Two weeks after the British Grand Prix, in which Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MX1 duo Clement Desalle and Kevin Strijbos finished first and second in the premier MX1 class on their works RM-Z450s, the factory team now face their final meeting of the 2013 FIM Motocross World Championship.
The daunting sandy ripples of Lierop in southern Holland is the site of the Grand Prix of Benelux and will not only see Desalle chasing his fourth victory in a row, but Strijbos looking to secure a fine fourth position overall in the MX1 standings.
Lierop is just shy of an hour’s drive from the squad’s workshop and base in Lommel and the two Belgian riders – with 17 podium results between them from the 16 of 17 rounds in 2013 so far – will count on decent support from the motocross fans in the Benelux region. The track itself is a special and distinct test; deeper and rougher than the nearby Valkenswaard and arguably the hardest sand circuit the riders will face this season. This last outing will be physically and technically tough.
Desalle will be hoping to close-out a superb second half of the championship – one in which he has classified second for the third time in four years – with a decent showing at Lierop. The venue has not brought the best luck in the past and the winner of four rounds of the series in 2013 boasts a best finish of sixth in 2012. Desalle has kept up his winning ways however since the GP trail paused two weeks ago; by earning the chequered flag in a round of the Belgian Enduro Championship in Dinant! “A friend asked me if I was interested in doing it and it ended up being a late decision and a push to get on the entry list but it was a lot of fun,” said the Suzuki star. “We have been preparing for the sand this weekend,” he added turning his attention to Lierop. “I have had some bad times there in the last few seasons so the goal will be to improve and I want to do that by finding a good feeling and having some fun.”
Kevin Strijbos is quietly confident of adding to his podium tally of four finishes in 2013. The 28 year old last walked the top step of a Grand Prix podium back in 2007 (with the RM-Z450) and that victory was at Lierop. “I like the place and it will be heavy going if it rains,” he commented. “Anyway the final laps of the motos will be crucial. It is not an easy GP to finish the season and after a long year we need to keep concentrated and be able to push right until the end. I hear there is a new start-finish section now so that should be interesting as there haven’t been too many changes over the years.”
Strijbos needs to outscore Gautier Paulin by just five points to seal fourth place in the MX1 story for ’13. “I would like to take fourth in the championship. I think I’m a pretty good sand rider so I hope I can do it.”
The long-term weather forecast for the weekend shows bright but cloudy conditions for both days with temperatures around 20 degrees.
MX1 World Championship Standings (after 16 of 17 rounds): 1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 718 points; 2. Clement Desalle (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MX1), 647 p.; 3. Ken de Dycker (BEL, KTM), 573 p.; 4. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Kawasaki), 513 p.; 5. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MX1), 509 p.; 6. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), 460 p.; 7. Jeremy van Horebeek (BEL, Kawasaki), 405 p.; 8. Maximilian Nagl (GER, Honda), 314 p.; 9. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda), 312 p. 10. David Philippaerts (ITA, Honda), 282 p.