MXGP

Preview: 2019 MXGP of Great Britain

Tony Cairoli – MXGP of Great Britain, Matterley Basin

Tony Cairoli – MXGP of Great Britain, Matterley Basin

Following its thrilling start in Argentina at the beginning of this month, the FIM Motocross World Championship heads halfway across the globe – 7,500 miles to be (almost) precise – to Matterley Basin, near Winchester, for the MXGP of Great Britain on March 23-24.

Yep, we know it’s early this year – promoter Steve Dixon has never been afraid to put his cojones on the line and the new date is a big gamble – but statistically the Winchester weather is better in March than June and this way British fans will get to see pretty much full line-ups in both classes before the injuries start piling up.

Unfortunately, we won’t be see defending MXGP champ Jeffrey Herlings – the Red Bull KTM rider broke his foot pre-season. Also on the injured list is Romain Febvre – Monster Energy Yamaha’s 2015 world champ broke his ankle in Argentina.

Okay, so that’s the bad news out of the way. The good news is that pretty much everyone else emerged unscathed from Neuquen where the racing was every bit as good as you’d expect from the world’s top riders. Even better news is that our homegrown heroes kicked off their campaigns in fine form and with thousands of fiercely partisan fans cheering them on should go even better at Matterley.

Coming in at just under 2,000 metres in length, the hard-pack Hampshire circuit winds its way up, down and around a natural grassland amphitheatre and was first used in 2006. Since then it’s become the home of the MXGP of GB, as well as the venue for a couple of Motocross of Nations.

If it rains – not that the wet stuff is expected – it will get muddy but as we’ve seen over the years the track can – literally – soak up whatever Mother Nature throws at it and becomes super-technical with plenty of lines forming which makes for great racing. If it’s dry? Well, in that case there’s no better place in the world to be on a March afternoon.

Let’s have a look at the main movers and shakers in the MXGP and MX2 classes…

MXGP

Name: Tony Cairoli
Age: 33
Nationality: Italian
Team: Red Bull KTM
Ranking: 2
Number: 222

The veteran Sicilian, a nine-time world champion, still hasn’t given up on his dream of a perfect 10 titles and with no Herlings to contend with smoked everyone in Argentina, despite only getting 28th gate pick after his bike broke in the qualification race.

Tony’s been a winner from the get-go at Matterley Basin. He ran 1-1 in 2006, put America’s Ryan Villopoto in his place in race two at the MXoN later that year and has since gone on to win at the venue a further four times. Okay, so his last win there came in 2015 but he starts a firm favourite.

Name: Clement Desalle
Age: 29
Nationality: Belgian
Team: Monster Energy Kawasaki
Ranking: 3
Number: 25

The only rider other than Herlings and Cairoli to take a moto win and an overall last season with his solitary victory coming in Russia when Herlings and Cairoli tripped each other up, the Belgian is a three-time vice-champion.

Clement looked strong in Argentina and only missed the podium by a couple of points after going down in the first turn in race two before staging an epic charge through the pack.

Name: Tim Gajser
Age: 22
Nationality: Slovenian
Team: Team HRC
Ranking: 4
Number: 243

Champion in 2016 at his first attempt following his 2015 MX2 world title, Tim was the only rider to get a sniff of Cairoli at Neuquen – and that was after he smashed himself into the face of a jump in qualification.

His 2018 campaign started on the back foot when he was forced to miss the opening round in Argentina thanks to a broken jaw – hence his number four ranking – but he’s as brave as a lion and seriously quick and ran 1-1 at Matterley in his world championship-winning year.

Name: Gautier Paulin
Age: 28
Nationality: French
Team: Wilvo Yamaha
Ranking: 5
Number: 21
A former world BMX champion, Gautier is the first of the riders in our list to have switched teams over the off-season having parted company with the Rockstar Husqvarna team he’d raced for since 2017.

A solidly-built, imposing rider, he impressed in Argentina with 5-5 finishes – especially his second-moto performance when he recovered from a first-turn crash to overall Desalle a few laps from home.

Name: Glenn Coldenhoff
Age: 28
Nationality: Dutch
Team: Standing Construct KTM
Ranking: 7
Number: 259

Holland’s hero at the Motocross of Nations when he ran 1-1 in the Open class at RedBud, the Hoff has two career GP wins to his name – in MX2 at Matterley Basin in 2013 when he edged out Jake Nicholls by a single point and in MXGP at Kegums in 2015. Since then he’s only made the box once with third overall at Lommel in 2017.

After three years with the Red Bull KTM factory team he’s been demoted to Standing Construct KTM and a back and wrist injury in December has had a detrimental impact which meant he only just broke the top 20 at the opening round.

Name: Jeremy Seewer
Age: 24
Nationality: Swiss
Team: Wilvo Yamaha
Ranking: 8
Number: 91

A storming second in MX2 in 2017 after a year-long fight with Pauls Jonass, Jeremy signed a deal with factory Yamaha for his move into the premier class and rewarded the team with eighth in his rookie season. He was ninth at Neuquen but we can expect better things to come from the young Swiss rider.

