MXGP Preview: The Contenders
Aside from Tony Cairoli and Ryan Villopoto, there are plenty of other riders on contention for the title and race wins. This won’t be a two horse race so we look at the list of possible spoilers.
First up has to be Gautier Paulin. After his performances last season and at the Nations, he is many people’s third favourite for the title. Paulin has all the bases covered, he is brilliant on hard pack, and also very good in the sand and the mud. He just needs consistency and to stay away from injury, and his move to HRC and working with JMB might just help that issue.
Roger Harvery commented: : I don’t think it’s unrealistic of him or to think he is in with a chance, that’s why we signed him. It’s a long series and Paulin has been known to jump off it so that’s another thing that JMB and everybody is working on with him. So we have to look and see how it develops but absolutely he is a potential winner or that championship.”
Harvey also admitted that Paulin believes he can run with Villopoto and loves the Honda. Paulin finally appears to have everything in place to go for the title, both he and Honda expect in 2015.
Clement Desalle has been close a number of times, with usually injury getting in the way of his challenge. 2014 was a similar story, when, after a slow start, Desalle hit form only to crash and break his wrist after getting himself into title contention. This year Desalle has had a full pre-season preparation and has looked very good in the warm up races, with Joel Smets believing Desalle has went up a level in 2015.
Can Desalle do it? Yes he can, but like Paulin, needs to stay away from injury.
Jeremy Van Horebeek has never been so confident. Usually the missing link for the smooth, talented Belgian has been his lack of self-belief, but last season was the moment of realisation for Van Horebeek especially when he won the Czech GP beating AC straight up in a dog fight to the finish. Van Horebeek knows he has the talent to do it now, and he really believes in his team and the Yamaha. We could well see Van Horebeek fulfil his potential this season, and that could mean he will be going for this title. Don’t count Van Horebeek out, he means business!
Before his injuries, Max Nagl was the closest rival to Tony Cairoli, he showed last year that he can still win races, but again the injuries destroyed his championship aspritations. Nagl is on Husky now and it is very similar to the KTM where he had most of his success. Going by his pre-season results and good starts, Nagl is loving the bike. If he keeps getting the starts, Nagl is going to be there or thereabouts in every moto. His only weakness is a lack of aggression especially when coming through the pack.
Kevin Strijbos has an inflamed wrist as they head to Qatar but the Suzuki man has been in blistering form pre-season. Joel Smets had revealed that Strijbos lost his confidence and Smets is getting him to realise just how good he really is. Strijbos is maybe too nice and laid back to win the title but when he is in the mood he is a match for anyone. If Suzuki can find the key to unlocking Strijbos’ full potential every week, maybe even make him a little angry, Kevin has the stuff and the consistency to be there all year.
One guy who may finally breakthrough in MXGP this year is Tommy Searle. The British rider hasn’t shown the form of his MX2 career in the last two season although injures and bad starts haven’t helped his cause. But Tommy’s talent and mental strength can never be questioned. He will beliece he can beat anyone including, RV and AC so he will not be intimated at the front of the pack. He beat Van Horebeek in MX2 and to see the Belgian winning and running at the front in MXGP will only motivate and inspire Searle to do the same.
He has factory KTM backing again, is teammates with World Champ and is loving the 350, which will suit his more aggressive style. He is also back with his trainer Kirk Gibbons who he had his best GP seasons with, Searle has to be taken seriously this season I believe he has the stuff to run with the front guys.
I am not sure how Tyla Rattray will perform this year, but it has to be better than last season. Rattray came in overconfident last year after spending too long in the American bubble, he wasn’t the same rider as he was in 2008 and forgot the depth of speed in GPs. But this year, he knows the level is high and the field deep, he is back on Kawasaki and is riding with RV every day.
I think he will be riding at a higher level that last year and Tyla himself is expecting to be a top five contender with podiums and race wins. Whether he will be there consistently I’m not sure but if he gets a start you can’t count Tyla out because he has the experience.
Add in names like Frossard, Waters, Simpson, Philippaerts, De Dycker, Guaneri, Goncalves, Ferris plus rookies, Febvre, Coldenhoff, Bengtsson, Charlier, Butron, Watson, Lupino and you can see the depth of field in MXGP is pretty incredible. That is 21 names not even including RV and AC – even the title contenders won’t want a bad start!
Article: Jonathan McCready
Pic: Honda PR