We have all heard ‘the hype’ about how deep the MX1 (450) class is in the AMA Supercross series and the FIM Motocross World Championship. This hype is well justified, it seems that wherever you are in the world, the MX1 class is full with top-class talent. Fortunately for us, the 2013 Maxxis British Championship looks to be no different. So, let’s take a look at the long list of riders who will be going for that prestigious MX1 Maxxis British Championship title.
Interestingly, the top two finishers from the series last year (Shaun Simpson and the reigning champion, Kevin Strijbos) will not be on the starting line at any point this year. So, with these two riders eliminated from the championship equation, a whole host of riders have a chance to swoop in and steal the number one plate. Undoubtedly, the influx of MXGP riders that have joined the series for this year is most intriguing.
In my mind, the favourite for the championship this year is Tanel Leok of the Route77 Energy MVRD Honda team. However, the competition will be tough, very tough; but I think that the Estonian is heading into FatCat Moto Parc this weekend with a slight advantage. This will not be his first time contesting the Maxxis British Championship, of course. Obviously, the series has changed considerably since then; but that will give Leok a little more confidence, and as we know this sport is very mental.
What about Jonathan Barragan? To me, the Spaniard is an enigma. I remember back in 2008, Jonathan was considered to be a serious threat for the World Championship. Now, he rarely breaks into the top ten. What is the reason for his downfall? No one knows. However, those flashes of raw speed are practically non-existent nowadays. There have not been any major injuries that have affected him; therefore I wonder if the problem is mental? So, maybe the smaller, domestic series will see him regain some confidence and begin to fight for wins? I believe that it is a possibility. Going into the year, I expect the STR KTM rider to be in a position to win a handful of races. But, can he win the title? Well, I am not so sure about that.
These two riders are contesting the full 2013 FIM Motocross World Championship with their teams, Route77 Energy MVRD Honda (Leok) and STR KTM (Barragan). However, I do believe that this poses some advantages and disadvantages. Of course, the two can pick up some raw speed whilst racing against the best in the world. So, when they head over to Britain (where the competition is of a lesser standard) things might not seem as tough to them.
But, it isn’t easy on the riders; the travel schedule is gruelling. For example, the week before the season opener, these riders will be in a completely different time zone over in Thailand. But, their competitors will be preparing in similar conditions in the UK. So, there are some positives and negatives; it will come down to how strong (physically and mentally) a rider is.
The rider that is the biggest question mark going into the season is Steve Ramon. Honestly, I don’t really think that he will be in contention for the title this year. But, he could end up finishing at either end of the top ten at FatCat, and I wouldn’t be surprised. Of course, he is coming off of a very serious injury; so the Belgian has been missing from the starting line for almost two years now. We have not really seen him race competitively yet. Sure, he contested a race or two last year. But, as of yet we have not seen him attempt to complete a full season since his injury. The Buildbase Honda squad will provide him with a solid-base to work off of, whether he will be willing to push for wins remains to be seen.
So, what British rider has the best shot at success this year? Undoubtedly, that title belongs to Brad Anderson (Maxxis Kawasaki by LPE). After a brief stint (one year) in Australia, Ando will be aboard a Kawasaki this year; which is a machine that he hasn’t ridden at a pro-level, yet. When he made a one-off appearance at Little Silver last year, I thought that something was missing; he didn’t seem to have the same raw speed that he used to, but the situation was far from ideal. With a solid off-season under his belt, I definitely expect to see the Brad Anderson of 2011 again; he will most definitely be fighting for podiums, wins and the title. Also, his previous knowledge of the tracks could come into play at some point in the title fight.
Like his teammate, Nicolas Aubin is a little bit of a wildcard. His performance in the Maxxis British Championship last year was underwhelming, to say the least. This year, he will be completing his debut year aboard the 450 (he contested MX1 in the Red Bull Pro Nationals last year, but rode MX2 at the Maxxis British Championship). Sure, there is a long list of riders that will be looking to fight for the title. But, Nico has won a GP in the past; so he could be in contention for the title, if he can find a way to rediscover that raw speed. In recent years, it has been missing.
All of the title contenders mentioned above have a teammate that could fill the podium at different points in the year, however wins may be a little out of reach. Jason Dougan will be aboard a Route77 Energy MVRD Honda, once again. Jason has struggled to stay healthy in recent years. If he can remain one-hundred-percent for the duration of the series, I think that he could do very well this year. He will be contesting the FIM Motocross World Championship series, which will undoubtedly help his conditioning and his speed. If he can transfer the knowledge that he gains at these races to the British series, I think that he could be at the front of the pack quite frequently.
Dorren Coutts will be aboard a Maxxis Kawasaki by LPE this year, after switching teams and manufacturers in the off-season. From what I have seen of him over the winter months, he is looking fast; maybe the best that he has done in quite some time. It seemed that injuries held him back last year, if he can avoid those problems I can see him finishing up on the podium at some point. However, I believe that he will be battling on the cusp of the top five, for the most part.
Unfortunately, injuries will once again stop Mattis Karro from competing for a British title. I believe that the Latvian was the surprise of the 2012 season; he was very good at the first few rounds last year. However, a wrist injury sustained just a couple of weeks ago means that he will definitely miss round one and two, and most likely three also. When he does return, I expect him to be battling for podiums, and wins. But, it depends on how long it will take him to get back up to speed. STR KTM might have the strongest team in the paddock; the two STR riders could potentially land on the top of the box at any time.
The outfit that Gert Krestinov will be riding out of this year is a bit of a question mark; it has not been an easy off-season for the Estonian. Of course, the team that he did eventually end up on is the Apico Ansatech Kawasaki squad (following the demise of the Rob Hooper Suzuki team). Undoubtedly, this did not leave Gert with as much time as he would have liked to get accustomed to the green machine; however he is already familiar with the brand, which may work to his advantage. It might take a few rounds for him to get comfortable, but I think that he will be up on the podium a few times this year.
I am very interested to see how Kristian Whatley fares on the Emberson Yamaha squad; last year was not good at all for him. But, the last time that he was under the watchful eye of Roy Emberson he established himself as a candidate for the title. If he can find that spark again, he could surprise a few people and jump into the battle for the podium, and some wins.
Evidently, the MX1 field is very deep this year, as I alluded to at the beginning of this article. Of course, riders like Nathan Parker, Alex Snow, Stuart Edmonds, Alfie Smith, Jamie Law will all be fighting for those positions just outside of the top five throughout the year. It is going to be a great year of racing, undoubtedly; it all begins this weekend at FatCat Moto Parc!
Words by Lewis Phillips
Image courtesy of KTM Images/Ray Archer