Britain’s big rivalry of 2016: Simpson v Searle
Britain’s two fastest riders will cross swords again in MXGP but for the first time Shaun Simpson goes into the season with the upper hand.
For a number of years Tommy Searle was the man leading the way, he got factory support, more media attention and was usually at the front in GPs. But the last two years have seen a gradual shift as the steady Simpson has worked his way to the front at world level and won British titles with ease as Searle has been beaten up by injuries.
Now it is Simpson with the factory support and Searle for the first time simce 2007 will not be on a factory team.
This is Simpson’s big chance to show what he can do on the best equipment available in MXGP. Shaun had two years as a factory rider in MX2 but a broken leg in year one, just after he won his first GP moto, and health issues in year two alongside the difficulty of facing the new kids, Roczen and Herlings plus World champion teammate Marvin Musquin, left Simpson back on a private team for his debut in MXGP.
Now he gets the chance to show what he really can do and his pre-season results have been impressive. But there is pressure too, Shaun has been wanting a factory-backed ride for a few years and now that he has got it, has to deliver the results. It’s now or never to produce on this level of machinery, at his age Simpson won’t get many more chances if he doesn’t deliver.
The same can be said for Searle, the injuries in the last two years have cost Searle his factory ride and he knows he needs to perform at a high level in 2016 to get back to factory status. The talent is there of course, but riding for a smaller budget team is something Searle hasn’t had to experience for many years and he also has to contest the British championship alongside his GP commitments, again something he is not used to.
Searle and Simpson will have 18 Grand Prix and 8 British champion events to prove who is superior. They have always had a niggling rivalry permeated by intermittent dosses of grudging respect. Simpson felt he didn’t get the respect he deserved battling away on non-factory machinery, while Searle felt he had more potential to run at the front as was demonstrated by their MXDN spat last year when Tommy didn’t like the fact Shaun got chosen so early ahead of him.
Now Simpson will be expected to beat Searle and be a regular MXGP front runner while Tommy will be determined to turn his career around and that begins by reclaiming the spot as Britain’s number one and beating the factory-backed Simpson on a private machine. The roles have swapped, they are in each other’s shoes and the motivation will be even higher in a year that is vital for both riders’ careers.
Hang tight, it could get messy!