Never in the history of the sport has an event given so many unknowns. A new circuit, racing at night and with MX1 and MX2 combined in the same two motos, the Grand Prix of Qatar is something more than we could ever imagined.
Amazingly one of the most interesting aspects of the opening round of the FIM World Motocross Championships might just see two defending World Champions going head to head. Unlike in any previous World Championship opener World MX1 Champion Antonio Cairoli and World MX2 Champion Jeffrey Herlings will begin on the same starting gate and both will be going for victory.
Cairoli, who finished the 2012 season with 16 moto wins in a rowrow, is the heavy favourite to add World Motocross Championship number seven in 2013. Already in second place in the all time winners list, with only Stefan Everts ahead of him, it is clear that Italian is looking for more records in 2013 and after his end of season domination the question mark is will he want to continue to totally control his competition.
The Italian will begin his 2013 season racing in the International Italian Championships, a series he hasn’t been able to control like in his World Championship career. Last year it was Steven Frossard who beat Cairoli.
Herlings, on the other hand, has already said he wants to race with Cairoli and the other MX1 riders in the opening round in Qatar, when the two classes are combined. Herlings has often shown the same speed as the bigger 450cc machines in recent years, clocking lap times comparable or better than Cairoli, but obviously design and dirt in Qatar will decide how competitive the smaller MX2 machines will be.
Racing at night will be all about being careful in the unknown condition and the bigger 450cc machine might find the going tough, while the smaller nimble 250cc bikes could have an advantage. Youthstream have already mentioned they will try and make the circuits an even playing field for the two different classes, so what we get in Qatar will be interesting.
Of course it won’t just be the Italian and the Dutchmen who have a shot at winning in Qatar. Leading MX1 riders Gautier Paulin, Ken De Dycker, Max Nagl, Steven Frossard, Clement Desalle, Kevin Strijbos, Tommy Searle, Jeremy Van Horebeek and Joel Roelants will all want a piece of Cairoli and Herlings, and all have Grand Prix victories to their names.
Whatever happens when the lights go on in Doha, Qatar, on March 12 and 2,3 you can be sure that the whole World will be watching. This is one of the most fascinating races in the sports history and while everyone will want to see a battle royal anything is possible on this unknown circuit, with lighting and MX1 and MX2 combined.