Nicolas Aubin is a great addition to both the Maxxis British Championship, and the Red Bull Pro Nationals. However, I do believe that Aubin belongs in the World Championship series; the Frenchman was considered to be a potential world champion not too long ago. Nicolas will be chasing the top step in Britain again this year aboard a Buildbase Honda, under the watchful eye of Dave Thorpe.
So, why do I think that Nicolas Aubin belongs in the FIM World Motocross Championship? If you cast your mind back to the 2007, and the 2008 season, Nicolas was a contender for race wins in the highly competitive MX2 class. Aubin displayed a great deal of natural talent on a Ricci Yamaha throughout those years; at times it was mind blowing. When Nico was winning motos early in his career, most did predict that he would follow in the footsteps of some of his fellow, very successful countrymen.
In the off-season prior to the 2009 season, most thought that Nicolas Aubin would be one of the favourites for the MX2 world title. The established front-runners from the previous years were vacating the class, and Nico was undoubtedly the next best rider (behind Cairoli, Searle and Rattray). But, at a time when he needed to elevate his riding level in order to achieve his main goal, he faltered and struggled massively. I do think that since the 2009 season, Nicolas has been a different rider; this is evident in his results.
But, why did he suddenly begin to struggle? Even now, no one really knows. In the transition from the ’08 to ’09 season, there were no major changes to his program to speak of; he had the same crew surrounding him, and he was on the same bike. Despite this, he was no longer fast enough to contend for wins in the MXGP series. In fact, since that 2009 season he has not returned to the overall podium in the World Championship.
If you glance at the results, and the statistics from the 2009 season it is evident that Nicolas Aubin did indeed struggle. In the 2007, and the 2008 season Nico did climb onto the moto podium thirteen times from sixty starts; with three moto victories and his first (and only) overall victory, also. Throughout the following year (2009) Aubin climbed onto the moto podium twice only, with no victories to his name in the MXGP series. In 2010 Nicolas moved up to the 450, on a new team (Bud Racing Kawasaki). However, injuries hurt him in that year; he finished only a handful of rounds and ended up twentieth in the points.
I would liken Nicolas Aubin’s career path to that of Kevin Strijbos’ (I actually wrote an article on Kevin Strijbos’ story a few weeks ago). Both riders fell from title contention, to outside of the top ten; the only difference is there was a visible reason for Strijbos’ drop in form. There has been some speculation that Aubin was no longer focused on his racing. Aubin has stated in different places that pressure does not affect him negatively; clearly that was not an issue.
Should Nicolas Aubin have clinched a world championship? There is no way to tell; he never put himself in a position to do so. But his speed, and skill level definitely means that he could of! Now, he has progressed onto the next stage of his career. Nicolas has completed a full season in the various British domestic series, and he clinched the Red Bull Pro Nationals MX1 title in that time also. However, in the Maxxis British Championship last year Aubin was extremely underwhelming. He should have been in title contention, when you consider the accolades that he has to his name. Some (including myself) would argue that switching from the 250f to the 450f on a weekly basis in 2012 hindered his performance.
Nicolas Aubin will be riding the 450 full-time in both series this year; this will undoubtedly help him out, as he will be able to focus on developing just one bike, instead of switching machines on a consistent basis. Nico has proven in the past that he can compete for wins aboard the 450. If you think back to the 2008 MXdN, the Frenchman was fighting for the podium positions in a one-off ride on the 450 (Aubin actually finished third overall in the Open class). You can definitely call Aubin a title contender heading into the 2013 Maxxis British Championship.
Perhaps competing in the low-key British series will rejuvenate Nicolas Aubin. If he can win again, perhaps his confidence will be back and we will begin to see the Aubin of old? It worked for Strijbos last year. But the MX1 class will be stacked with talent next year; Jonathan Barragan, Tanel Leok, Brad Anderson and Mattis Karro will be a few of the favourites for the title (along with Aubin). If he can beat the established MXGP frontrunners; perhaps that will prove that he can still run the pace needed to succeed in the world championship; that will surely help to restore his confidence.
Will Nicolas Aubin ever return to the FIM World Motocross Championship full-time? He is currently twenty-four years of age; time is on his side. But for 2013, his main focus will be the domestic British series; where he will undoubtedly be hoping to take two titles back to his native France.
Words by Lewis Phillips
Image by Dave Rich