A short pre-season of preparation for Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MX1 comes to a formal end this Saturday as the very first FIM Motocross Grand Prix of Qatar takes place at Losail and opens the 2013 World Championship campaign.
Clement Desalle and Kevin Strijbos will guide their factory RM-Z450 machines around the new rocky layout for part one of two overseas events that initiate the 18-round MX1 series.
The works Suzuki crew will again rely on the talents of two Belgian riders, Desalle and Strijbos – both former championship runner-ups – as the lights are turned on for MX Grand Prix racing’s first ever night meeting at the renowned and spectacular MotoGP venue.
It will be the fourth term in ‘yellow’ for 23 year old Desalle and also the fourth where ’25’ is expected to be a contender for the MX1 crown after claiming victory for the third year in a row at the Valence International recently. “We made a few changes to the routine with some cardio stuff but we are at a level now where we know our bodies and the job we need to do,” said Desalle “We go to Qatar for the first Grand Prix and for sure it will be different but it will be important not to put too much pressure on ourselves this weekend. This is the longest championship for many years and there is a lot of racing ahead.
“We’ve been working on the bike and the 2013 chassis has brought a bit more stability in the turns,” he added. “There have little changes to the new race bike but that’s how you improve an already good motorcycle, making small progressions here and there. The biggest difference has been with the air suspension. It is a bit difficult to explain how the unit behaves but basically it is a different feeling and it has taken some getting used to as well as some tests, but we have been working hard and we’re good to go.”
It could be said that Strijbos is a Suzuki man at heart. The veteran grew up with the team through MXGP and the initial years of MX1 at the beginning of the last decade; even marking the RM-Z450’s first ever GP win in 2005. He twice grabbed the ‘number two plate’ to Stefan Everts. Strijbos returned to the crew for several appearances as a substitute rider in 2011 and after a decent 2012 campaign where he gained three podiums (his first silverware since 2006) as a privateer, has been welcomed back into the factory fold. “Yes, this is like part three for me!” he said. “I’ve said many times before that this is a team and a way to work that I feel very comfortable with and I feel really good going into the season. It is interesting for me to work with Joel Smets, now that he is an integral member of the team, and having a five times world champion with all his experience is something very positive to have in your corner.”
The Losail circuit hosted its first motocross race less than two weeks ago. Located a short distance from the capital of Doha the terrain is believed to be rocky and loose and placed on a flat landscape. Temperatures in the Middle East mean that the Grand Prix will be staged at night and Qatar will also see the introduction of a new three moto format with MX1 and MX2 classes mixed for a Superfinal that will start at 23.10 local time.