Defending MXGP champion Toni Cairoli (Red Bull KTM) heads into this weekend’s fourth round of the FIM Motocross World Championship with home advantage as he bids to break free from team-mate Jeffrey Herlings in the series standings.
The Sicilian is tied on points at the top of the table with the Dutchman but thanks to his double win last time out at Redsand in Spain will carry the red series leader’s plate into the MXGP of Trentino in Pietramurata.
The hard-pack circuit should suit the 32-year-old more than the sand-loving Herlings. We’ve seen time and time again how quick his main championship rival is on any surface but his starts – the most critical part of any moto – have let him down so far this season.
Cairoli has taken five out of six holeshots while more often than not Herlings has been forced to fight his way through after being mired in the pack. If Cairoli can get the gate again expect him to attempt to run off and hide but if Herlings starts at the front it could be game-over for the nine-time world champion.
The pair hold a 38-point lead over third-placed Clement Desalle (Monster Energy Kawasaki) but it’s hard to see the Belgian challenging for victory in the foothills of the Alps and the same can be said for France’s fourth-placed 2015 champion Romain Febvre (Monster Energy Yamaha).
If you had to pick a wild card winner then your attention should be focussed on 2016 champion Tim Gajser (Team HRC). The Slovenian, forced to miss the season opener in Argentina with a broken jaw, will be back up to speed by now. Currently a lowly 11th in the title race, a win is not out of the question.
With Tommy Searle (Bike It DRT Kawasaki) still recovering from a broken collarbone, UK hopes in the premier class rest with Max Anstie (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna), Shaun Simpson (Wilvo Yamaha) and Graeme Irwin (ASA Hitachi KTM UK).
Anstie sat out round three in Spain after crashing in the warm-up session and will be determined to improve on his current 14th-placed position, one behind Simpson who has also endured a rollercoaster ride so far this year. Class newbie Irwin is still finding his feet but we saw at the opening round of the Maxxis ACU British Motocross Championship at Culham last weekend when he won with a 1-3 card that there’s no question mark hanging over his pace and fitness.
In MX2 the smart money – and the stupid money for that matter – should be on Baltic bullet Pauls Jonass (Red Bull KTM). The Latvian is running a perfect six-from-six record so far this season as he defends his title with only his Spanish teenaged team-mate Jorge Prado offering much in the way of resistance.
Denmark’s Thomas Kjer Olsen (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna) is currently second because of Prado’s poor showing in Argentina but so far hasn’t had the speed to live with Jonass.
The good news for UK fans is that if you’re looking for an upset then Conrad Mewse (ASA Hitachi KTM UK) could be the man to deliver it. The 18-year-old – fifth in the title fight – chased Jonass for almost the entire race distance in the opening moto last time out at Redsand and dominated his class at Culham where he ran 1-1.
Fellow Brit Ben Watson (Kemea Yamaha) is tied with him on points in sixth and, after starting the season with a hand injury, Adam Sterry (F&H Kawasaki) – currently 14th in the standings – will be looking for a top-10 finish at the very least.