MXGP is back! Following a five month break due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the FIM Motocross World Championship is making its much-awaited return with a triple header in Latvia, with the MXGP of Latvia, MXGP of Riga and MXGP of Kegums.
The return of the MXGP series will see several changes, including an all-new timetable schedule, with the European support classes out on track for both their races on Saturday, meanwhile MXGP and MX2 riders will take to the track on Sunday for their Free/Timed Practice and races one and two.
With plenty of fresh faces in the EMX250 and EMX Open classes, along with the MX2 and MXGP riders, the tripled header in Latvia is set to be an exciting event, that will no doubt see plenty of intense competition and battles throughout the three events.
In 2019, Team HRC’s Tim Gajser was victorious in the MXGP class, though he was tied on points with second and third place finishers Romain Febvre and Arnaud Tonus. With all three riders on exactly 40 points each, it was Gajser’s race two victory that handed him the overall win.
In the last year, Gajser has come on leaps and bounds when it comes to his sand riding and therefore could be in with the chance of repeating last year’s win and clinching yet another victory in Latvia; his race wins from Matterley Basin and Valkenswaard go to prove that the Slovenian is perfectly cool with leading the field, even when he’s being chased down by Jeffrey Herlings and Antonio Cairoli.
“It’s been a difficult year, with everything that’s happened these past few months so I’m super excited to get back to racing the world championships again. In the past five months, I’ve just been training hard, trying to stay in shape and maybe even improve myself in preparation for this time, but it certainly wasn’t easy. Now I’m ready to start the season again, as I get to Latvia pretty early to make sure everything is ready and make sure the bike is as good as it was before the break, when I won those motos. The calendar is probably the best they could do. I think it is good to do multiple races at the same track, to avoid moving around too much, with all the countries having different rules and different quarantines so that is a good idea. I think it will be interesting and different to have a one-day format, but it will be the same for everyone, so you have to be able to adapt and make sure everything is running smoothly, and quickly. I know my team is capable of making this happen though so I am confident.”
His team-mate Mitch Evans will also be making a return to racing in Kegums, following months of rehab on his should injury, which he picked up in Valkenswaard. Before the Australian got hurt, he did give us a glimpse of what he is capable of in Great Britain, with a third-place finish in race one, so it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him battle within the top five once again after a break that meant he was able to recover properly from the injury he sustained in round two at Valkenswaard. The Australian finished second in a French event last weekend and will head to Latvia buoyed with the knowledge that he’s back to race pace in what is his rookie 450 campaign.
“It’s great being back in Europe, and getting back into the swing of things in training, and back on my factory HRC bike. I’ve been in south-west France and it is a beautiful area, so I’ve enjoyed my two weeks here, especially being able to do a race at the weekend. It was good to get in a gate drop before we head to Latvia this week. It didn’t start off too well in the first moto but the second went well and that’s why we did the event to try and get comfortable racing again, and blow the cobwebs out. My shoulder was feeling good, with no problems and I didn’t have any pain so I’m very happy with it. Now I’m looking forward to getting back to MXGP this weekend as it’s been a long time off and I’m sure everyone’s as excited as I am to be back with the team and going back racing.”
Taking a look at the Red Bull KTM Factory squad, the Latvian GP was somewhat eventful for the team. Both Jeffrey Herlings and Antonio Cairoli were forced out of race two with injury and with that had to sit out the rest of the season, meanwhile the MX2 rider (at the time) Jorge Prado rode two solid races and took the overall victory. Though with both of these injuries behind them, and Prado’s recent rehab on his own leg injury, the team will be back stronger than ever.
All three riders have a good track record in Kegums, with Prado’s win last season, then Cairoli on four wins to his name (2009, 2011, 2012, 2013) and the current MXGP championship leader, Herlings, with five (2010, 2013, 2016, 2017, 2018), three of those victories from his MX2 days, it would be a safe bet that we may see at least one of these three on the podium of each event in Latvia.
“Kegums has always been very good to me. In 2010 I won my second MX2 GP there and took several wins afterwards. 2017 was also special. 2019 was also my first moto win of what turned out to be a pretty bad season. So, some good memories. Like everyone else I’m excited to be racing again. My KTM works well at Kegums and I believe we are very ready. We might be missing some racing rhythm, but I think that is the same for the others too. We’ll do our best for these three races and see where it takes us. It won’t be a long season but it’s important to be at each round, take some good starts and work from there.”
Though that’s not to say that, that will be guaranteed as there will be a field of riders up for the challenge, three of those being the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing riders Jeremy Seewer, Arnaud Tonus and Gautier Paulin.
