Christmas day 2012 will hold an important appointment for new Monster Energy Yamaha factory motocross racer Joel Roelants. The Belgian will throw his leg over a warm YZ450FM for the first time after making excellent progress in the wake of his recent hip operation. December 25th is the day that the 23 year old has marked as a Christmas present to himself after all the hard work and application towards his recovery. Roelants is the new boy in the works team and to the premier class – MX1 – of the FIM Motocross World Championship for 2013. He joins 2011 MX1 championship runner-up Steven Frossard on the distinctive black and green machines for an eagerly anticipated maiden attempt at one of the most competitive racing categories in world motorsport. Here the winner of the 2012 MX2 Grand Prix of Latvia and fresh MX1 ‘rookie’ tells us what he’s been up to and posing for his first pictures in his new team colours…
Joel, obvious question, how are you feeling and how is the build-up to be back on the bike?
JR: Quite good! I had a fitness text last Thursday and my level was really good, which I was glad to hear about. At the moment I have around 65% strength in my leg and I’m working on improving that in the next couple of weeks. I have been doing a lot of upper body training because this is an important stage of the year to be ready for next season. I’ll be on the 450 now so strength work has been key. All the hours you put in now will pay off when the racing starts and I’m really keen to get back into it. I feel like I have been away a long time!
So just a month to wait then?
JR: Yes, a few more weeks. December 25th is the day I have arranged. That is when I expect to be fully ready to start riding again. On Christmas day I will be in a camper at the track and as soon as it is first light then I will be up raring to go!
What kind of things will you be doing up until that day?
JR: I have a small gym at my house with all the equipment I need and I’m in there five times a week. Every day I am out cycling, whether on a mountain bike or Cyclocross – which is a popular sport we have here in Belgium – so I’m pretty busy. The weather here is actually quite good at the moment so if it stays dry then I’ll also be spending a bit of time working on my pit-bike track.
You must be keen to try the Yamaha…
JR: Absolutely. I’m anxious to be honest. It was good to do these photos and put the team clothes on and take delivery of the bike but it tests your patience!
Have you talked with the Monster Energy Yamaha team about testing and how you’d like the race bike to be?
JR: We’ve made plans but we haven’t talked in-depth about the bike yet. I think I will need to ride it and get used to it a little bit before I can start to work seriously on set-up. I can make comments to the guys about how I like the Yamaha to be for me but there is only so much information you can give until you start making the laps and going for the fast times. As for testing, like I said, at the end of the month I will start and will get some good sand riding done at maybe some places like Dunkirk and then in January we have programmed a month of work in Sardinia; so I’m looking forward to that.
Lastly what are your thoughts on the idea to run MX1 and MX2 together for overseas events and possibly for a final moto in 2014?
JR: If you are on an MX1 bike then it won’t be so bad and I think if you make a good start then it will be hard for the MX2 guys to overtake. If they do pass you then it is because they are faster on that particular day but I don’t think it will happen so much. It is something that could work for the overseas races simply because the gates tend to be smaller but for the majority of races there is no need. If we have to do it then of course it is something we need to adjust to.
Joel is joined this year by Frossard and Charlier. More information can be found below on Monster Yamaha’s riders lineup for 2013.
One of Belgium’s most exciting young racers, Joel Roelants, will be a factory Monster Energy Yamaha rider in the premier MX1-GP class of the FIM Motocross World Championship for 2013 and aligns with Steven Frossard and also Christophe Charlier in the Rinaldi-run section of the works squad.
The Italian crew will welcome the 2012 MX2 Grand Prix of Latvia winner for what will be his rookie season in the MX1 ranks and his first on the formidable YZ450FM; a motorcycle that took David Philippaerts to World Championship glory in his first term in 2008 and Steven Frossard to second place in the world in 2011 for what was the Frenchman’s first attempt at the series.
Roelants steps into MX1 after reaching the age ceiling of 23 years for MX2; a division where he has been learning his Grand Prix trade for the past four years and 2012 saw his best campaign yet with three podium results (including that first career victory in Latvia, ensuring he was one of a small group of just three riders to walk the top step of the rostrum from sixteen events in ‘12) until his unlucky incident at the British Grand Prix in August when he was hit by another rider in practice and suffered a dislocated hip.
Roelants underwent a successful operation on the joint two weeks ago and will now start his programme of rehab and light fitness work that will build up to aquatherapy and cycling until he will be able to test and finesse the YZ450FM at the end of December.
“The doctors were really happy with the operation,” he said. “After two days I was able to walk with crutches and I’ve already started full-time rehab and some activities like the exercise bike. I will have to keep a lot of weight off the joint for another week or so but after that I hope it will be full speed ahead.”
“I’m really excited to be a Monster Energy Yamaha rider for next year…it just sucks a bit at the moment that I cannot start working with the guys right away! I will work my way back up to speed and I’m looking forward to the day I can start to test already.”
Frossard is already confirmed to steer the other YZ450FM for a third year in a row and the twenty-five year old will soon start to test the all-new RInaldi developed parts for next season. Another returning element of the team will be Christophe Charlier (21 years old) who will again saddle the YZ250FM fuel injected prototype in MX2-GP. The former European and Italian Champion was in rapid form during pre-season but injuries affected his first term as part of the Italian unit. A maiden GP podium finish in the mud of Brazil was a highlight and hinted at the Corsican’s potential. Now fully back in flight and currently testing in Italy Charlier has even more motivation to demonstrate his obvious talent.
“We’ve seen David and Steven come into the team and enjoy success right away and after Steven allowed a great many people to see his skill and speed as a racer once he climbed on the MX1 bike, we hope a similar effect will happen with Joel who shares many of the same characteristics,” said Michele Rinaldi. “We are talking about two very fit, determined and ‘hungry’ young athletes and these attributes are so important with the MX1 class becoming so competitive. We were really happy with the way Christophe prepared for 2012 so –Brazil aside – it was very unfortunate he never got a chance to show the speed he displayed in tests and pre-season. I think he will cause some surprises in 2013 where some added experience and maturity will count heavily in his favour.”