The rumours are confirmed today, Ben Townley will join Kevin Strijbos on the works RM-Z450 and in the Suzuki World MXGP team for 2016.
Townley – former MX2 World Champion, AMA 250SX East Coast Supercross champ and race winner in the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Nationals and the Motocross of Nations – has stated his eagerness to strive for Grand Prix victory once more. “I retired two and a half years ago and had no intention of racing again but the desire to do it came back over the last six months and when this chance to ride for Suzuki and work with the people there came about I knew straight away it was the right opportunity to be world champion again,” he said.
Townley first came to Europe and took part in Grand Prix as a teenager in 2001, entering the old 125cc category on an RM125. By 2002 he was already taking podium finishes and won the inaugural year of the FIM MX2 World Championship formula in 2004. He became the first rider in the modern history of the sport to own Grands Prix in both MX2 and MXGP (formerly MX1) classes in 2005.
The 30 year old from New Zealand recently came out of retirement to spectacular effect at the 2015 Motocross of Nations in France at the end of September. His ride to second position in the third moto at Ernee proved that the Kiwi still has the focus and skill set to run with some of the fastest riders in the world and his experience, maturity and dedication to his passion caught the eye of the factory team based in Lommel.
The opportunity to ride the RM-Z450 for the first time was a great chance for Townley – who had kept close links with the sport thanks to a role tutoring factory riders for another brand in Japan and young New Zealand talents like EMX125 star Josiah Natzke – to resurrect his career.
“Joining Suzuki is about many factors: the personnel, the team, the professionalism and of course the RM-Z450,” he said. “It is everything that I need to be competitive. Being with Suzuki ticks every box in my opinion and leaves no question marks. In my mind it is the right choice.”
Townley is now in the midst of preparations for 2016 that will involve 19 Grands Prix and a long campaign from February to September. He should start serious work with the Suzuki World MXGP camp in the first days and weeks of the New Year. “It’s not totally confirmed yet and we are discussing timing now but I’ll be over in early January,” he commented. “The season starts much earlier now than when I was racing Grands Prix before so we’ll need to get ready. I began training for the Motocross of Nations and never really stopped. It is about getting down to the nuts and bolts of it for me now.”
Team Principal Sylvain Geboers said: “We talked a lot with Ben and I was impressed by the way that he wanted to make a strong connection with the team and really open his mind when it comes to working together and this is why I believed we’d be a good option for helping him with his comeback.”
Adding: “Of course he has been away from Grand Prix for a couple of years and with his age some people say it is a ‘risk’ but I know how professional he can be and I think he still has some strong possibilities. Having Ben with the team is an interesting and strong combination.”