When the clock struck midnight and signalled the beginning of yet another year, attention quickly turned to what lies ahead. Monster Energy Supercross is obviously dominating headlines currently, as Anaheim 1 is arguably the biggest event of the year, but the MXGP series is honestly not far away at all. In fact, the pre-season internationals are right around the corner.
Eyes are on the first round of the FIM Motocross World Championship, which will be held at the fabulous Neuquen circuit in Argentina and is sixty days away. Sixty days is quite a distance to cover, of course, but every single Grand Prix rider will take to a track in anger within the next five weeks. The International Italian Motocross Championship will fire into life on the first weekend in February and then continue across the two weeks that follow, then races will also take place at Hawkstone Park and LaCapelle Marival through that time.
It will be a hectic period, despite the fact that the actual season will not have started yet, and plenty of answers will arise. The starting lists for the Italian events have not been confirmed, but it is thought that Red Bull KTM will travel to Riola Sardo with Team HRC and Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing. Where does Jeffrey Herlings stack up against Antonio Cairoli? Is Romain Febvre still in a slump? Has Tim Gajser rediscovered the form and confidence that he possessed in March last year? Those points, which are really pressing issues, should be answered immediately.
Now, there will always be those who argue that the pre-season internationals mean nothing. That is correct, to an extent, but we will not get into it too much here, as that is not what this column is for. The results from the first round of the International Italian Motocross Championship last year are actually funny to reflect on now, seeing as we all know how the season played out. Antonio Cairoli won that event in his homeland, which more people should have taken note of, with Jeremy Van Horebeek and Tim Gajser in tow.
Jeremy Van Horebeek is the biggest anomaly there, as the results that followed were not quite on that level. However, his form at the beginning of the season was fairly impressive. Remember that podium finish that he acquired at round three in Argentina? Perhaps that pre-season ride was another indication that his preparation would give him a slight jump through the opening rounds? Romain Febvre finished fourth in Italy, behind Tim Gajser, which is again the order that they typically finished in throughout the FIM Motocross World Championship. Although some guys continued to work out the kinks, not much changed across the next six months.
There is another point that should have been assessed in more detail and not cast aside at the first opportunity. Jeffrey Herlings showed up at the final round of the Italian series and crashed out after just a couple of laps, which was the beginning of his decline to rock bottom. However, before that, he was the quickest in qualifying by a comfortable margin. Was that not an indication of what he was capable of when things were going swimmingly? The quickest time that he registered was almost two seconds quicker than Antonio Cairoli, which matches up with what occurred in the second half of the previous season.
What should you do with that information? These pre-season internationals do count and although some will be quick to dismiss their results if they do not match up to expectations, there is a lot that can be extracted from each fiery exchange. The distance to the opening round may be seem an arduous amount to overcome, but answers to these questions will be registered sooner than expected. Now that there is some high-profile racing to follow, thanks to the incredible Monster Energy Supercross series, time really will pass by in the blink of an eye. Welcome to the new season.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: KTM Images/Ray Archer