Talking point: Ben Townley’s MXGP return
Jonathan McCready: Suzuki have pulled a rabbit out of the hat with this one. After losing Desalle there were not too many other riders available with the potential to win races.
With Roczen and Tonus staying in America, Guillod going to Yamaha, Searle to Dixon Kawasaki and Frossard getting injured, Suzuki looked like they would struggle to sign a top tier rider.
But Ben Townley fits the bill perfectly. He showed at the Nations he still has the speed to run with the best in the world and he has the self-confidence and experience to be there week-in, week-out.
After the Motocross of Nations, Townley told us he wouldn’t be coming back full-time but you could tell that, in an ideal world, that was exactly what he wanted to do. But a family, business commitments and a nice lifestyle back home meant it wasn’t just as easy to follow his heart like did when he was a teenager and began his first GP adventure.
I got the feeling though that Ben feels there is still unfinished business in his career. I believe he found it hard to retire due to continuous injuries because he believed he hadn’t got to show his full potential on the 450 machine.
This opportunity was just too big to turn down. Working with Stefan Everts on one of the best factory team’s out there was just too much to resist. This is Townley’s chance to show the world and prove to himself what he can really do injury free.
As we alluded too, Townley’s biggest weakness has been injuries but he has been healthy for a while and will come into a professional season injury free for the first time in a while.
During his retirement Ben felt he had pinpointed the reason for the injuries, telling Gatedrop: “It was something I really learnt about myself when I retired as a professional was my mentality. I rode with great technique but I rode with 100 per cent mental effort all the time whereas I should have maybe ridden at 98 per cent a lot more and I still would have got the job done.”
If Ben can follow his own advice in the heat of battle, it could well be the missing piece that will allow Ben to complete the long 19 round world championship series and be a front runner all year long.
I genuinely believe Ben has the talent to be a top five contender and run with the best, but make no mistake about it, the 2016 MXGP field will be a lot tougher the MXON field he competed against in Ernee. At least ten guys will believe they have top five potential and we are still waiting to hear if Herlings and Gajser will move up!
The MXGP class is the toughest in the world right now and Townley has just added his name to the list of contenders. And with new Suzuki boss Stefan Everts instrumental in getting the deal done and backing his friend and former rival all the way, (Ben had a great relationship with Everts during his GP career ten years ago) Townley has all the tools he needs to reach his goals.
There aren’t too many riders who can come out of retirement and run at the front of the world championship but Ben Townley is one of the very few that can do it. His talent is unquestionable and it is great to have him back. I just hope he stays injury free and we get to see his full potential – and it could inspire his NZ prodigy Josiah Natzke to go up a level too! This is a great move for NZ motocross, MXGP and especially Suzuki.
Andy McKinstry: This time a year ago I did not think i would be writing about Ben Townley making his return to MXGP. Rockstar Energy Suzuki went into the 2015 with one of the strongest teams with Clement Desalle, Kevin Strijbos and Glenn Coldenhoff. Obviously, they couldn’t do too much to stop Desalle leaving as it would have been hard for him to say no to the money Monster will be paying him.
However, i am really shocked that Suzuki decided to let go off Glenn half way through the season, he was performing just fine as a rookie and even won an MXGP round at Latvia. Glenn seems to grow in confidence as the results improve, he could definately surprise a few people this year. Is he the one that got away from Suzuki?
Anyway, after they decided that they would let go of Glenn for the 2016 season they needed to decide to sign a replacement. They tried to sign Guillod and JVH but both will be riding Yamaha’s next year. This meant Suzuki were put in a tricky situation as all the other top guys already had deals. The Ben Townley rumours started to circulate before the MXDN and honestly i didn’t think this would happen. However, BT rode fantastic at the MXDN and i think this has forced Suzuki to sign him because on his day there is no doubt BT can win races.
BT and Everts (will be Suzuki team manager) have a good relationship together, there is no doubt that BT has the speed to run at the front. However, racing the MXDN will be a bit different to racing ninteen rounds of the World Championship. I bet that BT’s body was very sore the monday after the MXDN! BT will have to work hard before the start of the season to get back into good shape, if he does this then he can run at the front, no doubt.
It is also important that BT doesn’t under-estimate his competiton, there were a lot of riders that couldn’t race the MXDN due to injuries and the level of the MXGP class will be deeper than what the MXDN field was. If i had to predict on how BT will do then i would expect him to be in around the 10th place spot at the first round in Qatar, this will give him something to build on and then he can go for top fives and podiums – he could even win a couple of GP’s. The addition of BT in MXGP will certainly add more drama to the class and it will be interesting to watch it all unfold.