After a lengthy break in the calendar due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP and MX2 teams are excited for the long-awaited restart of the FIM Motocross World Championship which will resume this weekend at the popular ‘Zelta Zirgs’ circuit in Kegums, Latvia. Usually, the MXGP and MX2 World Championship is conducted over two days, but to squeeze the remaining 14 rounds into 16 weeks, the Motocross Grands Prix will now be run on one-day. Latvia will host rounds three, four and five of the 2020 series, with the first gate-drop expected to happen on Sunday August 9th – exactly 154 days since the last Grand Prix in Valkenswaard, The Netherlands. Round three on Sunday 9th will be followed by round four on Wednesday 12th and round five on Sunday 16th.
Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP riders Gautier Paulin, Jeremy Seewer and Arnaud Tonus have been desperate to get back behind the gate to make amends to their current scorecards after a difficult start to the season at the opening two rounds.
Currently fifth in the championship standings after a luckless round two in Valkenswaard, The Netherlands, Paulin is determined to claw back vital championship points. Ever the perfectionist, the 30-year-old Frenchman is confident in the set-up of his YZ450FM and looks forward to lining up in Kegums – a track he has experienced a lot of success at in the past, including a third overall in 2018, two second step appearances – one in 2015 in the MXGP class and one in 2010 in MX2, and an impressive double race win for Team France at the Monster Energy Motocross of Nations in 2014. The ’21’ is 2-points from the rider in fourth position and 10-points from third.
After finishing as the MXGP class runner-up in 2019, Seewer expects to be inside the top-five and fighting for podiums at each and every round. The young Swiss rider got his 2020 MXGP championship campaign off to a great start by powering his YZ450FM to second place in the opening race of the season but has since been battling bad luck and mistakes that have dropped him back to ninth place in the standings. With 28 races remaining on the newly reshuffled calendar, the ’91’ hopes to frequent the top five, or better yet, the podium on his way back up the leader board.
Latvia was a hotspot for Tonus last year (2019). The 28-year-old Swiss rider almost won the Grand Prix finishing on the same points as the eventual winner. Niggling injuries have hampered his 2020 campaign thus far, but his silver-lining in the forced break is that he has had time to recover and is looking forward to testing his speed against the best in the world. He is currently 16th in the championship standings, only 16-points short of a place inside the top-ten.
In MX2, Jago Geerts has only got stronger during the break and has already proven how much of a threat he is to the MX2 title with six consecutive race wins in the warm-up races leading into the resumption of the MX2 World Championship. The 20-year-old Belgian won his first-ever Grand Prix in Matterley Basin, Great Britain, at the start of this season and took claim of the red-plate as the championship leader for the first time in his career. He has won two from the four races that have been completed this year but is currently second position in the standings after a massive first turn crash in Race 2 in The Netherlands set him back. Going into Kegums – the same venue that he made his first-ever podium appearance in MX2 in 2018, and one of his all time favourite tracks – Geerts hopes to peel back the 5-point lead of Tom Vialle to reclaim the coveted red plate.
SM Action M.C. Migliori Yamaha Racing’s Maxime Renaux and Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MX2’s Ben Watson are also title protagonists in the 250cc class, MX2. 20-year-old Frenchman, Renaux, throttled his YZ250F to the second step of the podium –it was a career best result and his second ever podium appearance in MX2 – at the previous round in Valkenswaard, The Netherlands. His blistering pace hasn’t gone unnoticed and as a rider that is renowned for his sand riding capabilities, he is bound to be a force to reckoned with in Kegums. Watson is also a keen sand rider and has proven his worth on multiple occasions with one of those key moments being his podium finish at the MXGP of Belgium which took place at a track that has been touted one of the gnarliest in the world, Lommel.
Renaux is currently fourth in the MX2 Championship Standings, only 13-points shy of third, while Watson is a further 13-points adrift in eighth.
The new one-day format will see each class have a 45minute practice session. The first 20 minutes will be a free session followed by 25 minutes that will be timed. The lap times from the Timed Practice will determine the order of gate pick for the two races that will take place in the afternoon. MX2 Race 1 will start at 12:15 followed by MXGP Race 1 at 13:15. Gates will drop for MX2 Race 2 at 15:10 followed by MXGP Race 2 at 16:10. All times are local GMT+3 time zone.
The Hutten Metaal Yamaha Official EMX250 team will also be voyaging out to Kegums, Latvia, for the second, third and fourth rounds of the EMX250 Championship that will take place on Saturday 8th, Tuesday 11th and Saturday 15th August head of the MXGP and MX2 World Championships. After the opening round which took place in Valkenswaard, The Netherlands, on March 7th and 8th, 18-year-old Thibault Benistant is currently fourth in the EMX250 Championship Standings, 18-points shy of the championship lead, while teammate Gianluca Facchetti is 13th.
5th MXGP Championship Standings, 58-points
“I’m looking forward to getting back behind the gate. Everything has been ready since Valkenswaard. The team is ready and so am I. I just really hope everything goes well between now and Kegums and we can go behind the gate. It has been a while and the situation is constantly changing, so I hope that it moves in a positive direction and that everyone stays safe. We have three rounds in one week, I am not too bothered by this. I just look at it like three GP’s, and I am looking forward to going back racing.”
9th MXGP Championship Standings, 42-points
“I’m looking forward to going back racing, as everybody does! It’s going to be different with the one-day format, three GP’s in one week and on the same track. It is a completely different system, but racing will remain the same, so I look forward to it, I accept the challenge! It’s the same for everyone. We all have to do three GP’s in one week. It is going to be difficult to maintain our physical condition, but I feel good physically. I feel fit and prepared, I’m good to go. I just need to be consistent and make no mistakes, there is no room to recover from any big mistake. I will try to be upfront, around top-five, or top-three. Let’s see what I can do.”
16th MXGP Championship Standings, 23-points
“It has been some long months and not knowing if we were going to race again this year, so I am happy they made it happen. We don’t know how it is going to go, but we can race and that is the main thing. In Latvia, I had some good memories there last year. I had fun there and I enjoyed the track. I haven’t raced for a while now, so I am going in with no expectations, I am just going to go out there to give it everything I have and do my best. The compact schedule is new for everyone. We are used to riding that much in one week, it is just the intensity that will be different, and I am not sure how that will go. We will soon discover how our bodies will handle it, but it is the same for everyone. I think we will have to be careful with the recovery, but the one-day schedule will help a lot. It will be interesting, let’s see how it goes.”
2nd MX2 World Championship, 82-points
“I’m really looking forward to restart the MXGP season. It’s been a long time without racing so I think everyone is excited to go back racing again. Latvia is one of my favorite tracks so that’s extra motivation for me. Three rounds in one week will be special. There is not much rest between the races so it will be tough for everyone. The races are now held for one day so that will make it a bit easier, but it still will be heavy. My goal for the GP’s in Latvia is to be consistent and earn as many points possible. I will be happy when I can return home with a couple of podium finishes.”
8th MX2 World Championship, 48-points
“I am really looking forward to getting back behind the gate. I’ve done two warm-up races and now it’s time to start the world championship again. I am feeling really good and in general just looking forward to being back in the paddock at the races having fun again. I’ve missed it all so much. I think the most difficult part is going to be getting used to the new format and having to adapt quickly. I have my goals, but I will always keep them to myself. I think it’s the same for most people in life, you always want to better yourself, I’m not focused on what’s around me. I work to be a better me and enjoy what I do every day. I will go to Latvia and make sure I have a lot of fun and we will see after.”