Name: Jeremy van Horebeek
Age: 29
Nationality: Belgian
Team: Honda SR Motoblouz
Ranking: 9
Number: 89

Dropped from the factory Yamaha team, at the start of the year it looked as though JVH was heading for retirement but he was in action in Argentina after setting up his own privateer outfit and a podium – courtesy of 6-3 finishes – was a deserved reward.

Name: Max Anstie
Age: 25
Nationality: English
Team: Standing Construct KTM
Ranking: 10
Number: 99

Only seven riders made it onto an overall MXGP podium last year and mighty Max managed it three times but this still wasn’t enough for him to keep his place on the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team and he was moved aside.

His final finishing position in the 2018 championship was badly affected as early as round three in Spain where he suffered a severe concussion during warm-up and was forced to sit out the following two GPs. When he returned he was clearly not 100 per cent but in the second half of the season he turned things around.

This is Max’s home round – he lives just down the road from Matterley Basin – and following his heroics here at the 2017 MXdN, along with his fourth in race two in Argentina, he has to be considered a contender.

Name: Shaun Simpson
Age: 30
Nationality: Scottish
Team: RFX KTM powered by PAR Homes
Ranking: 15
Number: 24

The Scot saved his best GP scores for last in 2018 with sixth overall in the sand at Assen and seventh overall at Imola. It was a well-deserved end to a tough year that went pear-shaped as early as round six at Orlyonok in Russia when he crashed hard in qualification, chipping his pelvis and fracturing three ribs.

After losing his Wilvo Yamaha ride, Shaun signed for the RFX KTM powered by PAR Homes team and put in two gritty performances in Argentina to end the day eighth overall after losing a tie-break with Tommy Searle.

Name: Tommy Searle
Age: 29
Nationality: English
Team: BOS Kawasaki
Ranking: 17
Number: 100

The most successful British rider of his generation, Tommy’s a three-time MX2 vice-champion who has never managed to replicate his 250 results on a 450 thanks in part to a string of injuries.

He was injured again at the start of 2018 with a broken collarbone sustained at Valkenswaard and struggled to get back to full race pace when he returned to action.

Best Brit in Argentina with seventh overall, he ran as high as third in the second moto and topped the podium at Matterley on a 250 in 2012 after twice beating Herlings so we know he goes well at the track.

Name: Arminas Jasikonis
Age: 21
Nationality: Lithuanian
Team: Rockstar Energy Husqvarna
Ranking: 19
Number: 27

Tall and powerfully built, Arminas was – for some observers at least – a surprise signing to the factory Husqvarna team after sitting out a large slice of the second half of last season with a shoulder injury sustained in France. His 8-8 card in Argentina earned him a solid sixth overall.

Name: Arnaud Tonus
Age: 27
Nationality: Swiss
Team: Monster Energy Yamaha
Ranking: N/A
Number: 4

The 2011 British MX2 champion missed all of last season with a shoulder injury but in his debut MXGP campaign in 2017, following two years Stateside, he showed great promise to finish 12th with a moto win in Switzerland to his name.

He rang his bell in the opening moto in Argentina but recovered bravely in race two with a 10th-placed finish.

Name: Pauls Jonass
Age: 22
Nationality: Latvian
Team: Rockstar Energy Husqvarna
Ranking: N/A
Number: 41

MX2 world champion in 2017, the Harry Everts-trained rider won the first six motos last season for Red Bull KTM before succumbing to the charge of his team-mate Jorge Prado. He then opted for knee surgery rather than contest the final GP of the season while still in with a mathematical chance of retaining his title.

It remains to be seen how consistently fast he will be on a 450 but his factory ride with KTM’s sister marque is certainly a good way to kick off his MXGP career and he left Argentina sitting 10th in the world.

MX2

Name: Jorge Prado
Age: 18
Nationality: Spanish
Team: Red Bull KTM
Ranking: 1
Number: 61

The reigning champion, who only turned 18 at the start of January, proved himself to be the real deal in 2018 after struggling throughout 2017 with his physical conditioning.

Initially playing catch-up to defending champion Jonass last season, once he got his nose in front in Loket the fast-starting Spanish straw-weight was unstoppable. Taking the MXGP of Asia into account, he won the overall at seven of the last eight GPs and his eventual advantage was an impressive 96 points.

A double race winner in Argentina, expect him to improve on his 2-2 card at Matterley last year this time around.

Update: Jorge Prado has pulled out Matterley Basin GP after a training accident

Name: Thomas Kjer Olsen
Age: 21
Nationality: Danish
Team: Rockstar Energy Husqvarna
Ranking: 3
Number: 19

Going on the order they finished 2018 in, top of the list of threats to Prado is Thomas Kjer Olsen. A consistent front-runner, he was still a massive 200 points behind Prado in third at the end of the season with his cause not helped by a pair of DNFs at Matterley Basin – the first due to a technical issue, the second when he wrecked his bike in a crash.

