Okay, the MX2 age restriction rule is now in full effect; hence why the MX2 class in the 2013 MX2 World Championship is lacking title contenders. Admittedly, this title is Jeffrey Herlings’ to lose. But behind him there is a whole host of riders that will be looking to get their first GP win, or overall podium. Let’s take an in depth look at the MX2 class of 2013.
So, the question that everyone is wondering is, can Jeffrey Herlings go undefeated? I took a look at that topic a few weeks ago (you can check that article out here); in short, I think that he can. Sure, it will make the series a bit boring, but take a look at the pre-entry list. There is not one other rider on that list that has won a moto previously, let alone a GP! Of course, in motocross anything can happen and there are way to many variables that could stop a rider from going undefeated. However, it is certainly a possibility and something that we have to consider.
What riders are next in line behind Jeffrey Herlings, the reigning champion? Well, Jeffrey is the only rider in the field that has a single GP win to his name, surprisingly. Therefore there will most likely be a few first-time winners this year; that is unless Jeffrey Herlings can go undefeated. Anyway, from the rest of the pack I would put Arnaud Tonus down as Herlings’ toughest competition; Arnaud has shown flashes of speed in the past, which indicates that he could be strong. Of course, in the winter months he switched over to the CLS Kawasaki team in a somewhat controversial move. Whether or not the change was good for Tonus’ career or not remains to be seen; as of yet we have not seen him on the green machine.
Not too long ago, Arnaud dislocated his shoulder whilst testing for the pre-season races; he only got back on a bike just over a week ago! Therefore, you have to wonder how the injury will have affected his testing, and physical preparation for the start of the season. This issue certainly slid under the radar a little bit. When Tonus returned from his wrist injury mid-way through last year, he never really showed any of the flashes of speed that we have seen in the past. There are definitely some questions surrounding the Swiss rider, like the rest of the field he is going to have to prove that he is a race win contender this year.
With Tommy Searle vacating the class, there will be a whole host of British riders looking to scoop the title of ‘best Brit’. In my opinion, Jake Nicholls is our strongest rider going into the MX2 campaign this year. However, Jake hasn’t even jumped on the overall podium yet! I do think that there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Jake will grab that first overall podium at some point this year; I wouldn’t be surprised to see him up there at round one! In fact Jake expects that of himself; Jake will undoubtedly be trying to claim some overall wins this year. In 2012, he turned a corner and proved that he had both the raw speed, and consistency to run up front. With the depleted field this year, I believe that we will get use to the sight of seeing Jake up on the podium.
Max Anstie is another rider that will be looking to breakthrough this year, however I do think that he is just a tick off of Nicholls’ speed. This year, Max will be a part of the Rockstar Suzuki Europe team, his fifth team and manufacturer in five years. Of course, he has been preparing for the World Championship by completing the opening rounds of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross series. Whether or not this will hurt or help him in Qatar remains to be seen; but I personally think that it would have been better for him to get accustomed to his new team, and spend his time contesting the European pre-season races. His Suzuki is a lot better than the Honda he rode in 2012; therefore I expect this to translate into better results.
What about the Monster Energy Yamaha rider, Christophe Charlier? The Frenchman had his first year aboard factory equipment last year, but because of various injuries, he never had a chance to show his potential. However, he has a full injury free off-season under his belt and his machinery is undoubtedly competitive. Therefore, I expect Charlier to jump onto the podium a handful of times this year. Lets not forget that back in his EMX2 days he was much faster than Jeffrey Herlings, his speed is there.
Mel Pocock will be venturing into MX2 full-time after a year in the EMX2 series. However he has plenty of experience in the class, this won’t be the first time that he has experienced the pace of the MX2 class. I was very surprised by his MX2 results last year; therefore I do believe that he could maybe jump onto the podium in a moto, especially when you factor in the depleted field. This will be a big year for Mel, and his career.
I am very interested to see how his new teammate, Australian Dean Ferris, fares this year. I was surprised when the Monster Energy Bike It Yamaha team announced the signing, but it makes sense the more that I think about it. Dean showed some potential prior to the French GP (where he injured his shoulder); it will be interesting to see if he can translate that speed to the smaller 250f, which is a bike that we have not seen him on thus far. Therefore, it will be intriguing to see if he is as fast, or faster in the MX2 class; we cannot form an opinion on him until the first few rounds are complete.
I predict that Harri Kullas will surprise a few people this year; he has been impressive in the pre-season races. What most forget is that he has returned to a structure that he is familiar with this year, Kullas was a member of the Gariboldi team back in 2011 on Yamahas. So, he will need to get accustomed to the CRF250 in a race environment; however, it is not an all-new setting for the Finnish rider. Harri missed much of last year with an injury, but I expect him to jump onto the podium at some point this year.
Elliott Banks Browne will do very well this year, I do believe. The HM Plant KTM UK rider had some misfortune last year, however if that has been resolved he will more than likely end up on the podium at some point this year. Evidently, his speed was good last year; however the mechanical issues meant that this was not reflected in his results, hence why Elliott has been overlooked by some heading into Qatar. Of course, in the off-season EBB had to deal with a shoulder injury; he is now fighting fit however. It will be interesting to see how James Dunn (his teammate) fares in his first full year aboard the 250f; we do not really have anything to judge him against. But, if he can bring his intensity on the 125 into the MX2 class, he could be one to watch.
Jordi Tixier is expected to improve this year, with the depleted field he should be battling with Tonus and Nicholls for the final steps on the podium. The Frenchman was not really able to separate himself from these riders last year; he managed to climb onto the podium at some of the rounds, however he was not able to do it consistently. Jordi should add some consistency to his program this year, which will make him more of a threat.
The Rockstar Bud Racing Kawasaki duo of Valentin Teillet and Dylan Ferrandis could end up making regular visits to the podium this year, I believe. At the Italian GP last year, Ferrandis dislocated his hip; therefore he is surely not one-hundred-percent heading into the season. In fact, I haven’t heard a single thing about Dylan throughout the winter months, all of our questions will be answered in a few days. His teammate, Teillet, has been injury-prone for much of his career. However, he has shown flashes of brilliance; where he ends up will all depend on whether he can avoid injury.
At a glance, the MX2 class of 2013 may seem like it is lacking depth. Sure, the class may be lacking title contenders. In fact, at the moment it is hard to imagine anyone beating Jeffrey Herlings to the title. However, behind the Dutchman there are a whole host of riders that could land on the box. All of the riders mentioned above have a shot at making the podium, or maybe even clinching the first victory of their career. Riders like Romain Febvre, Alexander Tonkov, Maxime Desprey, Glenn Coldenhoff, Alessandro Lupino and Julien Lieber will all be acting as wildcards looking to breakthrough and achieve some career best results, also. I think that we will see some new faces at the front of the field this year; the MX2 class should be exciting as always.
Words by Lewis Phillips
Image courtesy of KTM Images/Ray Archer