In terms of the MXGP World Championship, Jeffrey Herlings, Antonio Cairoli, Romain Febvre go in as the main three title contenders and of course we know Tim Gajser should be right at the front when he makes a return to racing. So, who could be a surprise in the championship battle? We will take a look at some of the options right here!

Wouldn’t it just be great if Clement Desalle could stay fit for an entire season? You can’t doubt the Belgian’s speed as on his day he can beat anyone and he’s usually pretty consistent too.

Desalle was looking like coming home third in the series last year but then after his big crash in Assen that put him down to fourth which was a real shame. This will be the third year for Desalle under the Kawasaki awning and he’s feeling positive about the bike heading into 2018.

“I was back on the bike in November and we had enough time to work with the team on the bike – there are no big changes but a lot of delicate fine-tuning, mainly to the chassis. I’m very happy with the results and have a very good feeling with the KX450-SR”. Even though Desalle only contested the one pre season race, he was right on pace at the Lacapelle International event ending up second overall. He should go into the season confident and if he can get on the podium at round one that would be a great start to the season for the Belgian, you can’t win the championship at the first round but you can certainly lose it!

Another Belgian looks to be coming into the season strong as Jeremy Van Horebeek looks to have had a solid winter on his Factory Yamaha. #89 has been contesting in the International Italian Championship and has had some pretty tough competition in the form of his team mate, Romain Febvre and Antonio Cairoli.

Van Horebeek was on their pace and ended up tied third with Febvre in the championship. The Belgian has a lovely style and is lovely to watch but can he take it to the next level? That’s a question that’s been asked of him over the past couple of season’s but he hasn’t delivered yet. Van Horebeek still only has one MXGP overall victory to his name which will frustrate him as he’s usually there or there abouts at the front. An injury last year meant he only ended up seventh in the series but he will definitely want to finish in at least the top five this year!

It was nice to see Gautier Paulin back to his old self last year on the ICE ONE Husqvarna.  The French rider didn’t have the best of times on the HRC Honda but from day one on the Husqvarna he looked much better.

Pic: Scott Dunne

Paulin ended up third in the series behind Cairoli and Herlings. However, #21 should be more prepared for the season ahead as he’s been with the team for a full season and should come into this season with less doubts about himself. Paulin is a great hard pack rider so could challenge the likes of Cairoli and Herlings at the harder tracks but also look out for him at Valkenswaard, he seems to love that place!

He’s not getting any younger but known as ‘The Kid’, Kevin Strijbos might just be one worth keeping an eye on during the season ahead. The problem with Strijbos has been injuries over the past few years and he even got injured in winter which wasn’t a great start but he was able to contest the Lacapelle International and show some good speed.

In 2012, Strijbos was with the HM Plant KTM team and he was superb on the orange machine. He ended up sixth in the series that year and was the best privateer by a country mile. Back on KTM and with the Standing Construct KTM team for the year ahead he could be a surprise package and battle for podiums, let’s wait and see on that one!

It will be Glenn Coldenhoff’s fourth year competing in the MXGP World Championship. The Dutch rider isn’t one to move into a class and show amazing results straight away, he usually needs time. Having said that, ‘The Hoff’ has had some very good moments in the MXGP World Championship, he’s won one round back on the Suzuki and always seems to find himself on the podium at least once every season.

Pic: Scott Dunne

Coldenhoff will be hoping this year he can transform himself into a consistent top five rider, it won’t be easy due to how tough the class is but he’s a top rider himself and he needs to remember that. He’s looked pretty good in pre-season and especially at Hawkstone where he led more laps than eventual winner Jeffrey Herlings. It’s in the hard pack conditions where he needs to improve.

The Factory KTM rider has set a target to end up in the top five, “My goal is to finish in the top five but I think that’s a tough goal. I like to put it high and just try to make it happen you know. Like I said, it’s a tough class and I feel that there are a lot of guys on the same level were I’m also at. Hopefully I can be more on the podium than I did last year. Last year I got on the podium twice so hopefully I can get more and get close to the top five, that’s really important for me.” He will also be under a different awning next year which means he’ll be with Jeffrey Herlings and Pauls Jonass, I feel that could also be a better fit for him.

Picture credits:
Clement Desalle – Kawasaki
Gautier Paulin and Glenn Coldenhoff – Scott Dunne



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