Silly season has almost come and gone before the beginning of June in MotoGP but the shifting scene in MXGP is rolling on a slightly more normal schedule. Even though he has a year in place with Yamaha rumours have been swirling that world champion Romain Febvre is being heavily courted by HRC as they look to eject one Frenchman and gain another. Honda have their own star in place – current MXGP rookie trailblazer Tim Gajser – but the Slovenian (if he succeeds this summer) could repeat his late gesture after winning the 2015 MX2 crown and request a transfer to the USA to pursue his supercross dream (even though he has yet to compete in a high profile supercross meeting and is allegedly reluctant to switch back to a 250, meaning an Anaheim I debut in the 450 division!). Gajser has been groomed by Giacomo Gariboldi; who has created a structure around the nineteen year old that accommodates his close family. Both his father and brother work as part of his racing programme. Frankly it is hard to imagine this kind of framework fitting into a U.S. team (it would even be an adjustment for another Grand Prix crew) and combine this with the culture change of moving across the world and it would be a heavy few months for Team Gajser. Moving out of one red awning and walking a few metres to another one would be the most logical move but would leave a gaping hole at Gariboldi, unless the passionate Italian is charged with finding the ‘next Gajser’ and going back to his MX2 remit.

Back to Febvre though. There is a view among the media that the recent links to Honda and also Husqvarna (although Gautier Paulin is also a target for the IceOne contingent who would then count on a potent trio of Max Nagl, the Motocross of Nations winner and the incoming Max Anstie) has come about with a view towards strengthening Febvre’s value to Yamaha. One of the pillars of his debut championship success in 2015 was not only his quick and virulent symbiosis with the YZ450FM but also the way he integrated into the Italian crew who marvelled at the Frenchman’s focus, simplicity and old-fashioned levels of dedication. In an interview I conducted with team owner Michele Rinaldi earlier this year Italy’s first MX world champ said that he saw an ‘old school’ approach in Febvre; an athlete unfazed by any other aspect of achieving fame in his game. Rinaldi has also said several times that the twenty-four year old’s capability to deal with pressure has stood him apart from the rest of his past rider roster…and there are some seriously big names that have worn the Rinaldi blue. Febvre has not been the best starter in 2016 and is living slightly in Gajser’s shadow in this respect but the high and mutual work ethic between both parties meant that ‘461’ remained in Italy for more tests after the previous Grand Prix of Trentino and they will eventually find a remedy as they did for the Swedish round last summer where Febvre went 1-1 thanks to his prolificacy off the line.

In summary the Febvre-Yamaha partnership is a brilliant one and the only way it could fracture is through a contract offer from a rival brand that causes heads to turn and pockets to warm. There was talk in Talavera de la Reina that Romain was very close to inking paperwork with Yamaha once more and committing some of his peak years as an athlete at this level to staying with the brand. The news could be out by the time this Blog is online or maybe in the run-up to Romain’s home Grand Prix this weekend in St Jean D’Angely. I would be surprised if he changed colours but if he does then the shade of green could well be the defining motive.

Once Febvre is sealed then Paulin will inevitably be next although his stock could have fallen slightly with the lack of victories on the CRF450RW (even though he was second in the championship last year) and the injury problems this season. If Paulin departs Honda then one of the biggest and best supported units in MXGP will have to source a rider that they believe could mount a challenge for the title…or bide their time until Jeffrey Herlings sees out his KTM deal at the end of 2017. Looking around it is hard not to imagine Stefan Everts wanting to refresh the line-up at Suzuki and drop the average age with both Kevin Strijbos and Ben Townley now into their thirties. Everts’ protracted takeover of Sylvain Geboers’ set-up last year meant that he was late to the negotiating table and the Belgian will also want a racer pushing for rostrum silverware. In Spain Jeremy Van Horebeek’s name was being linked again to the Lommel-based operation and the friendship between the two Belgians has always been positive, so it is easy to foresee an inevitable professional bond emerging.

In MX2 the onus lies with Jeremy Seewer who is free for 2017 but is already down the road with Suzuki and remaining with the brand that he has been a part of for five years now. The twenty-one year old Swiss has matured into a podium regular and has developed both physically and mentally. He still has two years in MX2 and if Herlings departs for ’17 is already nearing the status of ‘favourite’ with the likes of Dylan Ferrandis, Alex Tonkov and Max Nagl all waving goodbye to the 250s at the end of the year…at least in Grands Prix. Athletes like Pauls Jonass, Benoit Paturel, Brent Van Doninck, Petar Petrov, Samuele Bernardini, Thomas Covington and Vsevolod Brylyakov will also form part of the MX2 make-up, with half of those names already settled for the next season.

Getting into the new season halfway through the present one always seems a little ridiculous, especially in the perilous immediacy of motocross (pause for a thought for Steven Frossard here…) but it always provides a good excuse to speculate and to judge and forecast: always one of the best diversions from racing – or any sport – until the gate drops.

Recommended Articles