Beating your team-mate is usually the first goal of a racer in motorsport.
One of the most famous rivalries was Valentino Rossi and young upstart Jorge Lorenzo. Rossi was so
threatened by the Spaniard that he ordered a wall to be put up in the garage so Lorenzo could not
see what Rossi was doing!
This might not apply quite as strongly in motocross (although it will be interesting to see how Cairoli
and Herlings get on if they are both MX1 Factory KTM in 2014) but it is still there in the back of the
riders’ minds especially when the strongest most established rider in the team is being threatened
by the new/younger rider.
When watching the opening MXGP of the year it became apparent that the natural hierarchy may be
threatened in some teams this season – especially the Jacky Marten’s KTM team.
Jake Nicholls finished fourth last season and with second and third in the championship leaving the
MX2 championship, Nicholls, on paper, was the next guy in line to challenge Herlings. He was the
team’s leading rider, the rider who is there to do the business at the sharp end of the pack.
His new teammate Romain Febvre, while young and fast, was thirteenth in the world last year. He
was the under study, the rider who would learn from Jake throughout the season, but to jump up
ten positions in the championship in one season just isn’t that realistic.
Then Qatar took place and suddenly it was Febvre who made the podium with fourth and third place
finishes – not Nicholls!
Jake of course had his problems during the weekend. He had to come from the back of the back in
the first moto and was dealing with a back injury all weekend, better days will lie ahead for Nicholls
no doubt, but Febvre has shown that is isn’t there to play second fiddle to anyone.
Febvre has put himself right there as one of the challengers behind Herlings, just like Nicholls is, and
now it appears they will be going head to head for the same prize.
It will be interesting to see who comes out on top during the course of the season. Nicholls
experience you would think would see him come out on top at the end of the championship,
but Febvre is for real and the confidence he has gained from getting this podium cannot be
Both are now fighting to become the alpha male within the team.
Then there are the MX1 teammate rivalries to keep an eye on that could develop throughout the
In the SuzukI factory team Clement Desalle had it all his own way last year as his teammate Tanel
Leok didn’t have a great season. This year Kevin Strijbos has already shown he will be close to
Desalle after running up front in both motos in Qatar. But maybe this will be a blessing in disguise
for Desalle as he knows he can’t relax or Strijbos will be knocking at the door.
Similarly in the factory Honda team where their guy for the future Evgeny Bobreyshev suddenly has
Max Nagl to deal with. Nagl has the credentials to run at the sharp end of the championship and he
has done it more consistently than the Russian.
Bobyreshev has started strongest with Nagl still recovering from injury but just who will come out
on top there is too close to call, but maybe that is the key to having a successful team? Both riders
might just lift their game.
David Bailey has mentioned numerous times that when he was with Honda they had Rick Johnson
join the team in 1986 and that gave them a team of Bailey, O’Mara and Johnson. Honda had three
guys who all wanted to win and each believed they were the best in the world.
Bailey felt that although there was rivalry, as long as it was managed properly it will help the team.
He felt each rider will push harder to be number one in testing and practice which would help them
in the races.
Looking at the results for that season it didn’t work out too badly to say the least! The Honda trio
went 1-2-3 in both the 250 Supercross and 250 outdoors championships and they also went 1-2 in
every moto at the MXDN at the end of the year!
Of course it can all go wrong as well as demonstrated in the 1990 US 125 nationals when JMB
refused to help teammate Mike Kiedrowski win the title. Bayle had been leading the series until
he broke his wrist, the Frenchman once healed came back to the races just when the title chase
between Kiedrowski and Suzuki’s Guy Cooper was down to the wire.
The Frenchman was asked by the team manager to help Kiedrowski and Bayle said no, so his bike
was promptly locked in the Honda Box van and Bayle couldn’t race! Honda and Kiedrowski would
end up losing the championship by one point to Cooper.
It is highly unlikely that anything as extreme would happen nowadays but teammate rivalries are
always an interesting storyline, and can be a positive or a negative for the riders and team affected.
So keep an eye on the riders who may feel threatened by the unexpected speed of their teammate
throughout the 2013 Grand Prix season and see who can come out on top.
Article by Jonathan McCready
Picture by Youthstream