It has not been a great year for team transfers in the FIM Motocross World Championship, as a majority of stars were already locked into multi-year deals. Red Bull KTM and Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing will return with exactly the same teams next year, for instance, and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing have not recruited any new names.
Although there have been no shocking changes, the process of slotting the final pieces of the puzzle into place has been dragged out for quite some time. All of the riders have found homes now, from Jeremy Seewer to Ander Valentin, but some teams have only just confirmed their plans. News broke earlier that revealed that Arminas Jasikonis will pilot a CRF450R for Assomotor Honda and Kevin Strijbos will complete his final term in MXGP with Standing Construct KTM. That was common knowledge for quite a while, of course, and the latter has even been pictured in his new colours.
Was the delay a sign of just how tricky it is to put together a deal in the current climate? Not at all, Suzuki simply kept both riders locked up until the first of January. Those with inside knowledge had to act clueless, with that in mind, and any rumours were denied in a fierce manner. It is actually a surprise that the Jeremy Seewer announcement crept through so early on, as there was supposed to be a longer delay there also. The transfer period is now complete though and everything is out in the open, which is fitting with the current date in mind. The focus is solely on what lies ahead.
There is no doubt that the winners in all of this are Honda Europe and Assomotor, as they have managed to acquire one of the most intriguing talents in the paddock and will undoubtedly benefit from the signing. The Italian-based squad stepped up a level twelve months ago, as they signed Valentin Guillod and made it quite clear that they intend to strive forward. A string of bad luck meant that partnership went awfully, especially as Guillod commented that the support was not what he expected, but lessons would have been learnt to ensure that the team are now in a position to handle an elite rider.
This signing will actually complete the Honda family quite nicely. Although there were many Honda-supported teams in the paddock last year, none of them delivered noteworthy results. The 24MX squad limped from one round to the next and was a shadow of its former self, for instance, and there was really no presence in MX2 at all. Arminas Jasikonis will back up the HRC duo, consisting of Tim Gajser and Brian Bogers, nicely though and then 114 Motorsports will deliver brilliant results on the 250F side. Hunter Lawrence and Bas Vaessen are exciting young talents, who will undoubtedly bring both success and attention to the Japanese manufacturer.
There was actually an interesting clause in the deal that Valentin Guillod had last year. Had one of the HRC riders got injured during the first two rounds of MXGP, Guillod would have been handed the full-factory bike. Why does this matter? If Jasikonis has a similar deal in place, then he would get the CRF450RW that Brian Bogers was set to pilot. Bogers shattered his foot in testing last month and will definitely miss the first few rounds of the FIM Motocross World Championship, so that seat is going to be open. It is quite likely that Jasikonis will outperform Bogers anyway, hence why it will be intriguing to watch that situation unfold.
Now that the rider who sat alongside Arminas Jasikonis beneath the Suzuki World MXGP awning all year, Kevin Strijbos, has also secured a deal, all of the yellow guys have thankfully found homes. The Standing Construct KTM outfit should be a perfect fit for the veteran, as it will be a relaxed environment and feature a proven bike. Expectations of Strijbos are at an all-time low, for whatever reason, but he was comfortably inside of the top ten at the beginning of this year. Everything has lined up in a way that he can enjoy his final season at the highest level.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Suzuki Racing