In order to succeed in our sport, a rider must be very versatile, which is a trait that Arnaud Tonus seemingly obtains. The fact that he can adapt to any situation is another string to his bow, and something that will aid him in his quest to conquer America, which was revealed as the next phase of his career.
Unsurprisingly, Jeffrey Herlings has continued to be aloof in the 250F division, which has left Arnaud (and the riders that possess a similar skill-set) fighting for the runner-up spot, with just a slim chance at taking a second victory. Although the pride of Switzerland would like to be battling with the rider that has proven to be superior, he must be quite happy in the position that he occupies, as he has never filled the role of a consistent podium contender. Admittedly, the field may lack depth in comparison to the rivals he faced earlier in his career, but he has confirmed that he is indeed a superb rider.
Depending on your stance, his rise to form could not have come at a better time, as he prepares himself for a change of scenery. Although I am sure that Arnaud would like to have the option of honing his skills in the MX2 class for one more year (where he would be the undoubted favourite for a maiden world title), the age rule enforced by Youthstream has forced him to make a change. Although the obvious transition would be to step up to the bigger 450F, Tonus has elected to alter his career path completely, as the bright lights of the United States proved to be irresistible.
Whilst contract negotiations were taking place, Arnaud found himself in a select group with the elite riders, as a majority of factory teams on both sides of the Atlantic were jockeying for his signature, which indicates that most of the industry heavyweights believe in his future, and would choose to invest in it. With his smooth, elegant style, most believed that his transition to a 450F would be seamless, and he could then continue to build on the solid base he has established this year, but like a lot of riders, he could not pass up the opportunity to head Stateside, no matter what opportunities he would leave on the table in Europe.
The fact that this has been the first year that he has emerged as a consistent podium threat leads me to question how he will fare in his rookie season on the juggernaut Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki team. Again, his efficient style should lend itself to supercross, which is a discipline that most expats struggle to master. But, at the same time, the explosive style of racing in America may be something that he struggles to adapt to. There is no time to settle into a race, which is something that Arnaud has done a handful of times this year – the American riders are known for going all-out from the second the gate drops.
The threat of injuries is another ever present issue, and one that derailed a crucial section of Tonus’ MX2 career. This was also the reason for his move, as he explained that “due to my injuries in the last two seasons I’ve not achieved all my goals on a 250.” Of course, this is understandable and has proven to be a common defect of the under twenty-three rule. However, some would argue that the possibility of health issues is even higher across the pond, as more races, the inclusion of supercross and an aggressive field causes most riders to run into at least one injury a year, no matter what credentials they have.
Fortunately, the likeable Swiss rider has a two-year deal with Mitch Payton, so the pressure to perform in his first season (that a majority of riders have to contend with) is a non-issue for Arnaud. However, he will still be looking to repay the faith that his various sponsors have shown in him, and also prove the naysayers wrong. In a sport as competitive as this, no rider is happy unless they are exceeding their goals.
Arnaud is doing that in the FIM Motocross World Championship, undoubtedly, as he would be a dominant figure if his Dutch rival (that he has a checkered past with) was not present. His runner-up position in the standings appears to be on lockdown, unless of course more bad luck strikes him, and in our sport, who knows what is around the corner.
Words: Lewis Phillips
Image: Kawasaki Racing