Old versus New – MXGP

The closer we get to the start of the 2017 MXGP championship, set for the Losail circuit on the outskirts of Doha, in Qatar, the more the veterans of the MXGP class look a lot more than just competitive.

While we have all spent the winter talking about Herlings, Gajser and Febvre, it’s been Cairoli, Van Horebeek, Nagl and Desalle who have walked away with victories in the pre-season races in Italy, England and France.

While this might not totally wipe out the thought of the new breed continuing to do what they did in 2015 and 2016, it does bring the veterans back into the equation, and for the sport of motocross, that’s an awesome thing.

What we do know is Antonio Cairoli looks to be back to his best. From six moto he’s won five and finished second in the other. His speed and timing looks like the rider who more or less dominated from 2005 until 2014, and picked up eight world motocross championships. More titles in the same type of period than any rider in the history of the sport.

For us that questioned him, we should have known better. I know I had written him off on more than one occasion and for that I am truly sorry. The Sicilian deserves to be given the benefit of doubt when he tells us he is just struggling with injury, and I am sure if he doesn’t come out and win in Qatar, we will all be waiting for his Italian International form to resurface.

What we don’t know is where Jeffrey Herlings sits in all of this. His massive crash on the weekend came at the time he has just made a brilliant pass on both HRC riders Evgeny Bobryshev and Tim Gajser, and it didn’t look like a crash that was from over-riding, but just bad luck.

Herlings showed at the MXoN and SMX Cup he can ride a 450 better than anyone, but he has also shown moments where he seems to lose concentration and from what we saw on the weekend, that doesn’t end well. I still believe he should be placed as the favourite for the 2017 title, but I’ve been wrong enough times in the past.

The biggest surprise from the pre-season has been the lack of form of world MXGP champion Tim Gajser, who hasn’t really shown any of the form from 2015 and 2016, although with a new bike, he might just be coming to terms with the whole set-up. He is a rider who has shocked us on several occasions, from his first GP victory over Jeffrey Herlings in Trento, when he beat the MX2 in a head to head battle, to his MX2  title victory, his Qatar MXGP victory in 2016 and then of course taking the title at the end of the season, so we can never count the Slovenian out.

What it does all mean is that that opening round in Qatar in around 11 days’ time is going to be all that more exciting, and for the sport of motocross, everyone is a winner.