Features 19 Feb 2015

Countdown: 2015 MXGP match-ups

Five must-watch battles when the new season gets underway.

The 2015 MXGP World Championship is quite possibly the most-anticipated installment of the series in well over a decade. As we count down the days until next weekend’s series opener at Qatar, we list the five most anticipated battles across both the MXGP and MX2 classes.

Source: Kawasaki Racing.

Source: Kawasaki Racing.

5. Jordi Tixier vs Dylan Ferrandis:
The Monster Energy Kawasaki teammates and longtime rivals of Jordi Tixier and Dylan Ferrandis are likely to get the elbows out early on in the season. The two Frenchmen will both be keen to prove they’re the number one rider on the team, although technically that title does belong to Tixier for now. Jordi, who won the Junior World Championship title in 2010 transferred from Red Bull KTM Factory Racing to the green camp at the end of last year after claiming the 2014 MX2 world title. Last year’s win was something of a hollow victory, however, after Jeffrey Herlings, who was a whole new level from everyone else, snapped his femur four rounds from the end of the championship. Tixier might’ve won the championship, but he’s not kidding anyone if he thinks he’s the man to beat this year.

4. Dean Ferris vs Todd Waters:
This year we’re finally going to see a showdown we’ve been waiting for years to witness. Two Aussies, Dean Ferris and Todd Waters, are going to battle it out for Aussie pride in the MX1 class. Neither of them have won a senior Australian Motocross Championship that they can fall back on for bragging rights, and while both will be on factory Husqvarnas this year, they’ll be in different camps (Ferris will represent Wilvo Nestaan Husqvarna Factory Racing and Waters on Red Bull IceOne Husqvarna Factory Racing). Last year was supposed to be Ferris’s breakout year after getting the call-up to race for Red Bull KTM in the States, but an unfortunate wrist injury ended his dreams and saw him drafted back into the European series for 2015. On paper, Ferris has the MXGP experience and the pace to gain the upper hand, but results in pre-season races have been a mixed bag for both of them.

3. Gautier Paulin vs Clement Desalle vs Jeremy van Horebeek:
What’s better than a head-to-head battle? A three-way scrap! While all the pre-season talk has been about Ryan Villopoto and Antonio Carioli, there’s a fascinating stoush shaping up between three of the front-runners, Gautier Paulin, Clement Desalle and Jeremy van Horebeek. All three took round wins from Carioli in 2014, but Paulin looked to be the biggest threat before he was injured mid-season. Now riding for Team HRC, the Frenchman will be under no illusions of how tough it’s going to be with Villopoto now in the mix. Meanwhile, Belgians Clement Desalle (fourth last year) and Jeremy van Horebeek (second) are returning with the same teams and the solidarity and familiarity that comes with it, and will prove to be real handfuls. Who’s going to come out on top of this battle? We might need a three-sided coin to figure that one out!

Source: KTM.

Source: KTM.

2. Jeffrey Herlings vs everyone:
He’s only 20, but Dutchman Jeffrey Herlings really is a freak of nature. He’s already won back-to-back MX2 World Championships in 2012 and 2013, and came agonizingly close to completing a three-for last year before he busted his femur just four rounds from the end of the series. Herlings valiantly still tried to race the final round but ended up just four points shy of champion Jordi Tixier. For a young fella he’s already shown huge amounts of maturity (and no small dose of cockiness) and if he continues on this path, he’s shaping up to be one of the all-time greats. Most times racers enter a championship with the aim of winning. In the MX2 class they’re now entering with the aim of simply beating Herlings. He always has a target on his back, and if he’s to be stopped from claiming the 2015 championship, it’s going to take a combined effort from everyone on the MX2 gate.

1. Antonio Carioli vs Ryan Villopoto:
Quite simply, the match-up between Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Antonio Carioli and Kawasaki Racing Team’s Ryan Villopoto is a promoter’s dream. You’ve got an eight-time world champion going up against a seven-time AMA Motocross and Supercross Champion: two of the all-time greats in the sport going head-to-head for probably the first and only time ever. Ratings for the world championship are going to go through the roof and every motocross fan around the globe is going to be glued to their TVs, computers and smartphones watching every single blow. Carioli certainly carries the advantage of experience. He raced his first GP 13 years ago in 2002 and since then has raced in practically every condition on every track that’s halfway decent in Europe. Villopoto carries the advantage of unpredictability in the final chapter of what’s been an incredible racing career. People – certainly Americans – expect him to win, but the general consensus in Europe is that Carioli’s confidence and experience will carry him to the championship. Going by the online videos that’ve been floating around of RV2’s training, he’s carrying ludicrous amounts of pace and form into 2015 and AC222’s going to need every ounce of experience, speed and race-craft he possesses to win this title. Pass the popcorn, this is going to be something special.