The Grand Prix contingent are less than two weeks away from breaching the halfway mark, which means that silly season announcements will begin to filter through soon enough. Although no commitments have been made public at this point in the season, discussions are well underway behind closed doors and decisions are already being set in stone. The picture is going to become much clearer in the coming months.
In order to determine what announcements will begin to surface in the not-so-distant future, taking a look at what contracts are set to expire is necessary. This is also interesting to following at the upcoming events, like the Grand Prix of Great Britain, as certain riders either thrive or buckle under the pressure that riding for a contract brings. There are always riders who rise to the occasion when it becomes time to put themselves in the shop window.
Kicking things off with the most impressive and dominant squad in the premier division, Red Bull KTM are pretty set for next year. Jeffrey Herlings has a contract that will expire at the end of 2020. Although there is still a significant amount time to go until then, there is no doubt that certain manufacturers are already beginning to align budgets and figure out how they are going to make a charge at the Dutchman. The common consensus is that he will finish his career at Red Bull KTM and why would he stray from that? Everything is clicking at the moment and he honestly has an unbeatable package. Anyway, a conversation like this needs to be tucked away for another year or two.
Antonio Cairoli signed a new deal at the start of this season, which will also take him to the end of 2020. It is thought that he will retire at that point. Taking that into consideration, as well as the point above, 2020 is going to be a massive season for Red Bull KTM! Glenn Coldenhoff, their third MXGP rider, needs a new deal, but it is thought that he will stick with his current programme. KTM enjoy working with him and he has been much-improved thus far this season. Considering that they re-signed him after that mediocre start a year ago, it is ludicrous to think that he would not get a new contract in the coming months.
There have been question marks surrounding Jorge Prado in recent months, as pundits have attempted to determine whether he is going to head to the USA or not. Prado confirmed that he will be sticking with the Grand Prix scene exclusively to MX Vice, however, so expect him to work with Claudio De Carli again next year. It has not yet been confirmed what Pauls Jonass is going to do though and that is the most intriguing point to follow under that awning, as he has openly stated that he wants to move to the bigger bike. How does that fit into the plans that KTM have though? If he does jump up, one would presume that Glenn Coldenhoff would have to move on.
If Pauls Jonass moves up to the premier division, then who would take his MX2 slot? This is actually quite interesting. There are going to be some significant seats that are free in that class and a handful of rising stars, who have already proven their worth, are free to shop around. Jed Beaton has a one-year deal with F&H Racing Kawasaki and should be hot property, especially considering that he has only just turned twenty. Darian Sanayei has an option for a third year with Bike It DRT Kawasaki and could potentially move on as well. One would presume that all of the factory teams will be chasing those two, as the sky is the limit with both guys.
There will be a seat free alongside Ben Watson and Jago Geerts at the end of the season as well. Watson has another two years left on his deal, so will be at Kemea Yamaha for the foreseeable, and Geerts will enter the final year of his deal. Vsevolod Brylyakov has to move to the premier division though and that will obviously leave a spot free. It was initially presumed that Anthony Rodriguez could take that position, if he performs well in his fill-in stint with the team, but his age will force him to vacate the MX2 class too. There is certainly room for some great riders to step up to factory teams and take that step up to the next level.
Yamaha are actually pretty set across the board, as Romain Febvre will still be under contract next season. Febvre signed a three-year deal twenty-four months ago, two weeks before he sustained that significant concussion at Matterley Basin, which was a brilliant move. There is no doubt that he will not have the same bargaining power when discussions about a new deal commence. Jeremy Van Horebeek signed yet another one-year deal at the end of last season, so is on the market. It is likely that he will just return to Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing, however, considering that he has been there for five years now. There is not necessarily a better option for him either.
There is actually an intriguing dynamic at Yamaha. Although Jeremy Seewer resides underneath the Wilvo Yamaha MXGP tent currently, the contract that he has is actually with Yamaha Motor Europe. Perhaps the way that things are structured there could change at some point? Seewer has another year left on that deal, no matter what happens, so will be back in blue next season. Arnaud Tonus also has another year on his deal, so will also be back with Wilvo Yamaha MXGP for another season and has no need to worry. Shaun Simpson, on the other hand, is edging closer to the end of his current contract. It will be most interesting to see what happens there and whether the team continue to run three riders.
A lot could change in the MXGP portion of the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing squad; Gautier Paulin and Max Anstie will reach the end of their respective contracts at the end of the season. However, based on the camaraderie beneath that awning and way that both riders have performed through their time with the team, it would not be surprising at all to see the successful squad return with the same two riders as this year. What about the MX2 effort? Thomas Kjer Olsen has a contract until the end of 2020, so will not be going anywhere for a while, but Thomas Covington will reach the end of his current contract this year.
Much like a majority of the former champions in the FIM Motocross World Championship, Tim Gajser is still working through a multi-year deal with Team HRC. The contract that was signed during his title-winning season will run until the end of 2020. Calvin Vlaanderen has another year left on his HRC deal as well, so will not be going anywhere, but it remains to be seen if Brian Bogers needs a new contract for what will be his sophomore term in the premier division. The Dutchman has been contacted for confirmation. It would not be too much of a surprise to see him stick with HRC though, even if he does need a new deal.
Julien Lieber is another question mark, much like Brian Bogers, although it seems as though his contract expires at the end of this term. Based on the potential that he has shown thus far, he is not expected to go anywhere anyway. Hiring a rider like Lieber, who is currently completing his maiden term aboard the bigger bike, is an investment anyway, because it is unrealistic to expect a rookie to come out all guns blazing and set the world on fire. Clement Desalle signed a two-year deal a little less than year ago, so is already locked in with the Monster Energy KRT outfit for next year. What will he do following that? It will be most intriguing to see.
Although a lot of the championship contenders are currently working through multi-year deals, a lot of the second-tier riders are in need of new contracts for next year. It seems as though no team is completely set for next season, which is still a long way away, which will make silly season most intriguing. It may seem as though this topic is irrelevant at this point in the year, but announcements typically begin to filter through around June. Brace yourself.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Husqvarna/J.P Acevedo