The curtains on the long awaited 2016 MXGP season are set to be raised for the fourth year in succession at the circuit of Losail in Qatar this weekend. Unfortunately there will be no Australians on the 2016 MXGP grid at the season opener.
Just like previous years the race will take place on Saturday evening on a man-made circuit at the floodlit venue and all races including qualifying on Friday will be available to watch LIVE and OnDemand on www.mxgp-tv.com.
One of the best things about motocross is the fact that the track conditions constantly change. Over the last three years we have seen the soil that makes up the track in Losail pack-down, dry out and become a lot edgier. This caught a lot of riders out last year with the track being unpredictable in places and the night air adding unexpected moisture to the surface despite the incredibly dry climate. Although the track has been left more or less the same, this year we look forward to seeing if it shapes up differently again and which riders will gel with it and excel.
Over the last three years we have seen three breathtaking and unpredictable rounds of epic racing here in Losail, which has left us on the edge of our seats with a different winner each time in the premier class. Back in 2013, when MXGP first let loose on the hard packed soil of Qatar, it was Clement Desalle who was victorious. The following year Gautier Paulin rose to the occasion to claim the first red plate on offer, while last year it was well and truly dominated by Max Nagl who was completely untouchable.
This year, once again, making a prediction for the season dominator is similar to picking winning lottery numbers. It’s a gamble. With that said, the rider to mention first is of course the defending MXGP world champion, Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP Team’s Romain Febvre who put together a downright spectacular rookie season last year. The young Frenchman, who recently turned twenty-four years old on December 31st, didn’t set the world on fire in his debut appearance in the MXGP class here in Losail where he went 6-7 for sixth overall, but in his defence he had spent a good chunk of the winter period injured.
This weekend ‘461’ will also be lining up fresh off of an injury. He did take to Social Media and say that he is OK and will be back on the bike in no time. Meanwhile, another hotshot lining up fresh off of an injury is the eight time FIM Motocross World Champion Antonio Cairoli who will be hungrier than ever to reclaim the title. Cairoli recently bruised some ribs but on a brighter note it has been announced that TC222 has extended his contract with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing to 2018, which only leads us to believe he is on a solid mission to surpass Stefan Everts’ tally of 10 FIM Motocross World Championship titles and become the most successful motocross rider in the world. That could all start with a solid performance at the opener this weekend at a venue where the Sicilian has never won.
And then there is Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Max Nagl who flew in completely under the radar last year and ended up being the surprise performer when he waxed everyone in both races where he completely dominated. After his performance of last year, Nagl, who remains on the same team, should be a solid bet for the win.
Another two riders worthy of mention are Team HRC’s Gautier Paulin and Evgeny Bobryshev. Paulin, in particular, has never been off the box here in Qatar over the last three years, and is looking to come out stronger than ever after spending the winter in the United States of America with arguably the highest acclaimed trainer, Aldon Baker.
“It’s been great testing with Aldon in the US. It’s my first time spending the winter over there and it’s been really good. As a consequence of my knee I couldn’t race at 100 per cent for a while, so I’ve been working really hard to start again from zero. I want to prepare well and do it well so we’re ready for this season. It’s been great doing the boot camp out there and really helpful working with Aldon and all the facilities at the Baker Factory. It’s good to be back racing again and I’m feeling happy and ready to get behind the gate in Qatar. I’ve been training with some guys out in the US, but when it comes to racing I don’t look at the entry list – I just focus on my own riding and where I want to be. Since the start of my career I’ve always done my thing and concentrated on me, and then we’ll see where we are at the end of Saturday. But I’m excited and I’m ready.”
“I think this is one of my strongest starts to a season. I’ve never felt like this before. I changed my physical training over the winter and we’ve done a lot of testing with the team and the bike is really suiting me now so all of that is a great combination. I’m excited, but I try to be calm at the same time and to not get overexcited at this point because the season is long and you have to be smart. I feel more motivated right now.
