The FIM Motocross World Championship lands on European shores this weekend as the third round of 18 in the series will take place on the sand of Valkenswaard, south of Eindhoven for the Grand Prix of the Netherlands.
The 30+ temperatures of events in Qatar and Thailand will be swiftly forgotten for Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MX1 as cold conditions are forecast for what is virtually a home event for the factory Belgian crew.
Belgians Clement Desalle and Kevin Strijbos will enjoy vocal support from fans across the Benelux region. Desalle will be hoping to go ‘one better’ than his runner-up position on the RM-Z450 in 2012 while Strijbos – twice a fourth position finisher at Valkenswaard – will be looking to join the exclusive ‘Suzuki rostrum club’ at the venue. The team is no stranger to podium celebrations at the Eurocircuit with Joel Smets, Michael Pichon, Ken De Dycker and Steve Ramon also sampling champagne in the last decade.
While the Dutch GP will see the traditional two moto format re-employed and the timetable fleshed out with MX3 and Women’s World Championship events, the biggest novelty of the weekend will be the change to the layout of the track. Originally reversed in 2007, the direction of the course has now been reinstated and will involve the fast straight and vast table-top finish line jump, seen and remembered in Grands Prix as far back at the 1970s.
“Honestly I think it will be better,” says Strijbos. “I mean, there is not a huge difference but I think the old flow of the track just seemed more natural and challenging and I’m glad they are switching it around. We go to the same places a lot so when they can make a variation it is always interesting.
“It has been pretty cold here but we’ve done some good work,” he continued. “We went to test some suspension settings in the Lommel sand last week and thought we had the right configuration but then it didn’t really work in the Dutch Championship race. We tested again at another track and I felt happy we were back in a good way. Unfortunately the International at my home circuit was cancelled earlier this week because of the snow but I’m on the bike again today for some laps and I’m excited to get to the weekend.
“The overseas events are good in their own way and I’m happy to go to other countries but coming back here feels a bit more normal,” he added. “We’ll have the usual moto structure, there should be a pretty big crowd and I think the atmosphere will be something we are more used to for a Grand Prix. Overall, it is important to have that different flavour of different events in a world championship.”
Desalle and Strijbos come into the meeting holding second and sixth positions respectively in the fledgling MX1 standings. The former needs to outpoint Antonio Cairoli by nine to regain control of the ‘red plate’. The weather forecast for the weekend and Monday’s race predicts temperatures around 4-5 degrees and bright skies.