MXGP World Champions of the previous two years – Monster Energy Yamaha’s Romain Febvre and Red Bull KTM’s Tony Cairoli – claim they are not surprised by the speed and form of Gariboldi Honda’s Tim Gajser as the 19-year-old rookie swept to a comfortable victory at Losail in Qatar for the first round of eighteen in the 2016 series.
Gajser, the reigning MX2 World Champion, was not expected to win both motos by over seven and eight seconds respectively in what was his first Grand Prix in MXGP. In doing so he created a milestone (the first debutant since Cairoli in 2008 to triumph in the premier class) and also the youngest. It was Honda’s second win in two years.
“I knew he was good from pre-season and the winter. I saw him twice and knew he was fast with the 450. He was really good today,” said runner-up Febvre who struggled with arm-pump and also crashed in the second moto before finishing 3-2.
“Actually no, it is not a surprise” said Cairoli, who was fifth overall. “In the pre-season races he was already showing some speed and we only had to see if he had the ‘head’ to do the job…but he is also a world champion so he knows how to lead and handle the pressure.”
Reflecting on the transition for riders from the MX2 class to MXGP Cairoli also believes the leap in performance is perhaps not as big as everyone expects.
“I would not say it is such a big surprise because Febvre won the title last year,” the Italian said. “When there are good riders like that then the step up does not seem so big, especially these days where the 250 is already very strong and more similar to the 450; certainly more than ten years ago.”
Gajser said he came into Losail without much orientation of where he would run or finish. The Slovenian now has a tough job to repeat the feat in the next two rounds in Thailand and Holland. At Nakhonchaisri last year he needed treatment for heat exhaustion and could not start the second moto while in the Valkenswaard sand he suffered a huge crash on Saturday.
“I was pretty relaxed and had no pressure,” he commented in Qatar. “I did not know what to expect but I knew I’d had a good winter, good preparation and good testing. I didn’t know the class but I’m happy with what I did. I’ll be drinking more water in Thailand than I did last year!”