With time ticking down to the 2017 championship tour kicking off in Manchester we get our first look at the currently confirmed riders and teams…
With a little over six weeks to go until the 2017 Arenacross Tour gets underway at the Manchester Arena on January 7, the Pro teams rider line-up is looking impressive with some of the UK’s top motocross stars ready to do battle with all three former AX Pro class champions.
Several of the top runners have switched teams and machinery for next year, and there are some new names on the start gate which could well spice things up a little for the upcoming series. British MX fans will be stoked to learn that the likes of Tommy Searle and Kristian Whatley will be going flat out to bring the AX crown home, and stem the French invasion. Whilst those AX fans who witnessed the racing carnage at the 2016 Wembley final, will be cheering and probably racing to get their seats booked, when they learn that machine-bashing Gallic protagonists Thomas Ramette and Cedric Soubeyras are fired up and ready to return to the AX ring.
Leading the 2017 AX charge is double AX champ Ramette, who returns to the AX stadium with team-mate Cyrille Coulon and their two-time Arenacross winning SR75 World Suzuki team. Ramette’s smooth style and determined attitude served him well in the closely-contested 2016 series and, as a team, Ramette and Coulon enjoyed ten podium finishes, gifting the SR75 Suzuki outfit another championship title. Ramette has been racing virtually non-stop since Wembley and it’s a sure bet that he’ll be hot for 2017.
2016 runner-up Cedric Soubeyras, obviously felt he was robbed of the Pro class title after the controversial last round earlier this year at Wembley, and he has already made clear his intent to come back to the UK for one thing only, and that’s to win the 2017 AX series. He will be paired with Italian Angelo Pellegrini and run under the RFX St Blazey MX Racing team banner – for the new AX season, both riders will be Suzuki-mounted.
Next up is the overall third-placed contender from this year’s series and the first-ever Arenacross Pro champion, namely, Adam Chatfield. Chatfield tops an all-British team backed by FRO Systems PAR Elite and in his stable will be the always-entertaining Welshman Ashley Greedy. Fondly referred to as the ‘Ginger Ninja’, Chatfield ended the 2016 championship in winning form, having used the last three rounds to solidly work his way up through the podium to stay out of trouble and win the final in epic style. With the sweet taste of success still on his lips, he’s sure to be in the thick of it and will be one to watch.
Also on the returning champ front is 2014 Pro winner Fabien Izoird, who’s 2016 charge came to an unfortunate halt at the Birmingham round of AX when he broke his leg. He was leading the championship at the time and so his form was never in any doubt. He’ll definitely want to prove he’s got what it takes to lift the AX crown again and, with popular Brit Matt Bayliss at his side, and multi-British and World MX champ Dave Thorpe as mentor, together with the considerable backing of Buildbase Honda, he’ll have the tools and motivation to go out and kick dirt. Chris Bayliss will ride with the team in the Pro Lites class. A vocal AX ambassador and strong team leader, Thorpe is possibly something of a glutton for punishment as he’s fielding two teams next year; the Buildbase Honda team he’s had such success with over the years, and newly-formed Keystone Lintels Honda Racing. The new team will support another AX favourite, Flo Richier and MXGP runner Alex Snow.
Headlining the British contingent is the British MX1 number one Tommy Searle, who has already acknowledged the fact that entering the British Arenacross stadium isn’t going to be easy. But, he’s been hard at it training and is off to the States in the next week to concentrate on his racing fitness, starts and tactics. It’s going to be exciting to see him in action and he’ll have the full weight of Team Green behind him and AX racing partner, Jack Brunell. Another top Brit entering the fray is Kristian Whatley who joins the Husqvarna team of MVR-D Husqvarna, with French junior hotshot Adrien Escoffier.