Tonus had a fantastic ride in Kegums last year, as already mentioned, finishing tied on points for first place, though his fourth-place finish in race two was the decider that meant he’d not only missed out on the top step but would also have to settle for third instead. Though a podium is still a podium, and one that puts Tonus among the group of strong contenders to take a trophy home again this year. Meanwhile his team-mate Jeremy Seewer also put on a strong performance with a fourth overall, and so did Gautier Paulin, finishing just outside the top five in seventh place.
“I’m looking forward to getting back behind the gate. Everything has been ready since Valkenswaard. The team is ready and so am I. I just really hope everything goes well between now and Kegums and we can go behind the gate. It has been a while and the situation is constantly changing, so I hope that it moves in a positive direction and that everyone stays safe. We have three rounds in one week, I am not too bothered by this. I just look at it like three GP’s, and I am looking forward to going back racing.”
Of course, they are not the only ones aiming high as we return to racing in a matter of days. Romain Febvre and Clement Desalle of Monster Energy Kawasaki Team both have won in Latvia in previous years, with Febvre winning races in 2015 and 2016, with Desalle also wining in 2009 and finishing second on the podium behind Cairoli. For Febvre the Latvia GP will be the first time that we see the Frenchman line-up on an MXGP start-gird, as the Kawasaki rider was forced to miss the races in Great Britain and the Netherlands due to a leg injury sustained in practice leading up to the first round of the championship. Now with months of preparation under his belt, this could be the weekend we could see Febvre challenge for top positions.
Then there’s Arminas Jasikonis of Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing who will represent the team in Kegums alone, as Pauls Jonass will not be lining up at his home GP’s due to a practice crash in which the Latvian sustained three broken ribs and five spinous processes. With doctors’ recommendations of an extended period of rehabilitation, it is unclear when we will see Jonass back.
Last year Jasikonis went DNF-7 at the Latvian Grand Prix, though his third place finish in Valkenswaard earlier in year, and his ability to ride in the sand, plus with the added bonus of Lithuanian fans, will sure give him a boost and it could be that we see the Lithuanian stand tall on the podium for a second time in 2020.
Standing Construct GasGas Factory riders Glenn Coldenhoff and Ivo Monticelli respectively finished 8th and 9th last season, and will be there to do the same again this time around. Monticelli had a consistent ride to finish 10th in both races, while Coldenhoff had a result of P12 and P8.
Another stand-out rider from last year was Jeremy Van Horebeek of Team Honda SR Motoblouz who had a top 5 ride. Having had a strong ride at the last GP in Holland back in March, and plenty of time to prepare for Kegums, we could see Van Horebeek come out swinging.
MXGP Points Standings
Herlings, J.NED KTM 94
Gajser, Tim SLO HON 85
Cairoli, A. ITA KTM 68
Desalle, C. BEL KAW 60
Paulin, G. FRA YAM 58
Coldenhoff, G. NED GAS 56
Jasikonis, A. LTU HUS 53
Prado, Jorge ESP KTM 47
Seewer, Jeremy SUI YAM 42
Van Horebeek, J. BEL HON 39
Evans, M. AUS HON 34
Simpson, Shaun GBR KTM 31
Jonass, Pauls LAT HUS 26
Jacobi, Henry GER YAM 23
Bogers, Brian NED KTM 23
Meanwhile in MX2, the door is open for a brand-new winner in Latvia. In 2019, it was Jorge Prado who won both races 1 and 2, but with the Spaniard moving up and focused on his rookie season in MXGP, the door is open for a new winner.
Red Bull KTM Factory rider Tom Vialle is the current championship leader with the shot of making the podium in Latvia. This season so far, he has finished on the podium in both Great Britain and the Netherlands, going on to take his first GP victory in Valkenswaard of the season earlier this year. With a 7th overall in Kegums last time around, he is more than capable of challenging for the podium and race wins.
Meanwhile his team-mate and MX2 rookie, Rene Hofer has also had a positive start to his campaign. Though he is yet to finish on the podium, he has however finished races within the top 5, with his best race result in Matterley Basin where he crossed the line in P2. Last season Hofer contested in the EMX250 Championship, and at the Latvian round he finished the races in 8th and 6th and this could be similar, if not even better results that we can expect to see from the Austrian this weekend.
A rider that we will no doubt see at the front end of the field, at some point throughout the races, is none other than the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MX2 rider Jago Geerts. Geerts has showcased his determination this season with some fantastic results, despite finding himself in trouble on several occasions. He was also the winner of the very first GP of the season in Great Britain, with a 4-1 result that saw the Yamaha rider take the red plate and become the early series leader, at the time.
