Grand Prix of Italy - Preview
26 March 2009
The 2009 MX1 and MX2 Motocross World Championships start this weekend in Faenza, Italy - where the series ended in 2008 with world titles for David Philippaerts (MX1) and Tyla Rattray (MX2).
An impressive nine manufacturers - Aprilia, CCM, Honda, Husqvarna, Kawasaki, KTM, Suzuki, TM, Yamaha - and 40 riders will be present at the season opener, but the spotlight will be on home heroes Philippaerts, who collected his maiden title at Faenza last year, and multiple MX2 champion Tony Cairoli, starting his first full premier class season.
The two Yamaha riders are sure to be fired up by the home support, and eager to inflict an early victory over each other ahead of what looks like being a season-long title fight.
However, plenty of others have the potential to still the limelight, including Teka Suzuki World MX1 team-mates Steve Ramon and Ken de Dycker, who collected second and third in the 2008 championship after a hard fought GP in Faenza, which they both entered with a title chance.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing's Max Nagl will be looking to repeat his 2008 Faenza clean sweep, while fellow factory KTM rider Jonathan Barragan was also a solid contender throughout last year, finishing the season in fourth.
Honda will field two factory teams - Martin Honda MX, featuring Kevin Strijbos and Marc de Reuver, plus CAS Honda competitors Cedric Melotte and Billy Mackenzie. All four are former GP winners.
As well as Philippaerts (Monster) and Cairoli (Red Bull De Carli), Yamaha can count on 2007 title contender Josh Coppins, once again at Monster, and new De Carli signing Tanel Leok.
Former Motocross World Championship rider David Vuillemin will make his comeback to the series after a long period in the AMA. Riding for Bud Racing PSM Vuillemin completes a strong Team Green line-up that also includes fellow Frenchman Sebastien Pourcel in the Kawasaki Racing team. However, the 2008 MX1 Pole Position Award winner will not be 100% at Faenza due to a winter injury.
Aprilia Racing will start the season with an updated MXV 450 ridden by Manuel Priem and Julien Bill, while TM will be represented by Aigar Leok in MX1.
New British manufacturer CCM will line up Tom Church and Jason Dougan with the Buildbase CCM Racing colours.
Home rider Alex Salvini will take part onboard a factory Husqvarna before starting the MX3 World Championship on April 12 at Hawkstone Park.
With three of the 2008 MX2 major players - Rattray (AMA), Searle (AMA) and Cairoli (MX1) - leaving the class, the 2009 250cc title is wide open.
After a stunning pre-season Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team-mates Shaun Simpson and Rui Goncalves look set to play a major role. Moreover Simpson inherited the number four, the same number as last year's World Championship winner Tyla Rattray, which might add extra luck to the Briton's first season in the factory team.
Third last year, Nicolas Aubin of Ricci Racing Yamaha is also expected to be upfront as the fast Frenchman has already proved capable of winning GPs. Team-mate Davide Guarneri is also very motivated for his home grand prix while 3C Racing Yamaha's Manuel Monni is fuelled by his successful National Title defence.
American Zach Osborne of Utag-Yamaha.com should be another title challenger as well as Steven Frossard from team CLS Kawasaki.
Again riding for Kawasaki will be Gautier Paulin of team Bud Racing PSM; the 18 year old, who will turn 19 on Thursday, was struck by an injury last year but will be in top form at Faenza.
A potent KTM line up will see also KTM HDI MX's Anthony Boissiere, KTM UK's Stephen Sword and KTM Factory Junior riders Valentin Teillet (the 2008 EMX2 European Champion), Jeremy Van Horebeek and Joel Roelants, the latter having visited the podium last year at Faenza for the first time. Unfortunately Silver Action's Matteo Bonini is to miss his home GP due to a shoulder injury from the winter.
Jason Clermont and Marvin Musquin will be racing for team NGS. The latter is expected to collect his first podiums and possibly wins this year, his second full season in the MX2 series, even though Honda's podium chances will be increased by the presence of JK Racing's Pascal Leuret.
Team Teka Suzuki Europe World MX2 will be in Faenza with a reinforced line up, with Xavier Boog joined by Japanese Yohei Kojima and later in the season by German sensation Ken Roczen.
Among other riders dressing in yellow this year are Jeremy Tarroux (Beursfoon Suzuki MX) and Latvian Matiss Karro (MVR-D Suzuki).
Other news comes from TM, with the Italian manufacturer lining up the eagerly awaited TM 250F MX that debuted this winter. It will be ridden by Czech Martin Michek.
An even more challenging Veterans' Motocross World Cup will start at Faenza with a superb entry list, including two time World Champion Alex Puzar and Darryll King as well as defending World Cup Winner Peter Iven.
Puzar will surely receive a warm welcome from his home crowd and he expects to set them on fire with a clean sweep at Faenza, starting from Saturday's first heat. The list of rivals is long and includes five time GP winner Darryll King and last year's World Cup Winner Peter Iven. The latter will line up onboard a Honda after completing last season with Kawasaki.
Other riders attending round one will be Greg Hanson, Mehrdad Moradi from Iran, Andres Krestinov, Jan Blancquaert, Valter Bartolini, Michele Fanton.