Former factory KTM and Honda rider Rui Gonçalves has yet to give a full account of his possibilities with the MX Racing Team’s Husqvarna as the Portuguese veteran makes a recovery from concussion sustained just prior to the opening Grand Prix of the season in Qatar.
The 29 year old changed teams for the third time in three years for 2015 but the alliance with Ilario Ricci’s crew and the Austrian-birthed machinery means a link to an experienced squad and the technology with which Gonçalves enjoyed the best years of his career finishing runner-up in the 2009 MX2 championship. Now #999 just needs to find a clear run of health to refresh his reputation as a top 10 runner in the premier class.
“I’m looking for things to get better and better because just before Qatar I had a big crash and I’m coming back to 100 per cent,” he said. “It is not new to anybody that this bike is similar to one that I rode in 2013. It was always much easier to set up and it is a brand that I worked with a lot in the past and knew well. It is easier to find the good settings and the team work really hard for me.”
Gonçalves is the longest-serving rider in Grand Prix having started his career back in 2001 and used that experience to test continually with the Dixon Racing Team Yamaha in 2014.
Limited means took him to 11th in the championship and he only failed to post points in just four of the 34 motos that season. “The goal is always to go faster and find the best settings to do that. Last year with the Yamaha we did a lot of testing and we were always searching for new things,” he explains. “We were not a factory team though and at one stage you just run out of options. The bike was pretty good but sometimes we’d struggle with the power of it and didn’t have many options with the electronics to work on that.”
Gonçalves’ stock has diminished in recent seasons as injuries have taken their toll but the opportunity with Ricci and Husqvarna represents the best chance for him to prove that he can still be competitive in MXGP and trouble the leading group, even if the 2015 pack is one of the hardest to penetrate.
“There isn’t a magic thing that you can hit every Sunday morning and say ‘I’m ready for it’,” he admitted. “The competition is really high at the moment and this year [especially] a little bit more. You can struggle sometimes but I have done a good job during the winter and it should start to pay off soon.”