Cairoli weighs up 2021 MXGP championship rivals

Nine times world champion Tony Cairoli is predicting a tough battle with threats from various fronts in 2021 MXGP as he bids to claim a tenth crown and his eighth in the premier class. Cairoli became the first of three rookie world champions when he triumphed with Yamaha in 2009.

The 35-year-old is the oldest racer in MXGP and the most experienced. In 2021 he will enter his twelfth term with Red Bull KTM and has dropped out of the championship top-three only once in that time when able to complete a full season (he suffered injury in 2015 and 2019).

Cairoli was one of seven riders to stand on top of an MXGP rostrum from eighteen rounds in 2020 and one of ten different athletes to walk the podium. Even though the likes of Gautier Paulin and Clement Desalle will not be present in Grand Prix for the first time in a decade, #222 feels the influx of racers and the maturation of others will provide a fertile ground of competition.

“I think we’ll see the same sort of names going for the championship as we did in the last couple of years but for race wins I think there is a bigger group and even new people like [Thomas Kjer] Olsen and [Ben] Watson are among them,” Cairoli said, with special reference to the MXGP rookies and proven MX2 GP winners.

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The Sicilian also believes his junior teammate will be one of the fiercest challengers. “I think it is time for Jorge [Prado] to show his skills in going for the title and then you have Tim [Gajser], Jeffrey [Herlings] and myself,” he opines. ‘[Jeremy] Seewer will be very competitive, [Glenn] Coldenhoff also. There are many guys that can go for the championship and even more for the single race win.”

Only Cairoli, Tim Gajser, Jeffrery Herlings and Romain Febvre have won the MXGP trophy since 2009.

Words: Adam Wheeler

Pic: Juan Pablo Acevedo