Team Honda Gariboldi Racing’s Tim Gajser clinched the 2016 FIM Motocross World Championship at the Grand Prix of Americas last weekend in his first season in MXGP. Winning a world motocross title is impressive enough on its own but there’s a lot more to this record-breaking story.
The 19-year-old MXGP rookie followed up his MX2 world championship title win from 2015 with an impressive first season with the big boys, taking the coveted crown in style with 15 moto wins and 15 podiums – out of 17 so far – with one round to go at Glen Helen.
Unsurprisingly, the likeable Slovenian wasn’t fazed by the MXGP of Americas’ stacked start gate, with Eli Tomac and Justin Barcia adding to an already formidable lineup of world class riders. Gajser finished fourth in the opening moto and although he had wrapped up the title with those 18 points, he didn’t let off the gas for moto two. He couldn’t match, on the day, Tomac’s stunning speed, but he still took the chequers in second place for a second overall at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
“It feels amazing,” said a delighted Gajser. “It’s unbelievable to have won this title. I want to thank so much Honda, HRC, the team, my family. We have been working so hard for this for all our lives, and now for the second year in a row we’ve achieved the best possible result.
“All the fans have been incredible this year – already last year was amazing because we had so much support, but this year it’s been even bigger. We make something with the popularity of this sport in Slovenia, and I’m very proud to be that person who is helping the sport to grow. It’s an honour and a pleasure.
“The bike has really been fantastic. It becomes so much a part of you that you really have to click with it and have a good relationship with it. And this year the Honda CRF has just been perfect. I couldn’t ask for better or for more. After this year I feel better as a rider and better as a person. Every dream can come true if you really believe in it and really work for it, and today another dream has come true for me.”
Some were taken by surprise when he stepped up from MX2 at the end 2015 after taking full advantage of Jeffrey Herlings’ injury misery to win the MX2 world motocross championship. It was put out there that he could be running from Herlings.
But when you look back at his career it was perhaps inevitable that he would immediately move up.
In 2012 Gajser won the 125 European championship and was also crowned 125 JUNIOR world champion. Eager to continue his development, he made his MX2 debut at the Grand Prix of Europe in the same season.
Gajser finished his first full season in MX2 with 20th place in the championship standings but had shown improvement as the 2013 season developed.
2014 was his MX2 breakout year finishing fifth in the championship with two moto wins, his first coming at the Grand Prix of State of Goias and then the following round in Mexico. Those two wins would have filled the young pilot with confidence.
Gajser added to his two motos wins from 2014 with just another four in his championship winning year in 2015. Far fewer than some in the class – Britain’s Max Ansite had nine moto wins, and Herlings had 14 at the point when the Dutchman’s injuries caught up with him.
However, consistency would pay off for Gajser with eight podiums through the series. But more importantly, as the season progressed to the pointy end of the championship, he finished ahead of his title rivals, which meant he took over the red plate from Red Bull KTM’s Pauls Jonass at the Grand Prix of The Netherlands and never looked back.
Gajser took that momentum and ran with it in his maiden MXGP campaign, and wow, did he do it with style. He enthralled the fans trackside, on TV and online with his balls-out style on his way to 15 race victories, only finishing off the podium twice in 15 Grands Prix and with it becoming the youngest ever champion in the premier class. Although you could argue that Albertyn’s 1993 250 world title should make him the youngest ever winner of the premier class.
The MXGP rookie is the only rider to have won EMX65 (2007), EMX85 (2009), EMX125 (2012), World 125 championship (2012). And then go on to win back to back MX2 and MXGP world championships – talk about being a record breaker.
There was much talk that Gajser wouldn’t hang about in world motocross, with a burning ambition to again move on, this time, to the bright lights of Monster Energy Supercross. Gajser has now committed himself to MXGP for another term, with a move up to Team HRC for 2017.
America’s loss is, without a doubt, Europe’s gain.