Every motorsport has a worst-kept secret and MXGP is no different. It was certainly no surprise to see Evgeny Bobryshev joined by 2014 Motocross of Nations star Gautier Paulin at the EICMA HRC presentation last week.
The Frenchman’s transfer to the factory Honda World Motocross outfit was a move that had been on the cards as early as May this year but had not been talked about by the team, manufacturer or even the rider until Paulin posed for his first snaps wearing HRC clothing in Milan.
While the paddock absorbed the ‘will-he-won’t-he’ saga involving Ryan Villopoto this summer most observers seemed to forget that fact that the AMA Champion was given a window of opportunity at Kawasaki thanks to Paulin’s decision to leave the KX450F after three seasons and return to the brand where he made his GP breakthrough as a teenager in 2007. Paulin’s long-awaited confirmation was accompanied by affirmation that former AMA and FIM World Champion Jean-Michel Bayle will fulfil a role as Sporting Manager.
“It was great to be up there and it is good for the sport to be counted as part of such a cool presentation like that,” Paulin said exclusively after the ceremony for the press that also involved MotoGP, Trial and Rally HRC teams. “Finally it is something I can communicate. Many people knew… but now it is official and I was happy to be wearing the shirt.”
“I’m back with the people who first trusted me enough to provide my first set of handlebars and gave me my break,” he says. “The bike and the support comes direct from HRC now and that was the kind of package I wanted. It means the team is a bit different from when I was here in the past but many of the people are the same and in a way it feels a little bit like I never left. I speak Italian or English easily with the guys and there are no barriers.”
The presence of countryman Bayle in HRC colours on a full-time basis was thought to be one of the mitigating factors in persuading Paulin to leave the confines of KRT where he had won Grands Prix in the premier class for the past three seasons. The 24-year-old rider partially dismisses the notion. “Not really,” he relates. “We spoke together about it and we wanted to work together and the truth is that someone with his achievements and experience is really good to have as a Sport Manager.”
Paulin was originally slated to be taking part in the Lille Supercross this week (the Bercy event, temporarily relocated for 2014 as renovation work is taking place at the Palais Omnisports stadium) but the arrangement with Honda – believed to be for two seasons but not stated in the official press release – has forced a re-think. “It is not the case where I ‘cannot’ ride the supercross but the decision over Bercy was taken together with the team and I will not be racing. I’ll be working on my personal programme and also getting ready with the bike.”