“When the season was over last year I was already motivated for more in 2016, and we have done good work during the winter preparation. I would say I’m a different person to this time last year. I’m more calm before races and now I have more control over my own race. I feel strong and comfortable and this gives me also lots more positives like mentality gets stronger so it’s all coming together on another level at the moment. Last year of course it was great to finish third, but the more difficult part for me was to come back. After injury it was really difficult to get back to that level. By the end of the season I was really happy with my results and I felt refreshed because I could lift my head and keep improving, and now I feel better than ever. I feel easy after the win in the Italian International championship. I had really good races and I had to push myself also because I crashed and had to come back again. I had a good race with Jeremy so I know I’m well under pressure. I know my level and my condition so I know I’m ready for this season.”
Clement Desalle’s transition to Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team is another one to look out for. However, he had to undergo surgery a couple of weeks ago on his left arm, so he is a question mark for this weekend.
Meanwhile, Bobryshev has been showing some excellent pre-season form over the last three weeks, as has Wilvo Virus Performance KTM’s Shaun Simpson and Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP Team’s Jeremy Van Horebeek; all three riders look like they could be in for a slice of podium pie.
Over in the yellow corner, the most successful rider in the history of the FIM Motocross World Championship, Stefan Everts has taken the reins at Suzuki World MXGP and has recruited to of the most seasoned riders in the class, Kevin Strijbos and the former MX2 World Champion Ben Townley. Strijbos, who goes by the name of ‘The Kid’, is one of those riders that is yet to live up to the expectation set upon him, while Townley is fresh out of retirement after having a long run of injuries which saw him temporarily hang up his boots. Both riders feel as though they have unfinished business and are out to get it done this year.
Last but not least, the young guns. Honda Gariboldi’s 2015 FIM MX2 World Champion Tim Gajser will be the youngest rider in the class as he makes his MXGP debut while Kemea Yamaha Official MX Team’s Valentin Guillod has been forced up by the age rule. Nevertheless, both riders are super flamboyant and quick on 450’s and shouldn’t have too much of an issue finding their place in the premier class. Another young gun to keep an eye on is Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s newest recruit Glenn Coldenhoff, while Monster Energy DRT Kawasaki’s Tommy Searle is looking pretty fierce these days too.
On a duller note, we will be missing Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jordi Tixier who has both arms injured, while 24MX Lucas Oil Honda’s Ken De Dycker broke his femur a few days ago also.
2015 MXGP of Qatar MXGP Top 3
Since the defending MX2 champion Tim Gajser has jumped up to the premier class, most bets will once again be on ‘The Bullet’ Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jeffrey Herlings. Although Herlings has developed a nasty track record of getting injured, we have seen him bounce back time and time again to the blistering pace he had before each of his injuries. Judging by his pre-season form, and also the fact he is unbeaten around the circuit here in Losail, this weekend should be his to lose.
Meanwhile, his Red Bull KTM Factory Racing teammate Pauls Jonass has his heart set on going one better than the second place he got last year while Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Dylan Ferrandis, like Herlings, will be looking to get through a season injury-free with any hope of topping the box. It’s worth mentioning that Ferrandis is the only rider to beat Herlings around this Losail Circuit.
Wilvo Standing Construct Yamaha Factory Racing have hired Aleksandr Tonkov to get the job done for the guys in blue while Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing has taken on renowned grand prix winner Max Anstie.
Ferrandis, Tonkov and Anstie all missed the end of the season last year, so should be extra fired up to make a point this weekend. Meanwhile Suzuki World MX2’s Jeremy Seewer started gaining some solid momentum near the end of the season in 2015 as did Kemea Yamaha Official MX Team’s Benoit Paturel and of course the American, MXGP of Mexico winner, now riding for Rockstar Energy Factory Husqvarna, Thomas Covington.
2015 MXGP of Qatar MX2 Top 3
FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship
Losail will also host the first round of the FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship this weekend. Yamaha MX Fonta racing’s Kiara Fontanesi, who made history claiming his 4th World title in a row in 2015, is determined to claim what it would be her first ever victory in Qatar. However, Team One One Four’s Livia Lancelot, who was last year’s winner in Qatar, will do her best to challenge the reigning champion.
All the eyes are also set on New Zealand’s sensation Courtney Duncan, Natalie Kane, who finished second in Qatar in 2014, and 2015 MXGP of Czech Republic winner’s Nancy Van De Ven.
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