This year it’s finally happening, Jeffrey Herlings will take on Antonio Cairoli at the first round of the word championship fully healthy in what should be a year long battle for supremacy to be the best motocross rider in the world.
The two sparred enthusiastically last year after Herlings came back to fitness but the real battle for the title was already over, Cairoli had done his job again when it mattered, won when he could, stayed safe when he couldn’t.
But Herlings learnt a lot last year, he learnt to battle with other riders and learnt to have strategy in a race, Argentina though is the beginning of the true test. Now the MXGP title is possible and Cairoli isn’t defending a points lead, will Herlings be as dominant at the start of this season as he was at the end of the last with the pressure on?
Cairoli isn’t just motivated to beat Herlings, he also has the chance to equal Stefan Everts’ record of ten world titles, but in the KTM press release Cairoli gave an insight into his real motivation to go again year after year, self-improvement. “I want to see if I can get better, so I am almost going up against myself,” revealed the defending world champ.
Quite how he can get better remains to be seen, but Cairoli has the motivation and the ability to go toe-to-toe with Herlings, so lets enjoy two of the greatest motocross riders going doing battle while lasts!
But they won’t be the only ones on the start line thinking they can win. Romain Febvre has already got one MXGP title under his belt and says he learnt a lot from last season, describing it as the worst season of his career. Now on the 2018 Yamaha, Febvre seems a lot more comfortable running at the pace he needs to stay with Cairoli and Herlings, but he will need the starts in order to be there from the beginning of the moto.
There also doesn’t seem to be a lot of love lost between the Frenchman and Cairoli, which could make for some exciting racing if they go bar to bar, especially on the hard pack tracks like Argentina will be this weekend.
I don’t think you can count Max Anstie out either, the friendly Brit was in superb form at the end of last season, beating Herlings in a moto at the French GP and winning both motos in stunning fashion at the MXoN. Now everyone starts at zero again with renewed confidence and motivation but we all know Anstie has the skills and talent and year by year Anstie is putting the rest of the pieces together. This might just be the year he is a consistent front runner in MXGP.
Gautier Paulin is always there but never quite in contention for the title. But this year might be different. At the end of last season a very honest Paulin vowed to improve in every area to get to the level he needs to be world champion. Paulin is very professional, and takes his job very seriously so it will be interesting to see if he winter’s work means he can make the jump from nearly man to being the man this season.
Special mention also to the unfortunate Tim Gajser who had the red plate at the beginning of 2017 but since then injuries have hindered the HRC Honda man. The trend has continued into 2018 after Tim unfortunately broke his jaw after his horrible crash in Italy consequently keeping him out of Argentina so, barring some sort of miracle, Gajser will be struggling to get back in title contention unless the rest have some bad luck, even if he can race at Valkenswaard for round two.