Team Belgium has selected Julien Lieber as the third and final part of their Motocross of Nations team to tackle the 2014 edition in Latvia on September 27/28.
The reigning champions had to adjust their plans with the recent decision by Rockstar Suzuki’s Clement Desalle to sit out the rest of 2014 to fix a broken scaphoid bone.
Team Manager Joel Smets has Yamaha’s Jeremy Van Horebeek and Desalle’s team-mate Kevin Strijbos as clear entries in the MX1 and MX Open categories on 450s as the Belgians are currently second and third respectively in the MXGP FIM Motocross World Championship standings with two Grands Prix remaining. Lieber will be making his debut at the huge cosmopolitan annual event.
It is believed that Van Horebeek would have originally climbed on a 250 again for the MX2 class in a repeat of his performance from Teutschenthal in 2013 when he recovered from bad starts to post some important points scores for the Nation that have taken the Chamberlain trophy 15 times.
Van Horebeek had already started preparing for the ride prior to the Grand Prix of Czech Republic and would have steered Christophe Charlier’s works YZ250FM. Now with Desalle out of the frame JVH can use the YZ450FM with which he has captured 12 podium finishes from 15 this season.
The selection of 19-year-old Lieber is puzzling after a mediocre season in the MX2 class (best result of sixth) and the fact that he has recently split with the works Rockstar Suzuki team and will not finish the season in yellow.
He will actually race a KTM for Standing Construct in the 2014 Brazilian and Mexican Grands Prix and then allegedly a Yamaha for the same team in 2015 when the squad changes manufacturers.
With Damon Graulus on the injury list (and actually dropped by Standing for next year) it means that Belgium face a chasm when it comes to the next generation of potential Grand Prix winners. It is clear that Smets does not have a wealth of options (the MX2 23 age rule does not apply for the Nations) and Ken De Dycker’s decision to prematurely end his season to fix a troublesome wrist narrowed his scope even further.
Lieber is a stylish and capable rider and the combination of rider scores at the Nations means that any outcome is possible but the youngster’s inexperience and possible lack of race mileage on the KTM after two seasons of Japanese machinery could well hurt Belgium’s chances of defending their title as world champions.