MXGP preview: The potential challengers going under the radar
A number of riders willl be looking at 2019 as the year they will really show their full potential in the ultra-competitive MXGP class. Whether it’s injuries, rookies or having a year’s experience, they all will be telling themselves this will be the year they step up a level go and reach their potential.
Pauls Jonass is the rookie all eyes will be on this year. There is extra intrigue at Argentina with the Latvian not having had a pre-season race thanks to a late return to the bike following knee surgery at the end of September but Jonass’ pace has apparantly been impressive.
“Pauls is looking really good…he is riding really well,” commented his team manager Antii Pyrhönen on his quick progress so far.
Jonass has the talent to battle with Gajser and Febvre and become one of the elite but how close he will be to that level at the beginning of the year and even his first year in the class remains to be seen.
Jonass’ teammate Arminas Jasikonis is back in a factory team in what will only be his third year at world level. The 20 year old has a lot of talent and will want to show his potential to run towards the front this year like he did with Suzuki when he got a podium at just 18 years old in his rookie GP season. This is a huge year for Jasikonis as he only has a one-year deal to show he has the potential to be in the elite group of MXGP or the second tier.
Jeremy Seewer has moved up to the factory 450 Yamaha team after impressive in his rookie year on Wilvo Yamaha and both rider and team will be hoping Seewer can be even better than he was last season, which saw him take an impressive 8th place in the world championship but more top fives and podiums will be expected this season.
Then you have the Brits. Max Anstie left Ice One racing Husqvarna squad but landed on the very professional Standing Construct KTM and has looked good in pre-season. Anstie is traditionally a slow starter to the season but if he gets rolling he has the potential to break into that Gajser, Febvre level. The talent is there.
Shaun Simpson is also on a KTM for 2019 and very pleased to be back on a machine he simply loves. A new dad and riding on a high with his new RFX powered by PAR homes team, Simpson looked very comfortable at Hawkstone until he crashed and dislocated his shoulder. But he was able to ride a week later so will be expected to be competitive in Argentina. It should be a much better Shaun Simpson in 2019.
Tommy Searle has remained with Kawasaki but switched to the BOS squad and despite riding a practice bike at Hawkstone, was still very competitive. Searle showed a lot of pace at times in 2018 and if he can avoid injury will be expecting to be a consistent threat inside the top ten and to the top five this year. Searle has always believed in himself and just needs the starts to get that momentum back.
Jordi Tixier is another hoping for a good year after a tough 2018, expect for that MXoN win a Red Bud! Tixier has always looked like he would be a great 450 rider but injuries have ruined his career in the premier class. Finding a home with the VHR KTM team and staying injury free in the off season gives Tixier the best chance in a couple of years to show his speed on the 450 but Tixier might need some decent results early on to really believe in himself again after a tough few seasons since winning the MX2 world title.
Glenn Coldenhoff has a good year last year finishing seventh in the championship but somehow despite third in motos never actually made the podium overall. He will want to change that this year, no doubt boosted by his performance at Red Bud. But that momentum might have stalled a bit as is only back on the bike after a big crash at Lommel during the winter – he might need a couple of rounds to get back up to his pace.
Julien Lieber came in under the radar last year but had a good rookie season last year. However he will want to be be a bit more consistent this year on the factory Kawasaki, but there is no doubt he has raw speed if he can stay on the machine and get some good starts.
Arnaud Tonus missed the entire 2018 season but has exceptional natural talent and won his first MXGP moto as a rookie in 2017. Tonus has the potential to be great and had some encouraging results at the Lacapelle International but for Tonus staying injury free and building some confidence will be key early before really pushing on and extracting his full potential on the Wilvo Yamaha.
All these guys mentioned have the talent to be on the podium at MXGP level, but it’s putting it together and staying away from injury that is the difficult part. Right now they are all finally healthy and firing for the new season – let’s hope it stays that way and we can see these guys at their full potential!