivated then ever before so looking forward to see him grow more”, Vandueren told GateDrop.com.
Last year just wasn’t meant to be for Mattia Guadagnini in his chase to become EMX250 champion but the disappointment of losing out will be well and truly behind him – might even make him stronger. The young Italian who still had a very impressive season last year inked a deal with what’s regarded as the best MX2 ride in the paddock – a Factory KTM seat. Not only is the bike incredibly good but he will also be close to the likes of Antonio Cairoli and Jorge Prado, what he can learn from those pair could be paramount for his career.
Claudio de Carli seems to be able to help riders improve on their weaknesses and whilst Guadagnini is incredibly fast, perhaps he needs to work on his technique and having Cairoli and Prado to work with, there’s no better riders to learn from. The Italian will definitely have the speed to run at the front and mix it with the best 250cc riders in the world. There’s no doubt that Guadagnini has a lot of potential and is a rider for the future.
Only three years ago Kay de Wolf was racing an 85cc and now he’s preparing for his rookie season in the MX2 World Championship. The young Dutch talent is always so good during his rookie years that he takes the next step up much quicker than most riders. In 2019 he finished sixth in his EMX125 rookie season and last year he finished fourth in his EMX250 rookie season – if he didn’t have to miss the last round through injury he might have been third!
De Wolf has immense talent and ability and arguably is the most talented rider in the world for his generation. For the 2021 season he’ll look to learn as much as possible during his rookie year in the class. Last year if there was one thing he needed to improve that was the rookie mistakes but that’s to be expected. He won’t be under much pressure this year as more is expected of his team mate Jed Beaton so don’t be surprised to see De Wolf run at the sharp end.
Team owner of the Factory Nestaan Husqvarna MX2 team, Kay Hennekens is confident of De Wolf’s talent. “Of course, we believe in Kay but we don’t want to put pressure on him, we believe that he is capable of doing top five but I’m cautious. So many things can happen, if he gets a nasty injury tomorrow this can change everything. He is very focused and is learning so many things and he has a great relationship based on respect with Rasmus. I think in certain races he will surprise us in 2021”, Hennekens told GateDrop.com.
It’s easy to forget but Isak Gifting is still technically an MX2 World Championship rookie! At the beginning of last season, Gifting was preparing for the EMX250 series but after four rounds of the series he got drafted into the DIGA Procross GasGas Factory Racing team to contest the rest of the season and what a revelation he turned out to be! Despite only racing ten rounds out of eighteen he ended up twelfth in the championship standings – he had two moto results in the top three which prove just how fast he was.
Heading into the 2021 season, you could say that Gifting is under more pressure as he’s more than just a fill in rider now. However, I don’t see the Swede struggling with that, he rides with his heart on his sleeve every time he goes out there. Gifting is a very aggressive rider and in the past it’s led to injuries, fingers crossed he can stay another season injury free and if he can work on his technique there’s no reason why this kid can’t surprise and be a regular front runner, he has the pace!
Last year started with a bang for Andrea Adamo in the EMX250 championship as he got on the podium at the opening round with a third overall – he even beat Benistant that day. However, his season was short lived as he picked up an injury which ruled him out for the rest of the season. The SM-Action team which has made the switch from Yamaha to GasGas for the 2021 season have remained loyal in the young Italian and not only that but have promoted him to race the MX2 World Championship.
So far in pre-season Adamo has looked solid and has a lot of potential. After missing pretty much a full year of racing it’s important to stay injury free. If he does that he will improve throughout the course of the season and potentially could become a consistent top ten rider.
Throughout his career, Gianluca Facchetti has had plenty of set backs but it has never stopped him from progressing in the sport which shows just how hungry he is to succeed. The young Italian still suffers from the serious car accident he was involved in which makes it difficult physically but you will never hear him make that excuse in public. Last year in the EMX250 series, Facchetti ended up thirteenth – he certainly had the pace for more but overall it was an encouraging season after injury issues in the past.