The dashing Dane ran 2-2 in Argentina and will need to find some extra speed in England if he’s going to end the weekend on the top of the box.

Name: Ben Watson
Age: 21
Nationality: English
Team: Monster Energy Kemea Yamaha
Ranking: 4
Number: 919

Watson had a breakthrough GP season in 2018 after signing for the factory-supported Kemea Yamaha team, climbing from 15th to fourth in the world championship and along the way picking up his first overall podium.

He was disappointed with his sixth overall following an eventful weekend in Argentina which saw him have an off-track excursion in race two.

Name: Calvin Vlaanderen
Age: 22
Nationality: Dutch
Team: Team HRC
Ranking: 6
Number: 10

At times wildly inconsistent in 2018, when all the stars aligned for the South African-born Dutch convert, he was devastatingly effective with his race-winning speed carrying him to a maiden GP overall in Indonesia last year.

He ended the weekend fourth overall in Argentina after missing out on a podium finish on a tie-break and will be looking for much more at Matterley.

Name: Michele Cervellin
Age: 22
Nationality: Italian
Team: SM Action Yamaha
Ranking: 7
Number: 747

Michele started last season riding for Martin Honda before jumping ship to SM Action Yamaha in May and ending a 10-year association with the team.

He snatched seventh place in the world championship at the final round, despite missing Valkenswaard and Redsand with a knee injury initially sustained in Argentina, and failed to impress in South America this time around, coming home in an unlucky 13th overall.

Name: Jago Geerts
Age: 18
Nationality: Belgian
Team: Monster Energy Kemea Yamaha
Ranking: 8
Number: 193

A two-time European champion and 125cc world champion in 2016, Geerts was still at school last year – his first as a pro – and scored a sensational second overall in Latvia, beating both Prado and Jonass in the process.

A first race crash didn’t help his cause in Argentina earlier this month but a strong sixth in moto two saw him end the weekend in eighth overall.

Name: Henry Jacobi
Age: 22
Nationality: German
Team: F&H Kawasaki
Ranking: 10
Number: 29

For 2019 the exciting German has left the STC Racing Husqvarna team and signed for F&H Kawasaki. Jacobi wasn’t afraid to mix it up at the front last year and was on the podium in Trentino but inconsistent results – along with a no-score at the MXGP of Asia when he was ill – proved expensive.

Backing up a fighting third in the opening race in Neuquen with a fifth in race two, he was fifth overall after missing out on a three-way tie-break for third.

Name: Conrad Mewse
Age: 19
Nationality: English
Team: Hitachi KTM fuelled by Milwaukee
Ranking: 12
Number: 426

The former world 85cc champion, Mewse is entering his second year with Roger Magee’s team. Dominant in the 2018 Maxxis series, he was on fire at the beginning of last year’s world championship with stand-out performances at Valkenswaard and Redsand putting him fifth in the points table after three rounds before losing his way as the season progressed.

His 9-12 card at Neuquen for 11th overall wasn’t the dream start to the season he was looking for but he will improve on that – hopefully starting at Matterley Basin.

Name: Adam Sterry
Age: 22
Nationality: Welsh
Team: F&H Kawasaki
Ranking: 13
Number: 811

Maxxis MX2 champ in 2016, Sterry’s ability to reach his full potential has undoubtedly been hindered by a string of injuries over the last few years.

He impressed at last month’s Hawkstone International and again in Argentina and his eventual finish of ninth overall would have been even higher if in race two, while running fifth, he’d managed to stay upright.

Name: Dylan Walsh
Age: 21
Nationality: New Zealand
Team: REVO Husqvarna UK
Ranking: N/A
Number: 53

After finishing the 2018 EMX250 championship in sixth with two race wins and two overall podiums, the British-born Kiwi was snapped up by REVO Husqvarna UK and he immediately rewarded his new team boss Mark Yates’ faith in him by winning his first-ever Maxxis moto.

This season promises to be a steep learning curve but expect him to get faster as the season progresses and 15th overall in Argentina was a solid start.

Name: Tom Vialle
Age: 18
Nationality: French
Team: Red Bull KTM
Ranking: N/A
Number: 28

The son of former GP racer Frederic, Vialle caught the eye of the mighty Red Bull KTM team during last year’s EMX250 championship.

He holeshot the opening race in Argentina and was second around the first turn in race two to set up his seventh overall finish with a 7-8 scorecard – not a bad start to his GP career.

Name: Mitch Evans
Age: 20
Nationality: Australian
Team: Honda 114 Motorsports
Ranking: N/A
Number: 43

The new kid on the block, at his first-ever GP Mitch raced to a fantastic overall podium in Argentina thanks to a 5-3 scorecard that secured the final step on a tie-break. After making a name for himself Down Under racing a 450 last season, he’s adapted well to his return to a 250.

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