Tim Gajser close to HRC contract extension as 114 Motorsport Honda future uncertain?

World Champion-elect Tim Gajser should be close to confirmation of a new multi-year deal in the coming weeks. The 25-year-old, who has held the red plate for every round of the 2022 campaign and is only three races from wrapping up a fifth world title in Honda colours – four in the premier class therefore becoming the brand’s most successful athlete – has held sustained talks with HRC over several months. The subject of external personal sponsors seemed to be a stumbling block. Honda’s MXGP factory effort is rigidly uniform compared to its sister operation organised by American Honda for AMA Supercross and Motocross; Ken Roczen and Chase Sexton have individual and contrasting gear endorsements and energy drink sponsors while Gajser and teammate Mitch Evans – and the full team – have complete head-to-toe arrangements with Fox Racing.

Gajser’s current alignment with HRC makes him one of the best paid riders in MXGP and at a level that would not look out of place in the MotoGP paddock. The likelihood of the Slovenian switching brands and commanding a larger or similar fee for 2023 were remote with the likes of Jeffrey Herlings (KTM), Jorge Prado (GASGAS), Jeremy Seewer (Yamaha) and Romain Febvre (Kawasaki) already under contract. Honda went through the motions of finding the best compromise for their star and a rider who has already delivered MXGP crowns with the CRF450F in 2016, 2019 and 2020 and who has been part of the Honda motocross structure since 2014. It remains to be see if he will join the Red Bull (HRC have a link in MotoGP) or Monster Energy (the factory HRC Dakar structure carries some of the black and green) rosters.

Confirmation of the second HRC representative alongside Gajser for 2023 seems far more pressing with the endless swing between Evans and MXGP rookie Ruben Fernandez now finally appearing too slow in favour of the Spaniard. The Australian has recovered from a sustained wrist injury in 2021 to again show decent top ten potential (in what is also his first full term on the bigger motorcycle) but Fernandez’s two podium finishes and exciting potential seems to be the deciding factor. The same eagerness proved costly in Timed Practice for the Czech Grand Prix however when a crash caused the 22-year-old to lose consciousness; he pulled out of the weekend at Loket with a concussion and injured elbow and remains a doubt for the Belgian round at Lommel next week.

Speculation exists over the future of the 114 Motorsports team; the set-up that currently fields Fernandez on a HRC-spec CRF. If the former MX2 feeder squad, also run by current HRC Principal Giacomo Gariboldi, does not continue then Honda and Honda Motor Europe’s focus has been linked to the Standing Construct crew, who are likely to end an association with the KTM Group that began in 2017. Tim Mathys’ popular satellite unit should be set to extend their association with Pauls Jonass for a third consecutive year.

Words: Adam Wheeler

Pic: Shot by Bavo