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Looking Forward: MX1 World Championship

The 2013 FIM Motocross World Championship is upon us, surprisingly. After months of hype, and anticipation all questions will be answered this time next week. So, with most of the bikes, teams and riders already over in Qatar, it’s time to take a look at the MX1 class of 2013.

In my honest opinion, I think that what we saw from Antonio Cairoli at the tail end of 2012 is what we will see from the Sicilian again this year; I am beginning to think that Toni is too good. In the Italian Championship he has been dominant, which makes me to think that he is coming in fast, fit and confident; I do believe that this will result in him being very tough to beat this year. Perhaps the only person that can beat him over the course of a season, is himself? We will see if anyone is up to the challenge. Undoubtedly, Antonio Cairoli is the favourite going into round one, just like he has been for much of his career.

Clement Desalle will more than likely be Cairoli’s toughest competition; however thus far he has not proven that he is capable of fighting for a title over an entire year, but potentially he could. He will have to step up his program in a big way if he is going to clinch the title. It is the end of the motos where Antonio really shines; I felt as though Clement’s fitness wasn’t at a level where he could fight Cairoli off at the end of a forty-minute moto last year. However, this year he will have Joel Smets in his corner, and he has not had to deal with any major injuries in the last year either. So, Clement Desalle might be coming into the year in the best position that he has ever been in.

Gautier Paulin is a bit of a wildcard, in my opinion. Obviously, the Frenchman has the speed. However he struggled after the halfway point last year, and for no real reason. Hence why, I feel a bit weary about putting Gautier down as a serious title contender. If he can figure out how to replicate the magic from last year (without the mid-year slump) the factory Kawasaki rider could be dangerous. His performance in the pre-season races has been up and down; in Valence he was very fast. That speed is definitely still there, I think that he will have a consistent presence on the podium this year. But can he win the title? I will be very surprised if he is in a position to do so.

So, who is going to be the biggest surprise this year? I honestly think that it could be Ken de Dycker, judging by his performance in the Italian Championship. I was pleasantly surprised by his speed, fitness and ability to follow his teammate. I looked at his program in detail during the off-season (you can check that article out here); already he has shocked me. He has been training with Cairoli, and the Red Bull KTM team, which helped him undoubtedly. I do wonder where a rider like De Dycker will fit in though. Obviously, you have the established race winners and the rookies moving into the class; where does the Belgian belong in that group? I think that Ken will lead the second tier, and occasionally break into the fight for the podium.

To me, Max Nagl is a bit of an unknown. The Honda World Motocross rider hasn’t completed a full-season healthy in quite some time, which gives us a reason to question his ability to do so. Obviously, he is already starting a bit behind his competitors, because of the hand injury he sustained at the Mantova Starcross. So, the German will be in survival mode through rounds one and two; but by Valkenswaard, he expects to be one-hundred-percent. If he can get through the opening two rounds without further aggravating the injury, he could be in a position to challenge for the title. Has Nagl had enough time to get accustomed to the Honda? He crashed out of his debut race with the team, so we haven’t really got to see if he lost any of his speed in the switch.

Tommy Searle is our greatest hope of British success, as per usual. But, can Searle win in his rookie season aboard a 450f? I think so, however I don’t think that he will be in a position to win the title this year. On certain tracks, he will be capable of challenging Cairoli; however it is on the softer soil that he struggles. Undoubtedly, Tommy will be fighting for the win when the series arrives at Matterley Basin in August. Interestingly, Searle has not raced any of the pre-season races (because the Hawkstone Park International was cancelled). I will be interested to see whether he struggles at round one because of this.

Jeremy Van Horebeek is another rider that has surprised me during the pre-season races; he [Van Horebeek] has been quite impressive aboard the factory Kawasaki thus far. Will he win a race? No. However, I do expect him to be around the top five for most of the year. With a field as stacked as this, even that might be a tall order for the Belgian. I do think that we will see a lot of riders frustrated this year, as I predict that the results will not always be a good representation of the riders’ speed. Joel Roelants will join his countryman as an MX1 rookie; he too could do great things potentially. However, he is coming off of a hip injury, therefore I’m not expecting to see Roelants fulfill his potential until we are a few rounds into the series.

What about Steven Frossard? The Frenchman has been forgotten by most in the lead up to Qatar, because he has been out of action for almost an entire year. But, think back to 2011, or the opening round of 2012. Frossard was actually the rider that was closest to matching Cairoli’s raw speed. If he can stay healthy I would put him right up there with Desalle as a genuine contender for the title. However, because of the lengthy lay-off it might be a few rounds before he is really comfortable out on track.

Evgeny Bobryshev is another rider who, like Steven Frossard, has the speed to contend for victories every single week. However, consistency is a problem for the Russian. Put simply, 2012 was a disaster for him. But, he now has another chance to prove that he can contend for the title; I actually think that there is quite a bit of pressure on him because of his poor performance last year. In the Italian Championship, he hasn’t really shown that he can run with Antonio, or de Dycker for that matter. I do think that he can fight for wins, but the championship is more than likely out of his reach.

The Ice1 Racing pairing of Xavier Boog and Rui Goncalves have the potential to do very well, I do believe. Both riders will be aboard factory-supported machinery; there is no doubt that the equipment beneath them is capable of putting both riders on the podium. But, in a field as stacked as this they will have to step up their game if they are going to taste success. The Frenchman, Xavier Boog, has really surprised me in the pre-season races; in fact I think that he will outperform his teammate, which no one is expecting him to do.

Kevin Strijbos is heading into the 2013 season as a bit of an unknown, if you judge him on his performance in recent years than you would think that he would not be in a position to contend for a GP win. But, I have been very impressed by the Belgian in the pre-season races, therefore I think that he will be a threat for podiums at most of the rounds this year. Potentially, he could win a GP, but everything would have to go his way if he is going to do so. Kevin is most definitely getting closer to reaching his form of 2007.

Shaun Simpson has moved to his fourth team in four years with the Ricci TM setup; Shaun is a rider that may struggle because of the depth of the field. Although at times, he could run a pace capable of getting on the podium last year, there are eighteen riders that will be looking to jump on the podium this year. Shaun is notorious for getting bad starts; this may be his biggest weakness this year as it will be extremely hard to fight through the field.

The Route77 Energy MVRD Honda team could potentially have a great year in the FIM World Motocross Championship, thanks to new signing Tanel Leok. Leok’s raw speed is undoubted, and it has been evident in the pre-season internationals. It would be great to see the MVRD crew up on the MXGP podium. However, with the influx of rookies entering the class it might be even harder for the Estonian to find his place this year; time will tell. The last time that his teammate, Jason Dougan, completed the series his speed was good. However, Dougan will more than likely find himself finishing outside of the top ten most weeks, because the field is so deep.

Evidently, the MX1 class in this year’s FIM World Motocross Championship might have the deepest field that we have ever seen. Above, there are sixteen riders that will all be looking to get inside of the top ten, and that is without talking about riders like Jonathan Barragan, Seb Pourcel, Mattis Karro, Davide Guarneri and David Philippaerts. The field is so deep, I am sure that some established names will struggle to get into the points at some rounds. Roll on Saturday!

Words by Lewis Phillips

Image courtesy of KTM Images/Ray Archer

MX Vice Editor || 25

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