Arnaud Tonus discusses his MXGP retirement

Arnaud Tonus was the sixth high-profile name and former Grand Prix winner to retire retirement from MXGP in the last twelve months. The 30-year-old made a social media post at the end of November to announce his move away from Grand Prix racing and a class that he joined in 2017 after a three-year period in the USA with the Pro Circuit crew.

Tonus, who rode for Yamaha in his MXGP tenure from ’17, won an MX2 Grand Prix, an MXGP moto at his home Grand Prix and grabbed six podium results in 2019 to classify 5th in the championship standings has also been plagued by injury throughout his career with multiple shoulder problems and several concussions. The repercussions ultimately fed into his drift away from the FIM series after 2021 in which he scored just four top ten moto results on the Hostettler YZ450F.

“I had two hard years and it put me in a position where it was tough to find a good proposal,” he said exclusively. “It [retirement] was also on my mind for a couple of months because I had two head traumas in a row and it was something that was weighing on me. My body was responding a little bit differently. I worked hard to be back at full capacity, but it was still hard to find my speed. It was a mix of everything that led to the decision. I didn’t want to base my thinking on ‘I don’t know what I will do next, so I had better continue…’ I wanted to know if the fire was still there to race at that level. It wasn’t based on money at all. MXGP requires 100% commitment.”

“The love for the sport will never disappear, I will just have a bit of a different perspective,” he said on his immediate future without racing. “I will still ride and enjoy being on a bike but not at a Pro level. Maybe some races for fun but there is no plan yet.”

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Tonus vied for the MX2 championship in 2014 with seven podium results in the first ten rounds, including his first GP success in Brazil. A dislocated shoulder ended his hopes that year and he joined Pro Circuit Kawasaki for 2015 for a spell in the USA that was blighted with a virus and a broken wrist. The Swiss says that his resurgent 2019 season as part of the current Monster Energy Yamaha factory team was the highlight.

“’19 was definitely the best for me, especially coming back after a tough injury; it seems like it’s been like this my whole career but the shoulder problem I had in 2018 was really serious and I didn’t know whether I’d be able to ride again,” he reflects. “So, coming back from that and having my best year was really special. There isn’t really one moment that stands out, I went through so many ups-and-downs and so much in life in general. You always need to question yourself, dig-deep and learn about your own body and go through a lot of emotion. A career is so much more than just results, even if that is a bit part of it! As a human it is pretty crazy to experience riding and racing at a high level and motocross is so demanding mentally and physically. I discovered a lot of stuff and I’m happy and thankful I went through that.”

Tonus first entered Grand Prix in 2009 and rode KTM, Suzuki, Yamaha and Kawasaki equipment. Even though his presence in the MXGP division has been sporadic he has been able to witness the evolution of speed and performance in just five years. “MXGP is a lot more compact now,” he opines. “The top guys have been more or less the same but now you can fight for 19th position while being just two seconds a lap away from the times being set by the top-five. This is new. I don’t think it was like that before. It’s made the sport exciting to watch and it’s great; although not when you are in it! It can be very frustrating if you are just a bit ‘off’. It’s hard to accept in the beginning. Everyone has been improving.”

Tonus joins riders like Tony Cairoli, Clement Desalle, Gautier Paulin, Julien Lieber, Shaun Simpson and Kevin Strijbos to take a step back from MXGP. He walks away from the sport with Swiss and British national titles but also with a reputation as a rider with brilliant technique that should have won more. “I don’t really look back in that way,” he says when asked for his own view on his career. “I know I could have done better in some areas and I’m honest with myself. I think the injuries started to catch up with me, not consciously but maybe a bit deeper. Bu suffering a few in a row it’s hard to ride as free as you would as a kid. I had the potential but also hit tough parts of the road. It was just a part of my career. Overall, it was a very rich experience.”

Words: Adam Wheeler