Going into the season Pauls Jonass, Jorge Prado, Hunter Lawrence, Thomas Olsen and Thomas Covington are the favourites but we take a look at some of the other riders in the class who will be looking to surprise as the season progresses.

Calvin Vlaanderen: Who would have thought that Calvin Vlaanderen would be the only HRC Honda rider in both Europe and America. Well, before the first round of the World Championship this weekend, it’s the reality.

With Brian Bogers, Tim Gajser, Ken Roczen and Cole Seely all out injured it leaves Vlaanderen as the only HRC Honda supported rider – no pressure there then! With regards to Vlaanderen, he’s moved over from the HSF Logistics KTM team to the HRC Honda team and he already looks just as good on the Honda based off the two pre season races he’s done in Italy. It’s important for Vlaanderen to stay fit as he always seems to pick up some sort of injury. If he can avoid injury, it would be surprising if he wasn’t a regular visitor to the podium in 2018. He might even be able to make a push for a top five finish in the world championship depending on how things go.

Conrad Mewse: Unfortunately for the Brit he’s lost his Factory Husqvarna ride he had last year during his rookie year in the series. However, he’s been signed up by the Hitachi KTM UK outfit for the 2018 season and they always seem to get the best out of their riders.

It should be a good fit and it’s great the team will get factory backing for the 2018 season, it’s something they’ve deserved for quite a while now so it’s good to see. When Mewse is on it then he really is on it, just rewind to Assen last year for example. If he can ride like that every week then he will be right at the sharp end. It’s also worth pointing out that with his rookie year behind him he should be much stronger for the season ahead.

Davy Pootjes: It really is a big year for Davy Pootjes. The Dutch talent got a lot of hype when he raced the 125cc and rightly so as it looked for all the world that he’d be the next big thing. However, since moving up to the MX2 World Championship, injuries have got in the way and I think it’s fair to say we haven’t really got to see the real Davy Pootjes.

Pic: Scott Dunne

Pootjes has signed with the LRT KTM team and it looks like a nice atmosphere within the team so it should be a good match. It’s really important for Pootjes to stay fit this year to gain some momentum and really show us what he can do. I believe this is the last year on his KTM contract so he needs a good year to stay orange for the 2019 season and beyond. Pootjes certainly has the talent to be a consistent rider in the top ten but it remains to be seen if he can make it happen.

Vsevolod Brylyakov: You could say it’s a really big year for the Russian as it’s his last year to contest in the MX2 World Championship. Brylyakov has improved a lot since stepping up to the world series and in all honesty I was surprised to see Steve Dixon let him go. However, the Kemea Yamaha team decided to sign a deal with the Russian for the year ahead.

Brylyakov picked up a pretty serious injury last year where he lost feeling in his shoulder so because of that missed most the season. He’s got a lovely style and he’s a joy to watch on the bike but sometimes you feel he’s nearly too aggressive and he needs to smooth out a little as he’s always on the edge. There’s no doubting his work ethnic though as he’s one of the hardest riders in the paddock and for that reason it would be nice to see him do well. He certainly has the potential for some podiums throughout the season. It’s also thought he has an option with Yamaha to contest the MXGP World Championship in 2019 as even extra motivation.

Ben Watson: Finally the young Brit has secured a factory ride for the year ahead. You feel he was always knocking on the door of a top ride but it hasn’t happened until now. Watson looks good during pre-season and hasn’t needed much time to gel to the Yamaha.

Working with Jacky Vimond on a full time basis should really help bring on the young Brit who has tonnes of potential. Also, it’s the first time in his career he won’t be based in the UK as he’s moved to Belgium, he’s just about to learn a lot for himself and mentally should make him much stronger. The Brit should be getting regular top ten results during the course of the season.

Adam Sterry: Another Brit that’s got plenty of potential is Adam Sterry who faced a lot of uncertainty about his future when the factory Kawasaki team closed their doors. Thankfully Sterry secured a ride with the F&H Kawasaki team for the season ahead.

Pic: Scott Dunne

After this year in the class, Sterry will only have one year left in the series so it’s important he produces the goods this year to put him in a good situation for this time next year. However, after a big injury last year, it might take him a few rounds to get used to the intensity of the MX2 World Championship again. Sterry has set high targets for himself as he wants podiums, “I think that fighting for podiums is the goal and that’s where I should be. If you do that all year then you should be there or there about’s at the end of year.”

Darian Sanayei: Last year was the American’s rookie season in the class and overall you’d say it was a solid season as he ended up eleventh in the series even though he missed a round due to injury. Sanayei showed us glimpses of what he can do last season and he will want to build on that for 2018.

Sanayei had one of his best GP’s in Argentina last year as he finished fifth overall so he’ll be hoping for something similar this year to kick start his season. One thing I would say though, is that he has quite a lot of pressure on his shoulders being the only MX2 World Championship rider as part of the Dixon Kawasaki Racing Team, I was surprised Dixon didn’t go with two riders in the class along with Searle.

Pics: Scott Dunne

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