Star riders prepare for season’s first challenge

 28 Feb 2014 - 6:32


Riders Jeffrey Herlings, Gautier Paulin, Todd Waters, Clement Desalle, Christophe Charlier and Chiara Fontanesi are seen during a special photo-shoot on a traditional Dhow while scaling the Corniche waters in Doha yesterday. This set of riders will be seen in action today and tomorrow for the Grand Prix of Qatar, the opening round of the 2014 FIM Motocross World Championship.

DOHA: After a five-month winter break, the world’s best motocross bikers will hit the dirt track inside Losail International Circuit for the season’s first official qualifying sessions that will also feature female riders. 
After the success of last year, the FIM Motocross World Championship has returned to the Middle East to host the opening round of the 2014 FIM Motocross World Championship. 
And just like last year, the racing will take place in spectacular fashion tomorrow evening under floodlights.
The track of Losail is man-made and situated along side the MotoGP circuit in Losail (Qatar). 
Thanks to its extraordinary location, everyone involved this weekend has access to the absolutely impeccable facilities that coexist with the MotoGP circuit. 
Reflecting on last year, the lighting systems have been dramatically improved, allowing both riders and spectators more visibility. 
Thirty two lighting poles, 420 lights with 2000W power each supplied by 10 Generators – 350 kva - resulting in better lighting overall which in turn will not only improve visibility for participants but also enhance the picture broadcasted via Internet or television. 
In other news, the races have been shortened by five minutes, thus making both MX2 and MXGP racing thirty minutes plus two laps and the FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship will be making their return to the paddock of MXGP.
This year, the defending FIM Motocross World Champion Antonio Cairoli is the man to beat. Currently second on the ‘All-Time Wins’ list (38 behind Stefan Everts) the likeable Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider will be aiming for his eighth FIM Motocross World Title. 
Earlier this year, Cairoli absolutely dominated the first two rounds of the Italian Championship proving he has fully refreshed and ready to take on the year. The only thing that could slow the talented Italian down, ever so slightly, is the ankle injury he is carrying after colliding with another rider in the start at the third round of the Italian Championship two weeks ago.
Looking to stop Cairoli in his tracks, Rockstar Energy Suzuki World’s Clement Desalle is a likely candidate. 
Desalle has made himself a podium name since his first GP win back in 2009 and has since finished in the top three overall for the last four years. 
With already two seconds and two third place rankings, Desalle has only one box left un-ticked and is already looking fierce after winning the ‘Masters Motocross International’ pre-season race last weekend in Lacapelle-Marival, France.
Fellow Rockstar Energy Suzuki World rider Kevin Strijbos improved immensely throughout 2013, finishing more often than not on the podium in the closing stages of the season. 
Although the winter period saw him side-lined with a broken hip, the Belgian Suzuki rider returned to racing last weekend in Lacapelle-Marival (France), where he showed amazing speed winning the first race ahead of his team-mate Clement Desalle.
Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team’s Gautier Paulin took home seven podium finishes in the early stages of last season, three of which were Grand Prix wins. 
After an extremely spectacular win in Maggiora (Italy), Paulin went on to win a few more races but his progress in the championship was hindered as he battled to keep his Kawasaki 450 on two wheels. Since then, it seems the Frenchman has re-grouped, making his first appearance of 2014 two weeks ago at the third and final round of the Italian Championship in Montevarchi (Italy) where he won both moto’s confirming he is in good shape for the win this year.
Crowned Italian champion two-weeks ago in the popular star-studded Internazionali d’Italia, Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jeremy Van Horebeek could be the surprise of the season. 
With his first season in the MXGP class already under his belt, Van Horebeek is oozing confidence and is fit and ready to show the world that he’s got the goods.
Another rider onto his second season in MXGP is CLS Kawasaki Monster Energy’s Tommy Searle. 
Searle was named as the most promising rookie last year and is yet to live up to that promise. Now, with one season of MXGP class racing on the shelf, 2014 could be the year to turn his top tens into top threes.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Ken De Dycker finished third overall last year and would have normally been another championship threat. 
Unfortunately, the tall Belgian will be missing in action for the opening rounds after an off-season crash put him in hospital with a severely broken wrist.
Team HRC’s Evgeny Bobryshev and Max Nagl are both no strangers to the MXGP podium. Both riders have proved in the past they’ve got the goods to go the distance and given they are both 100% fit and healthy, they could be genuine title threats.