News 15 Feb 2017

Maiden MXGP season beckons for returning Tonus

Wilvo Yamaha signing sets sights on European resurgence.

Source: Supplied.

Words: Adam Wheeler

Jeffrey Herlings won’t be the only high profile MXGP ‘rookie’ in 2017 as Arnaud Tonus will also make his bow in the premier class after returning from two injury-and-illness ravaged seasons as part of the fabled Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki squad.

The popular Swiss was only able to show fleeing moments of his speed and technique in the demanding AMA 250SX and MX divisions due to a blood virus, broken wrist and shoulder problem that interrupted any rhythm the 25-year-old could muster as part of Mitch Payton’s crew.

Now embedded in Louis Vosters’ renewed Wilvo Yamaha setup and a return to the brand he represented in 2012, the stoic Tonus is not looking back in anger as he prepares to make his grand prix debut on the YZ450F.

“I’m still living the dream and doing the sport that I love so wherever I am, I enjoy it,” said Tonus. “For sure there is some frustration from America but looking back I did my best with how I felt. It is a shame but it is part of it and I matured more, I am not complaining about that experience and I am happy that I did it.”

Tonus represented his country at the 2016 Motocross of Nations on a KX450F and insists the switch to the bigger bike has not been a major issue to deal with even though the 2017 YZ450F Yamaha was a slightly different breed and certainly a world away from Steve Dixon’s potent carburetted YZ250F with which he scored MX2 podium results in 2012.

“Steve’s 250 was still the old bike and the old chassis so this one is still something I need to get used to and there is a big gap from the Kawi, a big difference,” he explained. “Also the weight and position of the engine makes the feeling on the bike different; I like it though.

“I feel that it fits well and the power is not too aggressive compared to what I rode at the nations where I had something really snappy and a bit more American-style. Now I am happier with that setting that is smoother and more to my style. I felt pretty good on the bike really quickly and it was more about fitting in with the team and being back. Now it is about being on race pace and gaining that intensity.”

Skills and pace are hardly rare commodities for Tonus but he has had trouble staying healthy and present through an entire campaign. With almost 10 professional seasons to his CV ‘AT’ is well aware that remaining in the game is key to enduring a 19 grand prix slate.

“It is a long season so I won’t be too stressed at the beginning,” he added. “All the riders are really fit and we know it will be intense – I have to keep calm and keep focussed. I am going to learn in the first few rounds and see where I am at because I haven’t run with those guys too much.”