Red Bull KTM Factory Racing teams head into the coming season from a position of strength as holders of both the MX1 and MX2 world titles but aware that the fight to stay at the top of the sport is a tough one and the competition fierce. Despite the challenges, the team goes into the season confident in their fitness, skills and equipment and riders are keen to show their form in the first GPs of the season in Qatar.
Six-times World Champion Antonio Cairoli will again spearhead the hunt for KTM’s next MX1 world title. His pre-season preparation has shown that he is already in winning form coming off a victory in the three-round Italian international Championship. Cairoli will again be on the light and agile KTM 350 SX-F, the bike on which he has sealed the last two MX1 World Championship titles and his performance on the three different surfaces of the Italian races indicate that he will be a force on all terrains.
Belgian rider Ken De Dycker will again partner Cairoli in the MX1 factory team. De Dycker stepped into the lineup in the first half of the 2012 season to substitute for the injured Max Nagl and his performance ensured that he was offered a factory ride half way through the season. De Dycker, who rides the KTM 450 SX-F, was also a strong performer at the pre-season warm-up at the Italian races. Cairoli won both the MX1 and Elite categories and De Dycker finished 2-3.
MX1 team boss Claudio de Carli said his team had been able to carry out a number of successful pre-season tests and underlined that the Italian series had been a great opportunity for his two riders to hone their track skills on different surfaces. “The races in the Italian Championships were very useful because they gave our riders the chance to race on three entirely different types of tracks. In Sardinia we raced on sand, then there was the hard pack track at Malagrotta and the round at Arco on loose gravel.” De Carli said his riders will face all of these types of tracks during the GP season. “I am very happy with the pre season preparation. We’ve done many tests with KTM and now we have had three perfect races,” he said after the successful Italian International Championship.
Should Cairoli take his seventh World Motocross Championship in 2013 he will have another important goal in his sights, and close to home in his own factory team. KTM team manager Stefan Everts has an amazing 10 World titles to his name and it remains to be seen if the popular Italian is able to surpass this impressive list.
High hopes for MX2 riders in 2013
Dutch teenager Jeffrey Herlings, the current MX2 World Champion will again lead the MX2 charge in 2013 for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing. Herlings, spotted as a future star by Stefan Everts at an early age, got his first factory ride at the close of the 2009 season when he slipped under the MX2 age limit. His first full season, 2010, saw him injured in the second half and in 2011 he duked it out with eventual MX2 World Champion for KTM, Ken Roczen, who then went to race for KTM in the USA. Herlings took the title in 2012 and now his main challenger, Tommy Searle of the UK, now moves up to MX1. After some memorable performances in 2012, Herlings is widely recognized as the finest rider on sand but is increasingly impressive on other surfaces. He has already won 16 GPs and if he is able to retain his title in 2013 he will be the first Dutchman to win two World Championships in a row in the same class.
MX2 teammate Jordi Tixier of France rides for the factory team for the second season. He comes off 2012 in good form. He speculated at the beginning of the season that he hoped for a top 10 finish, which he in fact bettered by five positions. Tixier is expected to be amongst the podium contenders in 2013. Both Herlings and Tixier ride the KTM 250 SX-F.
MX2 team boss Stefan Everts, who is charged with developing the younger riders in the lineup said his two are in good shape, even though their pre-season race practice was reduced to one race outing at Round 3 of the Italian Championship. Both Herlings and Tixier were down to race at the Hawkstone International in the UK in February but the race was cancelled due to adverse weather.
Stefan Everts: “Herlings was ill before Christmas and missed some training weeks but I don’t think this will harm his speed. He was looking good at Arco and he’s also happy with his new 2013 bike. I expect him to be able to defend his title as champion. Tixier has had a really good winter. He started working on his preparation in November and his riding has been improving so the distance between him and Herlings has got smaller. Jordi also likes his 2013 bike and I am expecting him to race for top three positions this year. ”
The 2013 season will be launched by a night race under lights in Qatar, followed by the second GP in Thailand. There are also two rounds of the championship in the Americas – one in Brazil and one in Mexico. There will be a new race format in these four rounds with MX1 and MX2 racing one moto each and then racing together for the third race. Everts said he believed that the new format will be difficult for the MX2 riders, although he is confident that Herlings will adapt. “Personally, I prefer the 2-race format for the development of our young motocross stars,” he said.
The season is made up of 16 GPs starting in Loisal (Qatar) on March 2, 2013 and finishing at a yet to be announced venue on September 8. The popular Motocross of Nations will be at Teutschenthal, Germany on September 29, likely to be an opportunity for Roczen’s home-town fans to see him ride at home.
GPs can be seen online at MX-LIFE.tv (with subscription). The website also carries free-to view Live Timing.
Image courtesy KTM