MXGP will return to a state of normality this weekend, as round seven of twenty will be held at the rather popular circuit of Kegums in Latvia. The trip to Orlyonok, Russia, forced some out of their comfort zone and teams to operate as if they were at a flyaway event. It was certainly a unique experience and one that most have learnt to embrace.
Moving onto Latvia now and a venue that fans across the globe are familiar with. Well, they were anyway. Kegums, which first popped up on the Grand Prix calendar in 2012, has undergone significant changes in the last twelve months and now runs in the opposite direction. The start is in the same place but, put simply, nothing else is. Changes like that are welcomed though, as it adds another element to an event and touch of excitement as the riders venture out onto the circuit for the first time. The different direction should not alter any pre-race predictions though, as that loamy soil that riders know well is still in place.
Even Todd Waters, who has not been in Europe over the last twenty-four months, knows what to expect from the Grand Prix of Latvia. A lot of fans will be intrigued to see how he fares, as one could argue that he got shortchanged when no teams picked him up at the end of his maiden season in Europe. The year that he spent in MXGP, which was when Romain Febvre claimed the gold plate, the premier class ended up being rather weak, hence why there always seems to be an asterisk attached to the podium that Waters acquired at the Grand Prix of Italy. It is not exactly fair for one to possess that opinion, however, as he proved himself on a few occasions.
Is it a realistic to expect a podium over the next two rounds? Absolutely not. There will be an adjustment period, but slotting in around eighth or ninth would not be out of this world. The likeable Australian would have had to beat guys like Arminas Jasikonis and Benoit Paturel in Russia, in order to finish right around there, and he is certainly capable of that. If he does manage to do that consistently, then it should certainly put him in the frame for a full-time ride next season. A factory outfit cannot expect too much more from their second rider and, hey, it is unlikely Brian Bogers would do much better than that.
If Todd Waters is the biggest question mark in the premier class, then Conrad Mewse occupies the same position in the MX2 division. Mewse has had a difficult few weeks and has acquired just twenty-seven points across the last six races. One hundred and fifty points were up for grabs through that time. However, in an exclusive MX Vice interview, he mentioned that his worst tracks are now in the rear-view mirror and he believes things will turn around at Kegums this weekend. Is there potential for that to happen? History indicates that it is indeed possible. The fact that he finished third in moto two last year, despite a mediocre start, really says it all.
It is so easy to forget how good a rider, like Conrad Mewse, was at the start of the season. Mewse slotted into the top six in four of the first six motos and was tied for fourth in the standings. Speed like that does not just appear, hence the old saying that team managers can work with speed, so it is bound to resurface at some point. Kegums is not the only circuit that has been kind to him in the past as well, as Teutschenthal has also been a positive at points and then he impressed in his first MX2 outing at Matterley Basin also. So, to sum up, there is the potential for him to pick up some momentum over the next couple of weeks. It needs to happen.
Max Anstie is another British rider who most are eager to see more from, although that is not exactly justified. Anstie was coming off of a head injury at the Grand Prix of Russia and only had a couple of days aboard his Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing FC 450. It was abundantly clear that it would take time for him to get to one hundred percent and, based on how well he performed at Mill on Sunday, he is well on track now. It would honestly not be surprising in the slightest to see him inside of the top five or on the podium this weekend. What if he does not hit those positions? Well, he just needs a little more time.
Todd Waters, Conrad Mewse and Max Anstie are three of the most discussed riders at the moment. There is no doubt that each will be scrutinised this weekend but then, additionally, a lot of eyeballs will be on the battles at the head of each class. There is so much going on in the FIM Motocross World Championship currently that it truly is a great time to be a fan.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Husqvarna/J.P Acevedo