Taking the rough with the smooth…
The Grand Prix of Mexico and the fifth round of 18 in the 2016 FIM MXGP Motocross World Championship this weekend means little time for reflection for Team Suzuki World MXGP and MX2 this week as the crew prepares to hike from Patagonia, Argentina and to the city of Leon and the Parque Metropolitano for the third year in a row.
After contesting a busy and temperate fourth meeting of the season at Neuquen last weekend, the Lommel, Belgium-based crew packed the RM-Z450 and 250 factory machines into freight for the journey north through the Americas.
General Manager Stefan Everts and his staff stayed in the picturesque region for a promotional event with Suzuki Argentina before exploring some of the local settings and then readying their own bags to travel out to Mexico on Wednesday. “Normally the Grand Prix track is not open to the public so this was the chance to get out with around 15 guys, some on 250s, others on 85s and enjoy ourselves,” said Everts on the Suzuki ride-out. “We had lunch together and it was great. We’ve then found some time for a boat trip, some mountain-biking and also trekking because it is a beautiful part of the world here.”
MXGP rider Kevin Strijbos will be looking for better form and starting prowess across the Leon cactus-lined hard-pack compared to a difficult event at Neuquen where the Belgian classified ninth overall. The 30 year old has decent previous form in Mexico. At Leon in 2014 he narrowly missed the podium with a 3-2 scorecard on the RM-Z450. He sat-out the 2015 edition due to injury. “Kevin had a good race at Leon two years ago and finished fourth; with one more position in the second moto he would have made the podium so we need to learn and work from this,” said Everts. “The conditions should be a lot warmer, maybe closer [in climate] to Thailand, and there is also the high altitude that will affect the running of the bikes so there are a couple of other factors that will come into play.
“What has really been hurting us are the starts; it is where the problems begin and where Kevin is missing a bit of confidence,” the former 10-times world champion continued. “We’ll look at the set-up and be hoping for the best this weekend.”
Mexico will be the fourth flyaway from the first five fixtures of the 2016 series and while Team Suzuki has testing planned for its return to Belgium early next week – and will be keen to establish a working routine based around European meetings (Latvia, Germany and Italy in the next five weeks alone) – there are few precious hours ahead. “In a way it will be good to get back but there is just one weekend off before we head into three back-to-backs and on that weekend, Jeremy Seewer will be racing in the ADAC German series and possibly BT [Ben Townley] as well, although we haven’t confirmed that yet. It will be a busy time and full-gas for all the guys. We can take some free time here in Argentina, but it is not the same as being at home.”
On the subject of Townley, the former World Champion has now flown back from his home in New Zealand and is making progress from the after-effects of a virus that ruined his Grand Prix of Europe and caused him to miss-out on the trip across the Atlantic.
Everts: “Ben should be arriving back in Europe now and will be having some more tests. He has improved and hopefully he can start riding at the weekend and maybe be in the gate for Latvia [round six].”
While Strijbos continues to search for the right path to results and rostrum contention in MXGP – and Townley makes a return to the form and fitness that carried him to Pole and the runner-up spot in the second moto in Thailand, -Team Suzuki World MX2 has reason for immense satisfaction in its division with Jeremy Seewer already matching his podium tally from all of 2015 with three trophies on the mantelpiece.
The Swiss is currently second in the standings behind runaway leader Jeffrey Herlings and has sprayed champagne at the last three events, including second place at Neuquen. The sight of the RM-Z250 scrapping for the lead and adding some ‘yellow’ to the front of the Grand Prix class has been one of the bright points for the team so far in 2016.
“It is great what he is doing and he has been very consistent so far,” assesses Everts. “It was a tough GP in Argentina but he really stepped-it-up in the second moto and I believe he can go right through the season with this speed and form.
“Jeffrey Herlings has been in a different league and it is hard to get close to him…but we have all seen what can happen. We will keep working hard and progressing and we have a few things to try with the bike when we get back to Europe that could help. So far I have to say it has been unbelievably good.”
Temperatures topping 30 degrees are forecast for the weekend in Leon and the time difference stands at seven hours behind CET.