Clement Desalle comments on the Triumph project
Triumph’s first modern-era world championship machine was shown for the first time in the new Monster Energy livery on Saturday night at the Motocross of Nations. The as-yet-unnamed motorcycle was uncovered by the Grand Prix race team management of Thierry Chizat-Suzzoni and Vincent Bereni, Triumph’s CPO Steve Sargent and test rider and former GP winner plus three-time championship runner-up Clement Desalle. While Monster Energy offered platitudes around the motivations for their involvement with another manufacturer in MXGP (it certainly widens their presence in a series they title sponsor and Ricky Carmichael’s influence in the USA must have also helped), for Triumph the link-up continues their positive policy of connecting with the necessary experience and quality for their first MXGP adventure.
The lengthy presentation inside the Monster Energy rig was well-attended, and interest was high in the lithe 250 with a curious chassis concept that involved a minimalist swingarm and decent associations with brands like KYB, Akrapovic, Xtrig, Renthal, Twin Air, Braking and more. Sargent stressed that the motorcycle had been designed and built from the “ground-up” at the company’s HQ in Hinckley, England. “This is a long -term commitment and we are so excited to be here,” he added.
Triumph will be racing at the same time they are honing their first production bike; a predicament that Sargent admitted was “difficult” but stated that Chizat-Suzzoni and Bereni (ex-incumbents of KRT for almost ten years and who were 2021 MXGP runners-up with Romain Febvre before stepping back from the world championship to start testing duties with Triumph in 2022) “brought passion and desire aboard, and that rubbed-off on our guys.”
Sargent explained that their debut in MX2 for 2024 was to exploit the “great engineering platform” that is the 250cc four-stroke engine but that the 450 is “not far behind”. “In terms of ultimate performance from a single cylinder engine it was the ultimate challenge”.
Due to contractual reasons, the riders could not be named but they are expected to be Camden McLellan and Mikkel Haarup, and Chizat-Suzzoni’s ability to retain almost all of the former KRT staff for this new project showed how dedicated the group are; the Frenchman was even quite emotional about the topsy-turvy journey that saw Kawasaki shift their loyalties and decamp to IceOne but then the squad were able to get involved with the Brits.
Perhaps the best segment of the event was Desalle’s exposition. The Belgian is still only 34 but called time on his career after the 2020 Covid-affected season. Bereni always appreciated #25’s delicate touch for set-up and feeling of the KX450F so he was the natural choice for the lion’s share of the testing effort during 2023 and as soon as Triumph had a prototype.
“We wore him out,” Bereni joked. It was easy to hang on Desalle’s words because he almost has no filter. Clement says what he thinks, and this was the first time he had spoken at length (indeed the first time he had performed anything like a PR duty at a motocross event) since his withdrawal from MXGP.
“It was new for me, and I had to adapt after retiring; I was used to the adrenaline and the travelling since I was sixteen years old and it was a big thing in my life,” the Malaga-based rider said. “I had to understand if his job would fit me.”
“It’s been ten months now and I had to change my style of riding…but I was surprised how much I could enjoy it: it’s important to have a good feeling with a bike, and I always said this when I was racing.”
Bereni admitted that testing and keeping the Triumph away from prying eyes was not an easy task especially when development appeared to move quickly.
“I was a factory rider for two big brands and the reactivity [from Triumph] is really nice to see,” Desalle affirmed. “It is not easy to work for two years for a project without going to a race or having some results but I think we are really close.”
Words: Adam Wheeler
Image: Ray Archer