For the 2021 season, the Asssomotor Honda team have snapped him up. Unfortunately, last month he picked up a hand injury which resulted in surgery and at the moment his return is unknown. Hopefully he won’t be out of action for too long and we can see what he can do in the World Championship.
The WZ KTM Racing team have concentrated on the European Championships in the past but they’ve made the decision to step up and race the MX2 World Championship in 2021. The team will effectively step up and race the series with their EMX250 line up from last year in the form of Bastian Boegh Damm and Lion Florian.
Young Dane, Boegh Damm is very talented and dominated the opening round of the EMX250 series last year – he’d have challenged for the title if it wasn’t for an injury which hindered him. Going into 2021 he’ll be motivated to produce some strong results in MX2 and he certainly has the talent and speed, don’t underestimate him.
As for Florian, it was a good year for him in the EMX250 series ending up fifteenth in the championship despite missing a couple of rounds. More often than not he was battling in the top ten in a very fast series. In 2021, he’ll be looking to learn as much as possible but he should be a regular point scorer at the very least.
Good news for British fans as there’s a couple of young British rookies to watch out for in MX2 this year no other in the form of Joel Rizzi and Taylor Hammal.
After starting last year with the intentions of racing the EMX125 series, Rizzi then made the switch to the EMX250 series and showed some good pace in a competitive class. For 2021, he has a fantastic opportunity after signing with the 114 Motorsports Honda team. Rizzi has been living in France and has been putting in the hard work with the likes of Eric Sorby and will be looking to surprise in 2021.
Rizzi is looking forward to the challenge of racing the MX2 World Championship. “Results wise, no expectations. I just want to go out there, enjoy myself and if I can improve and ride like how I ride on practice days – the results will come. I think I will shock some people”, Rizzi told GateDrop.com.
As for Hammal he’s been out of the GP paddock for a few years focusing on the domestic championships in England but he got an offer he simply couldn’t refuse from Steve Dixon to step up and race the MX2 World Championship. Unlike Rizzi he might not be quite as familiar with the tracks as it’s been a while since he’s been in the GP paddock but he’s looking forward to the challenge. Unfortunately, Hammal picked up a finger injury at Canada Heights at the weekend which forced him out of the races so he’s a serious doubt for Russia.
“To go for it! I have nothing to lose, well that’s not all true but there’s no pressure to start with. I’m going to give it my all as this is an opportunity that could only happen once so I’m going to take it with both hands and do everything to do my best so I can keep doing this as my job in the future. You can’t go there thinking I’m not racing in the same race as Geerts, Viallle etc. Although I’ll probably not get close to them next year (laughs) but it doesn’t matter who it is you’re lining up against they’re all the same as you when the gate drops so you just got to focus on yourself and do your best and not think about anyone else”, Hammal told GateDrop.com.
Last year started out incredibly well for young Swiss talent, Kevin Brumann after going 2-1 at the opening round of the EMX125 series. Brumann battled with Everts and looked very strong and fast but then a knee injury upset his season. After riding with the injury for the next four rounds he decided to get surgery and start to prepare for 2021.
The natural route for Brumann would have been to step up to the EMX250 series but the iXS Yamaha team have decided to put him in the MX2 World Championship straight away. It’s a big jump so the plan should be to just have a learning year and grow for the future. Max Nagl is working with Brumann and there’s no doubt the kid has talent so he could be one for the future.
Another rider that’s making the jump up from the EMX125 class to the MX2 World Championship is Gerard Congost. Last year resulted in a few injuries but he did show some good pace on his GasGas, the JK Yamaha team decided to sign him up for the 2021 season. Like Brumann it’s important to just take it in a learning year.
Young Belgian, Julian Vander Auwera hasn’t got too much experience in the GP paddock but he’s got an opportunity to race the MX2 World Championship this year with the Everest Husqvarna Racing team and he took it with both hands. It is nice to see a new team in the GP paddock and Vander Auwera will be hoping to learn as much as possible and improve as the season progresses.
Article: Andy McKinstry
Main pic: Shot by Bavo