Gautier Paulin has apparently inked a two year deal to be a factory HRC rider according to paddock talk at last weekend’s Grand Prix of Sweden.
The Frenchman has allegedly signed a lucrative deal to leave the confines of the Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team – that has been largely built around him since he joined in 2012 – to go back to the structure where he burst onto the international scene as a teenager and as European Champion in 2007.
The Honda crew is now a vastly different prospect. Run completely by the HRC division from Japan, since the beginning of this season the Honda World Motocross squad is one of the biggest factory set-ups in the paddock with five-six Japanese technicians travelling to every round of the FIM Motocross World Championship.
Honda were chasing Paulin’s signature for some time as he is one of just four riders to have defeated world champion Tony Cairoli in the past three seasons. Paulin also took victory in Qatar this year.
The 24-year-old’s move to ‘red’ is still seen as a surprise by many considering the manner in which the KRT structure has been tailored around his wishes.
It will also mean the severance of many key personal deals such as the likes of Monster, Thor and Alpinestars as Honda have a complete kit agreement with Fox in place for 2015.
It is rumoured that Paulin will become one of – if not the – best paid riders in MXGP with the new contract but there is little doubting the vast resources that HRC have at their disposal to help the former BMX champ to realise his world championship aspirations.
From Kawasaki’s side this means that there is more urgency to make Ryan Villopoto’s Grand Prix desire a realistic prospect for 2015 if the AMA star is considering retirement or an alternative for his final year contract with Kawasaki Motor Company (USA).
Apparently an update on Villopoto’s availability and wishes for 2015 are being sought this week with European Kawasaki staff heading to the USA to also coincide with the ninth round of World Superbike at Laguna Seca. KMC’s HQ is based in Irvine, California.
The second CRF450RW next to Paulin could be filled again by Max Nagl for the third year in a row, but the German apparently has an offer from Husqvarna and a return to the Red Bull fold could prove an attractive proposition.
This means that names like Tommy Searle or Evgeny Bobryshev are best placed for the other HRC berth.