The Monster Energy Cup has grown in stature in recent years, just as riders and teams across the pond tend to resonate around the time of the Motocross of Nations. That fact is not lost on heavy hitters in Europe either, hence why Tim Gajser is using Sam Boyd Stadium as a platform to make his indoor debut.
It is actually rather amusing that now, seven years on from the inaugural Monster Energy Cup, a star from the FIM Motocross World Championship will be taking part. That was a selling point of the event to begin with, as it was supposed to feature a hybrid circuit that would attract the likes of Antonio Cairoli and Clement Desalle. That just never happened though and slowly the layout has evolved into something that resembles what one would typically find in Monster Energy Supercross.
The purpose of the event has shifted somewhat, because of that, as riders and teams can now use it as a precursor of the upcoming season. Funnily enough, it is that fact that has finally attracted a former world champion to sit beneath the lights. It is no secret that Tim Gajser is eager to swap the sand of Lommel for the blue groove of Milestone, as he has proclaimed that countless times, and this is going to be the first step, as he can prove that he is capable of racing at the highest level in what is a very different discipline.
A gaggle of question marks usually hover over a European when they attempt to make a name for themselves in a stadium, as the concept is foreign to most. Gajser is an elite talent, however, and there is no denying the fact that he will be able to string together some eye-catching times. Harnessing that raw speed and staying upright are going to be the greatest challenges that he will face, just as the Monster Energy SMX Cup taught up last Autumn. Gajser was incredibly fast on that evening, hence why he was able to capture a moto victory, but then crashed out and delayed his MEC debut by twelve months.
A year has passed since then and Gajser has gained a considerable amount of experience. The various bumps and bruises that he has picked up along the way serve as proof of that. A wiser head sits on his shoulders now, which may explain why he was quick to temper expectations when we spoke to him exclusively. “I do not want to talk about the goals, as the goal is to just have fun and enjoy it," he commented on his expectations ahead of the event. “If I enjoy it, then I can go fast. I will give my best, for sure, but do not want to risk too much. We will see."
The million dollars will be up for grabs in just a matter of days and Gajser, who won the MXGP qualifying race at the Motocross of Nations just last week, is already in California putting the finishing touches on his preparation. “We are going to Los Angeles to do some tests on a supercross track and then we leave for Las Vegas," he explained. “I am really excited, as it is something new for me. I have never raced in a stadium in the USA before. I am really excited and will try to take as much from this experience as I can. It is going to be tough."
The fact that Tim Gajser is lining up on Saturday night adds an exciting layer to an event that has already become the highlight of an otherwise bleak off-season. The bench-racing discussions that will emerge from his showing will undoubtedly light a fire that’ll burn brightly on message boards throughout these dark months.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Honda Racing Corporation