Honda has a long and rich history in motocross, as they are undoubtedly one of (if not) the most successful manufacturers ever; they used to be an unstoppable force. But now, times have changed, evidently. It is quite rare to see one of their riders on top of the podium at a round of the FIM Motocross World Championship nowadays; the Honda World Motocross team have had a handful of lacklustre years.
It is no secret that the squad has struggled in the MXGP series; there are a few factors that seem to hold them back each season. Injuries seem to always beset their riders, which would obviously restrict their results. However, injuries are an unavoidable part of this sport. The Honda World Motocross team could quite easily turn it around in 2014, as their two riders (Evgeny Bobryshev and Max Nagl) are more than capable of great things.
I do believe that either one of the Honda World Motocross riders could emerge as a consistent contender for GP victories in 2014. After all, both Bobryshev and Nagl are proven winners. But, they have never been a threat for the title, so it might be unrealistic to expect that of them. Actually, the two factory Honda riders are quite similar when it comes to ability, and speed. I’m sure that this makes for an interesting dynamic in the truck, as they both have the same expectations on their shoulders. It is really quite rare for two riders on the same team to be so similar.
Max Nagl is the most accomplished rider on the team, as he has had the longer career at this point, and he has also won more than his teammate. But, he was quite disappointing this year – he didn’t finish on the overall podium once! The German finished second in a moto twice, but that was the only positive to take from his season. I bet the guys at Honda thought they were going to enjoy a lot more success with Max in his first season with the team. But, in his defence, he did encounter a few health problems this year, including the dreaded Epstein Barr virus.
Fortunately, those issues are now behind Nagl, so he can focus on getting closer to the front of the pack in 2014. However, he also had another issue this year – he just couldn’t gel with the CRF450. It is understandable. After all, he had spent his entire career on a KTM prior to this year, and the two bikes are very different. But, he did make some improvements to his machine just weeks before Epstein Barr struck him down, as the team made a few changes to make it resemble a KTM. Obviously, we did not really get to see how these changes affected his results. But, judging by his performance at the Motocross des Nations, we could see a much-improved Max Nagl in 2014.
Following a lacklustre year where they failed to meet the expectations that everyone had of them, the Honda World Motocross team rebounded at the MXdN. In the final moto, Evgeny and Max were both up front for the duration of the race, which is what we expected to see all year. It proved just how good 2014 could be for the team, if they can avoid the health issues that they ran into this year. Evgeny Bobryshev is also very injury-prone, like his teammate (another similarity they share). In fact, since his first GP win in 2011, he has spent a lot of time dealing with niggling injuries.
Evgeny Bobryshev was already back on-track by the end of the 2013 FIM Motocross World Championship, interestingly. Although he was once again hindered by an early-season injury, he finished on the podium at three of the final four GPs. The Russian finally seems to have some momentum on his side. It will be interesting to see if he can utilise this in the off-season, and come out swinging in a few months time. The most important thing for him is to avoid any injuries; if he can break the run of injuries in 2014, I can see him battling with the top three each week.
The Honda World Motocross team have great expectations heading into each year. Although they always have the resources to exceed these, it rarely works out as they envisioned. However, in 2014, both Bobryshev and Nagl will be able to build off of the foundation that they established this year, which should ensure that they are more competitive. This would not just be great for them, but for the series, as well.
Words by Lewis Phillips
Image courtesy of Honda World MX PR