Spotlight: Tim Gajser’s dominant 2022 MXGP crown

Coming into the 2022 season having failed in his quest to defend his title, as Jeffrey Herlings pipped him and Romain Febvre to glory, Tim Gajser was fully motivated to reclaim his position as MXGP champion.

Words: Edward Stratmann | Lead Image: Ray Archer

“The aim every year is to become world champion. It is what every rider wishes and especially for me, having won some in the past and having come so close this year, it is what I will be focusing on for every gate drop,” he insisted.

“Of course, I know it won’t be easy as the class is getting more competitive every year and I believe a lot of riders will keep improving, so I need to keep improving as well but I am confident that I can come out on top, especially with the support of everyone at Team HRC who continues to work extremely hard making sure everything possible is done to get me to perform at my best.”

Spurred on by narrowly falling short in 2021, this, in combination with the fact both Herlings and Febvre suffered devastating injuries to take them out of contention, meant he was the undisputed favourite heading into the new crusade. And, to his credit, despite the aforementioned heavy hitters missing, the fiercely competitive maestro got the job done comfortably to reign triumphant and claim his fifth title.

Focusing on the task at hand with unwavering determination and commitment, the Slovenian began his campaign exceptionally by rattling off three consecutive overall victories to lay down a real marker to his adversaries.

Feeling and looking extremely confident on the bike, and importantly improving his previously troublesome starts, although Gajser didn’t win in Portugal, his 3-1 still secured second overall at Agueda to continue his upward momentum.

Eager to re-establish his dominance over the rest of the field, the #243 flexed his muscles again in the subsequent three GPs by winning six straight motos to claim emphatic overalls at Trentino, Kegums and Maggiora.

Ray Archer

Heading into round eight at Sardegna with a whopping 81 point lead in the championship, a frustrating stomach bug halted his progress at both Riola Sardo and for the subsequent GP in Spain, where he fought valiantly to claim seventh and fourth overall respectively in the sweltering conditions.

Back fully fit and firing for Ernee, Gajser endured an uncharacteristically off day, where he crashed in both motos to eventually bag fourth overall in a weekend that was overshadowed by the qualifying race drama.

He wouldn’t have to wait long until he was back in the groove, however, for the Honda HRC star produced a flawless display at Teutschenthal. Setting the tone for his outstanding round by recording the fastest times in free and timed practice, he then scorched to a striking qualifying race win.

So at ease with the tricky track conditions and riding with clarity and conviction, there was plenty to admire about his exceptional raceday too, as he not only won both motos, but he also banked the quickest lap time in each race.

Having returned to form in outstanding fashion, Gajser then admirably replicated his feats from Germany in Indonesia, where another win in qualifying was beautifully accompanied by his 1-1 in the points scoring motos.

Despite not standing on the top step of the podium in the following four races due to a combination of hard to pass tracks, sketchy surfaces, the immense heat and him managing his advantage intelligently, he still claimed two podiums at Loket and Uddevalla.

Riding in a controlled and safety-first manner knowing the title was his, this strategy ultimately paid off, as he was officially crowned champion in Finland with two rounds to spare.

Ray Archer

Knowing he didn’t have to push the limit, could ride within himself and remaining in control, Gajser certainly deserves credit for managing the situation masterfully.

“The pace is there and there is really good competition. I am super happy. I would say that from the experience that I have in the past… I learnt a lot from last year especially and the end of the year when the pressure was over the roof,” he told MX Vice during the season.

“The pressure was really, really high when me, Romain and Jeffrey were fighting for the title. I would say that I learnt a lot by losing that championship. I have experience with how to act and prepare myself under pressure. I would say that I always try to analyse the things that happened in the past and take them as a positive, but also learn from them.”

With the shackles off and relieved to have bagged his fifth world title, he then confidently claimed overall victories in the final two stops on the calendar, with his sensational second moto at St Jean d’Angely, where he produced some final lap heroics to run out the victor, being the undoubted highlight.

Rubber stamping his accomplished campaign wonderfully, this was a fitting end to his fantastic season, where he handled the pressure and weight of expectations, which loomed large over him in the absence of Herlings and Febvre, with aplomb.

While some were quick to discredit his achievement due to the injuries to the aforementioned hotshots, Gajser offered a stern response when speaking to the excellent Adam Wheeler in his distinguished OTOR publication, with the hard working #243 clearly agitated at this outlook. “People who see the races understand. It is also strange that last year I was leading the championship and then nobody – nobody – mentioned the fact that I broke my collarbone and I was still fighting until the end. Everybody was only talking about Jeffrey and his broken shoulder blade,” he asserted.

“So, sometimes it is like you don’t feel the best. Deep inside you know how it was…so I don’t really care what other people are writing and usually the ones that are making these comments are those who haven’t really done anything in life and have too much time behind a computer. To be honest I don’t give a f**k.”

By the numbers from his season, his 10 overall victories, 14 race wins and four qualification race wins illustrated his ascendancy. Interestingly, the latter figure indicates what a brilliant Sunday man he is, for he rarely pushed the envelope on the Saturday, instead keeping his powder dry for when it mattered.

Extending his fantastic relationship with HRC by signing a new contract in September, the gifted pilot, who’s still only 26, now has his sights firmly set on title number six next term.

“Obviously it will be tough, but I know what I am capable of and I know that everyone in Team HRC is working towards that goal alongside me. I am feeling fit, healthy and I know that we have already made some improvements to the bike since the end of the season, so I’m excited for the first gate-drop of 2023,” he stated.

Primed for another title assault and ready to battle it out with the likes of Herlings, Febvre, Jeremy Seewer, Jorge Prado and Maxime Renaux, the consistent and durable Gajser will certainly be the man to beat in what will be a stacked, compelling MXGP class in 2023.

MX Vice | Editor