Due to the under 23 age rule in the MX2 World Championship it means there’s always new riders moving up to the MXGP series every year. We will take a closer look at the rookies in the class for the year ahead.
Jeremy Seewer (Team: Wilvo Yamaha): Perhaps the most exciting rookie is the talented Swiss rider. Seewer just missed out on the MX2 World Championship last year to Pauls Jonass but speed wasn’t the problem. Seewer’s starts were an issue all year and they cost him the title which was a big blow but it was still a good season for him none the less.
After Suzuki pulled out of the World Championship, Seewer was left without a ride but the Wilvo Yamaha saw an opportunity they couldn’t refuse and decided to sign him knowing he has very good potential. Being the third rider in the team, the pressure won’t be on Seewer so it should suit him perfectly. One thing he needs to improve though is starts because the MXGP field is deep and he might not get away with his bad starts as much as he did in MX2. I don’t see why Seewer can’t be a solid top ten rider during his first season in the class and push for top five results at times too, he’s already stated he loves the 450cc!
Julien Lieber (Team: Kawasaki Racing Team): The 2017 was a huge year for the Belgian after missing the entire 2016 season through injury. Knowing last year was his last year in the MX2 World Championship he knew he had to perform in order to secure a ride in the MXGP World Championship.
Perform is what Lieber did as he secured sixth overall in the championship standings and got himself some podiums too – exactly what’s required to secure an MXGP ride. Lieber is perhaps one of the more aggressive riders moving up to the MXGP series so he might have to change his style to handle the 450cc. Also, it’s worth pointing out the Belgian was recovering from a knee injury during the winter so only got back on the bike in January. He hasn’t contested any pre-season races so might need a few races to get back up to speed and get used to the MXGP class. You’d think the Belgian will be a top fifteen guy with some solid top ten results during the course of the season.
Petar Petrov (Team: Assomotor Red Moto Honda): The Bulgarian has been in the GP paddock for years! Finally, he makes the move to the MXGP class, as everyone knows, Petrov is a big guy with a heavy build and for that reason I’d have liked to have seen him make the move to the MXGP class earlier in his career. Although having said that, it’s hard to turn down a factory ride in the MX2 class.
Petrov is with the Assomotor Red Moto Honda team for the year ahead, he will make his debut with the team in Argentina as after picking up a small injury during winter he decided not to contest any pre-season races. Similar to Lieber, I see Petrov seeing a fifteenth-place kind of guy due to the class being so stacked! But he should certainly suit the 450cc much better than MX2 machinery.
Ivo Monticelli (Team: I-Fly JK Racing Yamaha): A few seasons ago the Italian was hot property and looked like a great potential. However, Monticelli has been struggling with injuries ever since which is a huge shame. The JK Racing Yamaha team have decided to sign Monticelli for the season ahead and on paper it should be a good fit.
Hopefully, Monticelli can stay injury free and just build as the season progresses. He won’t have to ride the 450cc so aggressive so hopefully that can help him avoid less crashes. Monticelli should certainly be battling for the points in each and every single moto.
Simone Zecchina (Team: Ceres 71 Yamaha): Zecchina moves up from the 250cc machine after contesting some rounds of the EMX250 and the MX2 World Championship last year. It’s worth pointing out that the Italian was very good on a 125cc running with the likes of Bernardini and Gajser at times.
However, since making the move to the 250cc, things haven’t gone to plan for Zecchina but he’s done well to secure an MXGP ride for 2018. He’s on the entry list for Argentina so it looks like he will contest the entire series and his target should be to score as many points as possible during the course of the season.
Brian Bogers (Team: HRC Honda): The Dutch talent still had another year in the MX2 World Championship if he wanted too but once he got the offer to go to the HRC Honda team he just couldn’t turn it down. However, things haven’t gone to plan as he’s got injured during the winter. He’s expected to be ruled out for the first four or five GP’s which is a real shame – he will be playing catch up throughout the entire season now.
Bogers is a heavy guy and I do think he’ll be a good rider in the MXGP class once he gets himself sorted out and adjusted to the 450cc, it’s just a shame that might not be until the 2019 season now due to the injury.
Benoit Paturel (Team: Espace7 Honda): The future is relatively unknown for the French rider as he hasn’t secured an MXGP ride. However, I decided to give him a mention because you’d think he will be signed as a replacement rider when one of the factory teams pick up an injury – I’m surprised HRC Honda haven’t drafted him in. Worst case scenario hopefully he does a few GP’s with the Espace7 Honda team he’s expected to contest the French Championship with.
Stefan Ekerold (Team: Sarholz KTM): Last year was Ekerold’s first season on the 450cc machine as he was with the Castrol Suzuki outfit. He only contested four rounds of the MXGP World Championship picking up two points. However, the Sarholz KTM team were impressed with what they saw from him during the ADAC MX Masters so decided to sign him up and he will contest all the European rounds of the MXGP series in 2018.
There will be moto’s he fails to pick up points which isn’t anything to be ashamed of as the class is insanely deep! But there will also be moto’s he picks up points so he should focus on getting as many as he can get during the seaon.
Nathan Renkens (Team: KMP Honda Racing): It’s only a few seasons ago the Belgian was competing in the EMX125 series but he’s already decided to make the big move up to the MXGP World Championship. Renkens has landed himself with a solid team – the KMP Honda Racing team and it’s the first season they will back a rider in MXGP.
Renkens will contest the European rounds of the series and will look to learn as much as possible riding with the very best riders in the world.
Graeme Irwin (Team: Hitachi KTM UK): He’s technically not a rookie as he’s signed an MXGP deal before back in 2011. However, it didn’t last too long as Irwin picked up a season ending injury at round five.
Irwin much more mature and a smarter rider than he was in 2011 could surprise the GP regulars in 2018. He already looks at home on the KTM and beat Bobryshev at Hawkstone International. Irwin has been putting plenty of laps in with GP regulars such as Cairoli and Jasikonis during pre-season so he will have already learnt lots heading into 2018. Hopefully he can stay injury free and end up in the top fifteen in the series at the end of the season, that would be a great year for the Carrickfergus man.
Jeremy Seewer – Yamaha
Julien Lieber – Kawasaki
Ivo Monticelli – Alex Piantanida