Talking point: Should Cairoli race the MXGP opener at Matterley Basin?

One thing is certain and it’s that Antonio Cairoli will be at the MXGP opener at Matterley Basin but will he be there as a rider coach for the de Carli GasGas riders or will he be there racing?! We offer our thoughts on whether he should race or not…

Andy McKinstry: Yes, yes and yes please! As soon as I heard Jeffrey Herlings was injured and would be out for the opening MXGP round one of the first things I thought of was: Antonio Cairoli to save the day! From KTM’s point of view it makes complete sense so I am sure they will push to have Cairoli race the MXGP opening round. Who else could they get even half as good as one of the best riders to ever grace the planet? Exactly…

It will all come down to if Cairoli wants to races and while I really want to see him line up – I feel like he could be winding us all up! I guess we will see on that one but it’s just a hunch…

The one sticking point might be that Cairoli would have to be under the Factory KTM awning of Smets/ Gruebel if he was to be the replacement rider for Jeffrey Herlings which makes the most sense for the Austrian’s. However, after years riding under the de Carli awning, Cairoli has a decision to make – will he want to race under that awning? I am sure there would be no hard feelings from de Carli as he still has a coaching role with the team anyway and has been testing for them as well. But we don’t know Cairoli’s feelings on the matter.

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The other side to it I’ve read people say is a fitness concern as after announcing his retirement from MXGP last year he obviously hasn’t had a full winters prep like he normally would. What I would say on the matter is this is Antonio Cairoli, he has nothing to prove to anyone so even if he isn’t in top shape and let’s say he had a bad day at Matterley Basin, what does that actually matter in the grand scheme of things?

For what it’s worth if Cairoli did decide to race I don’t think he’d be too far away from the front. Sure, maybe he hasn’t had an off-season like usual but I believe he’s been doing plenty of testing and Cairoli enjoys the physical side of the sport so I bet he’d have no real issues.

In fact I think if he did come back to race the MXGP opening round he might even get roped in to another full season. With Italy hosting the second round he’ll probably race there anyway and with both Herlings and Febvre out – if he found himself in a championship battle it would be hard to stop, the opportunity of ten world titles doesn’t come around too often. Obviously it wouldn’t be easy with Gajser and Prado around but Cairoli would be capable!

Let’s see what happens, I want him to race, I feel like he should race to help KTM out as he has nothing to lose but only Cairoli can make the final decision!

Pic: Ray Archer

Jonathan McCready: It was a thought that immediately crossed my mind when it was clear that the reigning world champ, Jeffrey Herlings, would not be at the opener, Cairoli would be the perfect replacement.

With De Carli on Gas Gas and only Herlings as the main factory KTM, some more orange would no doubt be welcome up front in MXGP from the manufacturer’s stand point although Cairoli has spent his career with the now Gas Gas De Carli camp, so would he run out of the Herlings awning with Joel Smets and Dirk Gruebel? It would be an experience Cairoli isn’t used too!

But aside from the slight logistical issues, to see one of  the greatest ever back in action again, at what is one of his favorite tracks, Matterley Basin, would be absolutely brilliant and will make next weekend even more exciting. With the Italian round next in the calendar, a little warm up race at the British GP before another home outing in his part-time season would certainly do no harm if that is the plan. The schedule certainly fits well for Cairoli to race the opening two rounds of MXGP – and if he is in title contention – who knows what follows!

Most likely however is he races a couple of GP events then heads off to the US for some US Nationals which will also be superb to see. Cairoli is 36 but as we saw last season in MXGP and his ability to improve fast at the Paris supercross, Cairoli’s skill level and speed level is still really high – so why not race at the highest level when you still can but this time with no title pressure and just be able to enjoy the opportunity to battle with the best in the world in front of crowds that will no doubt love to see him in action one more time in person.

I can’t think of one individual that wouldn’t want to see the great Cairoli racing the MXGP opener. Let’s keep our fingers crossed it happens!

Pic: Nigel McKinstry