FUNCHAL, 2 April 2007- Last year the sandy Valkenswaard Eurocircuit opened the first season of World Motocross without ten time World Champion Stefan Everts, who had retired at the end of 2006.
It will be a different season opener this year, with Belgian two time World Champion Steve Ramon (MX1) and flamboyant Antonio Cairoli (MX2) from Italy to defend their Titles from a tough opposition who will show no mercy right from round one.
With Teka Suzuki WMX1’s Steve Ramon having collected his first Title in the class after having chipped away at the massive 107 point gap from Yamaha Monster Motocross’ Joshua Coppins, the latter has a score to settle with the Belgian as he was knocked out by the shoulder injury he picked up at Loket.
Ramon showed solid performances during the off season races and is surely up for a win at Valkenswaard. So did Coppins but the Kiwi recently broke two toes on his right foot. He will take part in Valkenswaard despite not being fully fit.
Ending runner up in 2007 for the second year in a row, GPKR’s Kevin Strijbos left Suzuki for the Kawasaki machinery but lost some time in the winter due to a shoulder injury. On the other hand team mate Sebastien Pourcel had a positive winter and will be a rock solid rider after the experience he gathered in 2007, his first year in MX1 which still paid off with two GP wins (Faenza and Namur) and a fourth place in the points standings.
Ken de Dycker, fifth last year, spent the winter with his new Teka Suzuki WMX1 Team after his last season with Honda, when he collected his maiden GP at Uddevalla, Sweden.
His former squad, the CAS Honda Team, has big news for 2008. CAS and Martin Honda will be provided with HRC Factory machinery which proved to be already a perfect weapon for the GP campaign. CAS’ Mike Brown was confirmed after a solid World Championship comeback in 2007 and will team up with Scotland’s newcomer Billy Mackenzie. The Martin Honda riders will be Julien Bill and Marc de Reuver, with the latter incredibly motivated for this forthcoming Championship as he showed in several wins during the off season.
GP winner David Philippaerts will complete the Yamaha Monster Motocross’ line up while Max Nagl will be the sole Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team MX1 rider, with AXO KTM Silver Action’s Jonathan Barragan also using a factory bike after he switched from the Austrian Factory Team to the Italy based squad.
Other threats for defending Champion Ramon come from the Kawasaki Racing Europe riders Tanel Leok and Manuel Priem, but also TM’s Alessio Chiodi and Aprilia’s Cedric Melotte and Fabien Izoird can say their piece in what will be an action packed GP season.
After an incredible 2007, winning the second MX2 World Title and also an MX1 GP at Donington in the first and only appearance in the class, it is hard to imagine Yamaha Red Bull De Carli’s Antonio Cairoli do better in 2008. Though the charismatic Italian has to perform at least as well as then, taken the highly motivated group of riders determined to chase him for the crown.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Tommy Searle, who finished runner up last year, will try his very best to dethrone Cairoli. The Brit is at his second season with the squad, and last in the World Motocross Championship series, where the 17 year old wants to leave his mark by winning his maiden Title.
Team mate Tyla Rattray will be another rider on fire this year as he ended the 2007 campaign earlier than expected because of a knee injury. The South African finished a bitter fourth in the Championship but has showed the necessary consistence to collect a Title throughout the several seasons he raced since his GP debut in 2001.
On the other hand countryman Gareth Swanepoel, riding for Molson Kawasaki Racing and having finished fifth last year, is expected to unndergo a wrist operation today and will probably not join the MX2 series earlier than in four months. Though the team will count on Stephen Sword, now back to full fitness after a difficult comeback in 2007 –he returned to the GP scene at Uddevalla, Sweden, but injured again at Namur, Belgium- and Paulin Gautier, who just entered the team after his European MX2 Championship win in 2007. This will be the Frenchman’s first full season in the GP’s.
Also other Frenchmen Nicolas Aubin (Ricci Racing Yamaha) and Pascal Leuret (Suzuki Swift Motocross) will be aiming high this year; the same goes for the solid Finn Matti Seistola of SRS Racing ST, Champ KTM’s young gun Jeremy Van Horebeek and KTM UK’s Shaun Simpson, who starred in several pre season races.
2008 will also mark the debut season for a handful of riders coming from the UEM series, in the likes of NGS’ Marvin Musquin, 3C Racing’s Deny Philippaerts, Champ KTM’s Joel Roelants, Bud Racing Kawasaki PSM Pastorello’s Khounsith Vongsana. The latter team’s line up will be completed by Australian newcomer Brenden Harrison.
Valkenswaard will be a tough challenge for them, battling with lots of experienced riders including GP winners Davide Guarneri of Ricci Racing, Erik Eggens of Suzuki Beursfoon and Carl Nunn of Suso MVR-D Suzuki, Jeremy Tarroux of AXO KTM Silver Action and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Rui Goncalves.
This weekend Yamaha Red Bull De Carli will line up also Alessandro Lupino but not Matteo Bonini, as the Italian is now doing rehabilitation work to his left shoulder after surgery.
THE EUROCIRCUIT AND VALKENSWAARD
Valkenswaard’s Eurocircuit is a characteristic Dutch sandy circuit located at about 20 kilometres from the closest city Eindhoven. The Eurocircuit begun hosting Motocross races in 1980 and it has always been a popular venue of the FIM series. After its absence from the 2005 and 2006 calendars, the Championship was back at Valkenswaard in style last year, welcoming 25.000 spectators. 2007 saw a renewed layout, with a different location of the start grid and the riding direction changed from anti clockwise to clockwise. This year the finish line will be closer to the starting area.
Valkenswaard is in the Southern part of the Netherlands, in the province of Noord-Brabant. The municipality hosts a population of 30.943 inhabitants. It is 130 kilometres South of the capital city Amsterdam and very close to Eindhoven. The city was named after its rich history of falconers, with “valk” meaning falcon in Dutch language. Today’s Valkenswaard is a nice city, with eye catching architecture, colorful flowers, lots of Dutch-style cycling paths and many cafes, alongside many art galleries and museums featuring the city’s rich history.
THE EVENT’S SCHEDULE
Saturday April 5: MX2 Free Practice at 10:00 am; MX1 Free Practice 1 at 11:00 am; MX2 Pre-Qualifying Practice at 12:00 am; MX1 Free Practice 2 at 2:00 pm; MX2 Qualifying Race 1 at 3:00 pm; MX2 Qualifying Race 2 at 3:45 pm; MX1 Time Practice at 4:30 pm; MX2 Last Chance Qualifying Practice at 5:15 pm (local time).
Sunday April 6: MX2 Warm-up at 9:00 am; MX1 Warm-up at 9:30 am; MX2 Grand Prix Race 1 at 12:10 am; MX1 Grand Prix Race 1 at 1:10 pm; MX2 Grand Prix Race 2 at 3:03 pm; MX1 Grand Prix Race 2 at 4:03 pm (local time).