Finally! The 2013 European Motocross season will kick off this weekend at the Italian track of Mantova, as usual. Most of the factory, and satellite teams do begin their season in Italy at the Mantova Starcross; the race is a great chance to get a glimpse at how the upcoming season will pan out.
The Mantova Starcross does tend to throw up a handful of surprises; an unlikely rider often emerges from the pack to clinch a win. Jimmy Albertson in 2010 is a prime example of this; he dominated the 1v1 races as an unknown quantity on the Martin Honda team. The 1v1 races will be labeled “the Airoh Cup” this year; they take place on the Sunday morning. In these races there will be some good, clean racing, undoubtedly. I do believe that “the Airoh Cup” provides some of the most exciting action of the whole event. It is original and unique; you do not see those kinds of races very often.
The track surface in Mantova is quite soft. It is not your typical Italian circuit, the flat, jumpy layout often gets quite rough; even more so when the weather is a little wet. The circuit has hosted a handful of GP’s in the past, so it is most certainly capable of hosting the elite riders. Undoubtedly, the track will end up extremely rough by the end of the weekend; it will really be a tough challenge for the riders in their first race of the year. Of course, on Sunday night it will be evident who has done their work over the winter, and who is in desperate need of some more testing.
I do believe that Clement Desalle will be the favourite for the win this weekend. Toni Cairoli (his main rival) will not be present, because of this the Belgian is surely feeling quite confident about his ability to fight for the win. The track surface will suit his style also, undoubtedly. Desalle’s fitness is impeccable as well, which will be valuable at the end of the third moto. I do believe that it will be intriguing to see how his teammate (Kevin Strijbos) fares this weekend in his debut ride on the Rockstar Energy Suzuki team. Will he immediately be in the running for the win, or will he take some time to get adapted to the Suzuki again?
The Honda World Motocross team will be present with their 2013 lineup this weekend; I am particularly interested to see how Evgeny Bobryshev will perform. Obviously, the 2012 season did not go great for the Russian; will he be able to rebound? There have been no problems to report throughout the off-season. So, you have to presume that he is coming in ready. I do not think that his teammate (Max Nagl) will be in the running for the win this weekend. It will surely take some time for the German to get used to his bike in race conditions.
Another factory team that will be present is the Kawasaki Racing team (KRT). Gautier Paulin will surely be a contender for podium positions. But, I cannot see the Frenchman challenging for the win, only because the track surface is not his specialty. From the two KRT riders, I am most interested to see how new signing Jeremy Van Horebeek will fare this weekend. Until this point, we have never got to see how the Belgian can perform on a 450f; it will be interesting to see how he adapts to the bigger bike, and the different style of racing.
Both Xavier Boog and Rui Goncalves were dropped from a factory team at the conclusion of the 2012 season. However, both riders landed on their feet with the Ice One KTM team; they will be receiving factory support from KTM also. Out of the two, it does sound like Boog had the hardest time trying to adapt to the Austrian bike, obviously Rui has previous experience with the brand. I do think that it will be indicative how the two perform this weekend; the team undoubtedly wants to fight for podiums this year.
Unfortunately, both Tommy Searle and Shaun Simpson will not be racing this weekend. Both riders are on the pre-entry list; however they will not be on the starting line. Obviously, their teams will not be present either, so the CLS Kawasaki MX2 riders (Tonus and Lupino) will not be on the starting line either. It looks like the Route 77 Energy MVRD Honda team will be the only team representing Britain this weekend; Tanel Leok and Jason Dougan are ready to do battle. Tanel will undoubtedly be in contention for the podium. Jason has the potential to do well; I am interested to see how competitive his speed is after not racing the MXGP series in recent years.
This weekend we will get a little preview of the 2013 FIM World Motocross Championship; the riders mentioned previously would have the best shot at victory. However, as stated previously, there is always some kind of surprise at the pre-season internationals.
Words by Lewis Phillips