“I’m really looking forward to restart the MXGP season. It’s been a long time without racing so I think everyone is excited to go back racing again. Latvia is one of my favorite tracks so that’s extra motivation for me. Three rounds in one week will be special. There is not much rest between the races so it will be tough for everyone. The races are now held for one day so that will make it a bit easier, but it still will be heavy. My goal for the GP’s in Latvia is to be consistent and earn as many points possible. I will be happy when I can return home with a couple of podium finishes.”
Last year, the Belgian finished both races behind the MX2 World Champion Jorge Prado, but with Prado now no longer a threat, this leaves the Yamaha rider with the opportunity to add another GP victory to his 2020 stats.
The second Yamaha factory rider, Ben Watson, will also be heading to Latvia with the opportunity of a podium on his mind. Having finished 4th overall last season, 4 points shy of 3rd, this will be another opportunity for Brit to show that he is a real threat for the title this season.
We cannot forget the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory MX2 squad, who have spent the lockdown period much like any other team, working on their weaknesses and making sure they are ready to go when the championship returns.
Going into the season Thomas Kjer Olsen was one of the favourites to challenge for the MX2 title and though his injury got in the way during rounds one and two, with plenty of time for recovery during the lockdown period there is no reason why we couldn’t expect TKO back at the top end of the field. The Dane has a strong track record in Latvia, he finished 3rd overall last season and was the overall winner both in 2018 and 2017, so a victory could be on the cards in 2020 for the Husqvarna rider.
Then there’s the second factory Husqvarna rider, Jed Beaton. The Aussie has been a revelation in the MX2 class. Scoring a second-place moto finish at each of the opening two rounds in Great Britain and the Netherlands, the 22-year-old came agonisingly close to the overall podium at both GPs. Beaton will be looking to challenge for his maiden GP win when the series resumes and is currently ranked third in the MX2 World Championship standings.
Rasmus Jorgensen – Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing MX2 Team Manager
“The whole team is excited to return to racing this weekend. It’s been a long time with the break, but as a team it’s also allowed us to work on some things, too. Thomas wasn’t really 100% ready for the season starting after breaking his hand during the winter, but he toughed out two decent overall results at rounds one and two. During the downtime he’s been able to have a small surgery and is now 100% ready, which he proved at the Dutch International in Arnhem, where he placed second overall. Jed Beaton decided to remain in Europe during lockdown because we just weren’t sure what was going to happen with international travel. He kept up his off-bike training and when he could ride the FC 250 again, he really focused a lot on improving his starts. Jed had the speed to win at the opening GPs but just needed better starts, which he has dialled in now, so we’re excited to see how he does. He pulled great starts and led laps in Arnhem so he’s really confident heading to Latvia.”
F&H Kawasaki Racing Team’s Mikkel Haarup, Roan Van de Moosdijk and Mathys Boisrame have showed strong form this year and though they didn’t have the luckiest home GP in Valkenswaard, the rest of the season is long, and more can be expected from all three riders. Roan Van de Moosdijk was the overall winner in Latvia in 2019 for the EMX250 round, which shows that he is clearly strong on the hard sand and could be a threat this year in MX2.
He is not the only MX2 rider who did well in the EMX250 round in Kegums last season, with Alberto Forato of Team Maddii Racing Husqvarna finishing second overall, just ahead of Jeremy Sydow of Diga Procross GasGas Factory Juniors who occupied the third step of the podium.
Other riders who can impress in Latvia include Bas Vaessen of Hitachi KTM fuelled by Milwaukee who finished 5th overall last year, along with Alvin Ostlund from Team Honda Assomotor and SM Action MX Migliori J1 Racing’s Maxime Renaux who has already one podium to his name in 2020, and could be a real threat in Latvia.
MX2 Championship Top 10
Tom Vialle (FRA, KTM), 87 points
Jago Geerts (BEL, YAM), 82
Jed Beaton (AUS, HUS), 74
Maxime Renaux (FRA, YAM), 61
Rene Hofer (AUT, KTM), 53
Mikkel Haarup (DEN, KAW), 52
Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, HUS), 51
Ben Watson (GBR, YAM), 48
Conrad Mewse (GBR, KTM), 48
Jeremy Sydow (GER, GAS), 35
2020 FIM Motocross World Championship Calendar
Round 1: 01 Mar MXGP of Great Britain – Matterley Basin
Round 2: 08 Mar MXGP of The Netherlands – Valkenswaard
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