It has been quite some time since we last saw Christophe Pourcel on-track; most have not seen the Frenchman since he left the Palais Omnisport in 2012 with an injury. Although he has been hidden away at his compound in Florida, Pourcel has seemingly wanted to return to professional racing in recent months, which is exactly what he will do in the latter months of 2014.
Racer X Online revealed yesterday that Christophe has signed a one-year deal with the Valli Motorsports Yamaha team. However, the deal does not involve supercross. So, Pourcel will only be competing in the 250MX Lucas Oil Pro Motocross championship. It is surprising; the last time Pourcel was on a Yamaha (in 2011) he made it through two rounds before leaving the MotoConcepts team on bad terms. So, it is understandable why most (including myself) are sceptical about his decision to return to the blue machine.
So, can Pourcel win the 250MX title in 2014? Well, his talent is undoubted; he is seemingly capable of topping the podium. But, Christophe is very inconsistent – his mentality can change from one moto to the next, as we have seen in recent years. Sometimes he will turn up and be the fastest rider on-track, and then half an hour later he will be disinterested and cruise to a lacklustre finish. Evidently, he has some issues when it comes to motivation, so it will all depend on his mindset when the gates drop at Glen Helen in May.
You have to presume that Christophe is motivated to get back out there; he would not have signed the deal otherwise. However, all it would take is the smallest hiccup and the deal could go pear-shaped. The Valli Yamaha squad has had their problems in the past, and they have never really had a contender (like Pourcel) beneath their tent. So, it will be very interesting to see if they can cater to the needs of the Frenchman each week, and maintain a positive relationship. The YZ250f is not the strongest bike out there either. Presumably, this program will be quite different, in comparison to some of the teams that Christophe has been on in the past.
Interestingly, there could potentially be some direct support from Yamaha to help the team in the 2014 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross series. So, this would drastically improve their program, obviously. Pourcel is missing the Monster Energy AMA Supercross series, so he will have a lot of time to dial in his Yamaha, which will be foreign to him at first. I am sure that Pourcel will have a Yamaha delivered to him very soon; he will then be able to begin his preparation immediately. In comparison, his rivals will not be able to begin outdoor testing for a few more months.
Although he has not raced a 250f since 2010, I do not think that speed is going to be an issue for Pourcel. However, I wonder if he will be able to match the intensity of the younger riders in the class. Although that was not a problem for him when he was last on the smaller bike, a lot has changed since then, so it will be interesting to see how he adapts. However, he will not be as rusty as you may think, as Christophe has competed in (and won) a couple of local GNCC races recently. So, he has clearly been riding quite frequently.
Undoubtedly, it will be an interesting sub-plot to see how he performs in the 2014 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross series. But, there a handful of months before the series starts, which means that there will be a lot of free-time for us all to wonder whether Christophe will be a title contender or not. Honestly, I would be surprised if his deal with Valli Yamaha does not go pear-shaped at some point. But, whatever happens, it will be great to have Pourcel back out on-track.
Words by Lewis Phillips