FIM MX2 World Champion Jordi Tixier is hoping to shirk his reputation as a ‘slow’ season starter in defence of his crown this year in what will be his first Grand Prix term on Japanese machinery and in the confines of the works Monster Energy CLS Kawasaki team.

With 2012 and 2013 world champion and former Red Bull KTM team-mate Jeffrey Herlings struggling for fitness – and allegedly as yet unable to ride his 250SX-F – Tixier is in a prime position to cause some early damage and continue his winning streak from the final round of 2014 where a memorable Mexican GP success led to his title victory by just four points over the injured Dutchman.

The 22-year-old Frenchman has been lethargic in the 2013 and 2014 world championship launches taking sixth and eighth positions in the two Qatari Grands Prix to-date and failing to register a podium finish until round five of the ’14 campaign and the third race of 2013.

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The question for many MXGP fans is ‘will the same Jordi Tixier that finished 2014 so strongly turn up in Qatar?’ Speaking in France the champion said: “I hope so! I’m working on it. Last winter I made a mistake with my training. I was riding too many motos and not enough sprints and it affected my pace at the start.

“This time I have changed and I am more focussed on bringing up my speed. Physically I know I am not so bad and I want to be up front from the beginning but I know that it is also a bit better to start slow and finish fast instead of the other way around.”

A practice crash and a sore back meant that Tixier needed a recent spell away from the saddle but the pre-season event at Hawstone Park brought an excellent return with two MX2 victories. Tixier also ran very close to the 450 Suzuki’s of Strijbos and Desalle in the Superfinal, giving him a third-place finish in the combined MX1 and MX2 race.

See also: Jordi Tixier Hawkstone International interview (video)

As the first rider to wear the number one plate in MX2 since countryman Marvin Musquin in 2010 Tixier knows he has the potential to deal an early GP blow to rival and friend Herlings.

“My goal has to be to take as many points as possible because he [Herlings] will only get stronger and stronger as the races go on. I know I need to be consistent and try not to crash!”

Tixier forms a potent French partnership at CLS this season with Dylan Ferrandis. American Thomas Covington is the third rider in the crew that will concentrate solely on the MX2 division in 2015 after two years also running a KX450F for the now departed Tommy Searle.

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