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It’s finally here! Round one of the 2012 Monster Energy MX Nationals is this Sunday, 1 April, at Conondale and already we’ve experienced an exciting pre-season with so many questions to be answered. As the saying goes, you can’t win titles at round one but you can certainly lose them.
What that means is that while we can expect to see a deserving winner come Sunday afternoon, the real indication of form won’t ultimately be put on display until a few rounds in as far as title contenders go.
At this stage, Conondale’s opener will be Australia’s lone opportunity to see Ben Townley in action since he was this month scooped up by TwoTwo Motorsports to head back to the U.S. I for one can’t wait to see BT against our best and many are predicting that he’ll set the benchmark for a big year ahead.
Something interesting was brought up yesterday through a bit of bench racing, in the fact that we’re likely to see a lot of people rise to the occasion now that Townley won’t be here for the whole series. They’re all trying hard regardless no doubt, but I bet that a few of the local riders’ title aspirations were boosted big time upon Ben’s departure.
Jay Marmont has been back on the bike this week and, although he admits he may not be 100 percent for round one with a recent tweaked knee, he usually steps up when his back’s against the wall. I know he will want to gauge himself off BT’s speed, but he also knows that title number five is the main task for 2012.
I honestly believe that we are going to see a number of riders surprise with their outright speed this weekend. Guys like Lawson Bopping, Todd Waters, Tye Simmonds, Jake Moss and Dan McCoy have the potential to come out of the blocks swinging. Plus, former champ Dan Reardon sounds more confident than he has in a long time.
On the international front apart from Townley, Josh Coppins has been quick in NZ, we’ve witnessed Brad Anderson’s form in Victoria of late and Billy Mackenzie is always on the gas. The thing with Mackenzie this year is that he too will benefit from the various product changes that Monster Energy Kawasaki has made in the off-season.
The MX2 category is much the same, with talent spread wide and far, as is the MXD Under 19s class. What I like about these classes is that the guys develop so much from year to year and we’re seeing more talent rise all the time.
We received confirmation last week that Brenden Harrison will skip the first two rounds after having a screw removed from his femur/hip, and he’s not in any rush to come back unless he’s 100 percent. It’s a shame because Harry was a real title threat, but unfortunately it looks like he’ll have to wait another year before he can battle for the title over the course of a season.
Rumours were escalating last week that Kirk Gibbs had injured his wrist, but in speaking to him yesterday, he said that he did hurt it, but not bad enough to rule him out of round one. There were concerns for the scaphoid, but so far no breaks have been detected and he looks forward to Conondale.
While speaking to Gibbs for our new Fast Thoughts feature that I uploaded yesterday, he made a good point that the Serco Yamaha team’s new association with the Metal Mulisha could potentially open up the doors for Aussies to head to the U.S. on the Star Valli team since they’re also supported by MM.
It’s an interesting time in motocross, because even though JDR Motorsports is an Aussie-owned team with a clear path to their KTM squad in America, it’s not the only avenue to the pinnacle of the sport in the AMA as relationships are developing year in, year out.
Serco has the Metal Mulisha link with the Star Valli team, and I’m sure Chad Reed’s TwoTwo team has closer ties with Carlton Dry Honda since they worked out the deal for Townley. Right now it seems more than ever before that these young riders truly believe they have what it takes to make it in the U.S.
Scott Columb will ride for Motul Pirelli Suzuki in place of Steven Clarke on the Lites bike, who looks like he’ll have to undergo surgery one more time before he returns for the team. With Columb recently finishing runner-up in NZ, don’t be surprised if you see him take podiums and potentially stay on for the whole outdoor season.
Speaking of injuries, Dean Ferris got his cast off this week and looks to be returning to riding in two weeks. He’s really going to boost interest in World Motocross this year from an Aussie perspective, so we cannot wait to see him return to full fitness.
By the way, in case you missed it on Monday, check out this film of Tye Simmonds speaking about his all-new privateer Honda team and riding the CRF450R. It’s some pretty revealing stuff and great to see that he has backing from Red Bull for the year, so we can’t wait to see him work his way to the front in time.
Our MotoOnline.com.au Fantasy League is in full swing now, so head into the iMoto Community and be sure to get your tips in. We don’t take it too seriously here, but it is good fun and the more people we have playing, the less chance Doova has of winning and taking home a number one plate! Best of luck to all of our contenders.
We have a pretty hectic schedule coming up here for the weekend, heading to the Sunshine Coast on Friday and covering the opener from a variety of angles all weekend long, so stay tuned and I’m sure you’ll enjoy every minute of the content to be produced by Guy Streeter, Simon Makker and myself.
Also on the weekend we’ll have our social networking working overtime, so visit www.facebook.com/motoonline and follow us on Twitter @MotoOnline for the latest from behind the scenes, including pictures, results, updates and more.