After GPs in Qatar and Thailand that were so Mickey Mouse they could have been sponsored by Disney – followed by a surprisingly solid event in Argentina – the world motocross championship finally lands in Europe this weekend.
The big news for British fans is that Red Bull KTM’s Tommy Searle will be back in action at the Italian GP at Arco di Trento after fracturing his T5 vertebra in Thailand. That’s just six weeks from crash to comeback and is the stuff ruddy legends are made of.
The Charge of the Light Brigade, the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, ‘Enry’s Hammer flooring Muhammad Ali and now Tommy Gun’s comeback – it’s enough to make the Dirt Doctor’s stiff upper lip tremble. Don’t expect too much from him – the guys he’s lining up against are almost two months into a GP campaign and battle-hardened – but the simple fact he’s there makes me want to fix bayonets and charge Johnny Foreigner.
Here’s Tommy’s Thai crash…
>So who’s going to win? With HRC’s fast Frenchman Gautier Paulin failing to live up to the hype so far this season on paper it’s looking like a four-way fight between Tony Cairoli, Max Nagl, Ryan Villopoto and sulky Belgian Clement Desalle.
If the weather’s good the hardpack track – the first the series has visited this year – will be faster and looser than that girl down the park who’ll do anything for a bottle of Frosty Jack. It’s the sort of going reigning champ Tony the Tiger has growed up racing on in Sicily but will the Italian be willing to hang it out so early in the season? As for the other three, well, the Blue Max is a Teutonic moto machine, Ryan the Lion has a point to prove and the MX Panda is a motocross heavyweight. With a faced like a slapped black and white arse.
Basically, to pick a winner I might as well write their names on slips of paper, pop them into the old balloon knot and then see whose name comes out first when I drop the kids off. And that’s one of the reasons I love motocross. Not the putting riders’ names up me bum bit, I mean the unpredictability of it all…
With Nathan Watson staring down the barrel of four to six weeks out after breaking his arm in Germany, Paul Coates also injured and the Reverend Jake Nicholls electing to give his broken wrist more time to heal the only other Brit in MXGP is Shaun Simpson. Woody’s currently sitting in 12th but he’s waaaay better than that and should be heading home on Sunday in the top 10.
British hopes in MX2 are pinned on rapid redhead Max Anstie. The fruit of ’80s bruiser Swervin’ Mervyn’s loins spammed himself in Thailand, then came back with a race one third in Argentina and continues to frustrate and excite in equal measure. No-one is going to beat off Jeffrey Herlings – he can only beat off himself (check the dictionary definition) – but on his day Mighty Max is the next best thing if his Monster DRT Kawasaki holds together.
Ben Watson’s had a slow start to the world championship and is easily capable of scoring well in both races, the 17-year-old Hitachi Revo KTM UK rider just needs to get a couple of good starts and everything should slot into place.
The Italian GP also marks the start of the European campaign and – hurrah – we’ve got a defending champ in the 250 class thanks to Steven Clarke. Built like a pitbull and sounding like Noddy Holder, the Midlander has raced around the world and had a top-five in the AMA SX series so he’s no stranger to pressure but, after his awesome wildcard GP debut in Argentina, Adam Sterry has got to start favourite as he drops back a class.
Heading Stateside, the Monster Energy SX Series gets all hippy-dippy on Saturday with a night in San Francisco. With both the 450SX and the West Region 250SX titles already decided in favour of Ryan Dungey and Cooper Webb it’s going to be a bit on an anti-climax – unless you get loaded on peyote and whack the Best of Jefferson Airplane on your iPod.
Which I do most weekends anyway…
Words: TDD Image: Ray Archer