There was much debate during the first three races as to whether Thomas Covington would stay in GPs or go back to the USA and contest the 250 US Nationals for Mitch Payton’s Pro Circuit team.
His last GP round was supposed to be this weekend in Italy but then came the announcement that Covington would not only stay in GPs for the rest of the season but that he would be contesting them again in 2015 for CLS Kawasaki!
While many, including myself, were a bit surprised that Covington chose the rigours of World Championship GP racing over the home comforts of racing his own prestigious US National championship, it seems Covington is taking advantage of an opportunity he just couldn’t turn down.
It will be interesting to see how Covington progresses doing the GP route in comparison to his peers who stayed in the USA. But with no ties in the USA, an 18 year old Covington is getting to see the world and chase his goal of becoming World Champion, there is no doubt he will become a better outdoor rider in the process when he returns to the USA at a later date.
But maybe more importantly he will have an experience of a lifetime to take home with him that most riders in the USA will never get. He might even take home a World title in the future!
Born in Alabama but residing in California, Covington got his first taste of the World Championship at the British GP last August. At 17 years old Covington acquitted himself well finishing fourth in the EMX2 race. Covington was impressive and had a smooth and controlled riding style that many felt would suit the GP series.
It was there that the American perception of GP racing appeared to be shattered as Covington saw for himself the quality of the series and how well it was run. As a consequence and in what seemed a really good move, Covington would skip supercross and prepare for the US Nationals by racing the first four GPs.
In between times Covington had ramped up his training with US legend Johnny O’Mara and by the time Qatar came round it was evident how much the young American had improved over the winter months. Covington shocked a lot of people with his third place in race two but not himself or his trainer.
The next two rounds have been more up and down but Covington has shown he is a solid top ten rider in his first year of GP racing so far. With the current depth in the class that is no mean feat and like a number of other riders in that group if he gets a start he can run with the top five. Following on from those three rounds, Covington changed his initial plans and made the decision to sign with CLS Kawasaki for the next two years instead of returning home to the USA.
Covington gained respect amongst the GP contingent and in America for daring to race the first few GPs at such a young age when many in the US even when they are older, never make the move. American’s have also tended to struggle in GP racing with the odd exception but Covington, despite his youth, seems to have the right attitude and the talent to make it work for him.
It is now that the GP’s really start for Covington with having to live in Europe for the next few months and race on a colossal amount of new tracks in new countries with a serious amount of diversity. But for Covington there is no pressure now, he has proven already he is a talented young rider and this year is merely a learning year before a full assault in 2015.
Covington will be able to learn from his teammates, Tonus and Ferrandis, plus 450 riders Searle and Lupino which will prove invaluable. He will also have time to get to grips with riding the deep sand of Holland. While he will probably have some ups and downs this year as he learns the GP series, it is the perfect time to do it.
Because next year, with quite a few riders being forced to move up due to the age rule, Covington could well be one of the leading contenders and he will have the bike and the experience to really go for it. It has been 20 years since an American won a World title, Covington will now be their hope to change that statistic sooner rather than later.
But on a wider topic, will this move resonate further within the American industry and alert young riders to the benefits of racing Grand Prix and allow them to see the prestige of the series?
Covington is an interesting story in terms of when he was exposed to the reality of the GP series he liked it as opposed to believing the perception that is there in America.
Which then begs the question, if America had more exposure to Grand Prix racing, which it is slowly but surely getting, would the World Championship just start to attract more riders from there who grow up dreaming of being World motocross champion and not just a supercross champion?
Covington might just hold the key to Youthstream’s dream of attracting more of the top American riders into the World Championship. He has broken the mould of thinking of young Americans, but will more follow his example? Only time will tell.
But for now give Thomas Covington as extra cheer when he passes by on the track because he could have chosen the easier route of racing at home for Pro Circuit Kawasaki. Instead, the teenager has decided to broaden his horizons, get some life experience and go for a World title!
Article: Jonathan McCready