Features 27 Feb 2014

Top 10: 2014 MXGP title threats

MotoOnline.com.au's form guide ahead of the new season.

With the MXGP World Championship about to get under way in Qatar this weekend, MotoOnline.com.au takes a look at 10 of the title front-runners across MX1 and MX2, and looks at how the Australian riders Todd Waters and Luke Styke might perform.

Source: KTM Racing.

Source: KTM Racing.

Antonio Cairoli – MX1 (Italy)
The most famous man in World Motocross, Antonio Cairoli, will be hard to beat again this year. With a massive seven world titles to his name already, Cairoli will be gunning to continue closing the gap on Stefan Everts’ all-time record of 10 world titles. He’s only 28, so there’s a damn good chance he’ll be able to eclipse the king during his career… an eighth world title this year will go a long way towards that.

Clement Desalle – MX1 (Belgium)
After finishing runner-up to the always dominant Tony Cairoli last year, Clement Desalle has proved he has what it takes to be a thorn in Cairoli’s side. Pre-season race form during the French championships has made people stand up and take notice f the Rockstar Suzuki rider, and he’ll be very keen to shed the ‘bridesmaid’ title in 2014.

Kevin Strijbos – MX1 (Belgium)
Clement Desalle’s fellow countryman and Rockstar Suzuki teammate Kevin Strijbos has also been in red-hot form during the traditional lead-up races to the MXGP. A fourth-place result in the championship standings last year doesn’t tell the tale of how he seemed to find an extra gear towards the latter half of the championship and finished the season on a high. All early indicators point to a very promising season for Strijbos.

Tyla Rattray – MX1 (South Africa)
After five years racing the AMA Motocross Championship with Pro Circuit Kawasaki, South Africa’s 2008 World MX2 Champion Tyla Rattray will make a much-anticipated comeback to the MXGP. However, as well as getting accustomed to a whole new machine with Ice One Red Bull Husqvarna, Rattray continues his transition to 450s after a long careers in the lower ranks. Still, he’s expected to be a force to be reckoned with in 2014.

Todd Waters – MX1 (Australia)
Australia’s next bright international hope, Todd Waters, enters the MXGP as an unknown entity. He rocked over the Europe without ever claiming a senior Australian championship after locking in a deal with Ice One Red Bull Husqvarna. Waters has already raised eyebrows with a string of podium performances in the Italian championships, and we reckon he’ll happily be a top five contender by the end of the season.

Source: Husqvarna Racing.

Source: Husqvarna Racing.

Gautier Paulin – MX1 (France)
Now with his fourth year under the Kawasaki Race Team awning, 24-year-old Frenchman Gautier Paulin is looking to start turning the screws on the MX1 championship and work his way into championship contention. A fifth in the championship last year belies the fact he crashed out of the German GP and missed the following round at Loket with injury. There’s a damn good chance Paulin will be one of the major players in 2014.

Ken De Dycker – MX1 (Belgium)
One of the veterans of the MX1 championship, Ken De Dycker, has always been there or there abouts. The Red Bull KTM Factory racer will turn 30 this year and will be well aware that his racing years at the pinnacle of the sport are numbered. De Dycker hasn’t won a GP since 2010, but always still seems to find himself in consistent podium positions. 2014 could be a make-or-break year for the likeable Belgian.

Jeffrey Herlings – MX2 (Netherlands)
There’s no question as to whether Dutch youngster Jeffrey Herlings will dominate the MX2 class again this year. The only question is “by how much?” At 19 years of age, Herlings already has two world championships to his name and was in a league of his own in 2013. Dean Ferris was one of his main rivals last year, but with him moving to the US, it looks like the 2014 title is again Herlings’ to lose.

Jordi Tixier – MX2 (France)
2010 Junior 125cc World Champion Jordi Tixier is deemed to be one of just a handful of contenders who could potentially stick it to Jeffrey Herlings. The 21-year-old Frenchman has been Herlings’ Red Bull KTM teammate for two years and knows what makes the Dutchman tick. Last year Jordi finished a solid second to Herlings and will be more than a little keen to shed the number two team rider tag.

Luke Styke – MX2 (Australia)
2013 Australian motocross and supercross champion Luke Styke enters his first MX2 Motocross World Championship with little fanfare and few expectations. There’s no doubt the KEMEA Yamaha racer has the speed, aggression and confidence to work some magic in the MX2 class, but Europe is a world away from Australia and the tracks will be entirely new to him. Expect him to put in a solid effort in under lights this weekend at Qatar, from which he can build a solid foundation for an impressive debut season.