Ahead of Team Suzuki World MXGP’s trip to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Grand Prix of Americas this weekend, they have wrapped up their rider lineup for 2017.
GP Veteran, Kevin Strijbos, will be joined by Arminas Jasikonis on the works RM-Z450s. The 18-year-old Lithuanian has impressed the team with his fill-in rides for injured Ben Townley and ‘AJ’ is now safe in the knowledge that his final two gate drops in 2016 for the Lommel-based crew will not be his last for the foreseeable future.
Jasikonis is making his first major competitive outing in the US but should do so with confidence after a personal best moto result of seventh in Assen last weekend.
“It has always been a dream to reach Grand Prix and I think I am the first from Lithuania to reach this far,” Jasikonis said. “Now getting a contract for next year is ‘something else’. I’m really happy and I cannot quite believe it but I know the work really just begins now. Before riding was just about having fun and joking around…now I am really motivated and I have big expectations of myself. I will be working so hard over the winter and I’ll be doing everything the team advise me to do. I’ll be going big for next year.”
Now a fully-fledged Grand Prix rider he insists there are only a few alterations to make in preparation for his maiden term with Suzuki. “There won’t be too many big changes,” he believes. “I’ll change physical trainer and I’m very thankful for what has been done for me so far, but we must move forward. I have changed my doctor as well and the set-up is very nice and professional. I live only five minutes from the team and have been there for three years so that will stay.”
AJ will benefit from the wisdom and close tutelage of General Manager (and 10-time world champion) Stefan Everts. “Even from these few races I have taken so much experience already,” he comments on working with the renowned Belgian. “I’m a big rookie with not much experience at all – sometimes I am too ‘goon’ in many places on the bike! We will work in the winter on that and of course to be with the best you cannot ask for any more. I will be 19 and it is time…and I will learn fast.”
Everts is happy with the team lineup and looks forward to 2017 with the combination of experience from Strijbos and “the next generation” with Jasikonis. “We brought Arminas into the team to give him a chance and see how he would develop and work with the guys and we’ve been pleased and surprised,” says Everts. “He is still so young but is very willing to listen, learn and work on his riding from all angles. He is a strong rider and although he lacks experience, this will come. The most exciting thing for us is that he represents a great project for next season and the future and we are looking forward to seeing where we can go together in 2017.”