At the start of 2012 Arnaud Tonus was in the best form of his career, he was the defending British Champion and was looking set to have his best GP season ever. Then, at the second round of the British Championship Tonus had a huge crash while leading, resulting in a dislocated shoulder and broken wrist that required surgery that destroyed his season – he hadn’t even got to the first round of the World Championship.
Tonus came back mid season but never really regained the form he had at the beginning of the year save for a podium at the final GP of the year. Despite this, Tonus was still hot property for the prospective teams in 2013 due to his undoubted speed when healthy and the fact that most of Herlings nearest challengers were moving out of the class.
This is where things got messy, Tonus who had the best form of his career on Steve Dixon’s Yamaha team, appeared to have renewed a deal with Steve to race for him in 2013 to go for the World title or at least top three in the series while Michael Lieb had signed for CLS Kawasaki to replace Tommy Searle
At the MXDN however, rumours began to circulate that this was not going to be the case, Tonus had apparently now signed with CLS and Leib was left out in the cold.This rumour would be confirmed as a press release from CLS later appeared stating Tonus was officially a CLS Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider.
This left Michael Leib and Steve Dixon in shock and in a difficult position, Dixon was able to remedy the situation by signing the talented and hungry Aussie Dean Ferris to replace Tonus but Leib, as of yet, still has no ride and is riding as a privateer in his own team back in the USA.
Tonus, the central figure in all of this, also had his own problems. He broke his leg in the first lap of the qualifier at the Nations in Lommel and hasn’t even been able to ride his new bike. So as the turmoil unfolded Tonus was laying at home recovering from yet another injury and in a race to be ready for 2013.
All this drama has meant there will be extra pressure on Tonus that he really didn’t need. First of all he has to show he can overcome an injury strewn 2012 and get back to his best form. Secondly he will be under immense pressure on Kawasaki to justify his (and their) decision and he has to adjust to a brand new bike again with less time than normal due to his injury and the early start to the GP season (1st March).
It is also interesting that, despite his talent, Tonus has only had two GP podiums in his career, but you can bet that CLS Kawasaki will want him to be a podium regular! This will be quite a step up for the Swiss rider but in a recent interview Arnaud mentioned how nervous he gets before races and that he couldn’t understand how his former Suzuki team-mate Ken Roczen could be so relaxed and chatty in the waiting zone. Tonus mentioned those nerves would affect him in races and that is maybe the main reason for his lack of podiums.
Finding a solution to this problem may be the key ingredient for Tonus to really fulfil his potential, it may have nothing to do with whether he rides a Dixon Yamaha or a CLS Kawasaki, but whether he can control the nerves and have the self belief to relax himself so that he can win on any given weekend
He has the talent and technique, but has Tonus got the mental strength needed to really become the complete rider? Is he too nice, or has this move to CLS Kawasaki revealed a new ruthless streak in Tonus? After everything that has went on to get the ride he wanted, it is his turn to step it up, justify the controversial situation and fulfil the potential he has shown.
2013 is a big year in the career of Arnaud Tonus … but can he deliver? We are about to find out!
Article and picture by Jonathan McCready