Geboers Racing Promotions has confirmed the services of Kevin Strijbos for the next two years as Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MXGP prepare for its home Grand Prix of Belgium this weekend in the sand of Lommel.
The 14th round of 18 in the 2015 FIM Motocross World Championship will take place at the demanding circuit a few kilometres from the team’s workshop and from where Strijbos and the factory crew will attempt the 2016 and 2017 MXGP series together.
Strijbos has enjoyed the best years of his career racing for Suzuki. The association began in 2002 with an RM125, progressed to an RM250 in 2003 and then on four-stroke RM-Z technology from 2004-2007 where he posted the factory’s first 450cc Grand Prix victory and finished as runner-up twice in the premier class of the world championship. Strijbos returned to the team in 2013 and was third in MXGP in 2014 as well as winning a moto at the Motocross of Nations. Now 29 years old, the Belgian is arguably at the peak of his fitness and experience and posted three podium results since his return from wrist and thumb injury earlier this season.
“In the end it was not a hard decision to stay with the team and a group of people that I have grown up with,” #22 said. “The guys all work so well and so hard and know me and what I need. The bike is so competitive and I’ve been able to make it mine in the last couple of seasons. I’m settled and I’m happy. I’m looking forward to doing the best I can in the next two years.”
With his future confirmed Strijbos can look ahead to his home event this weekend at Lommel and the swallowing sand saw the veteran take fifth position in 2014. “It is strange but every time we go to Lommel I struggle to get a good feeling there,” he admitted. “It is a hard GP for me even if I am a good sand rider! Lommel is something special. We’ve done some tests over there and I want to have good starts and not push too much in the beginning like I did last year. It would be great if I can be on the podium in Belgium.”
The team and the whole Suzuki effort clock laps through the winter at Lommel; a renowned track they use as a tough testing base. The sapping terrain might be a tougher prospect now for Strijbos’ team-mate Clement Desalle. The Belgian took an invigorating third place on his return from a knee injury last weekend in the Czech Republic but Lommel will be a different set of conditions compared to the hard-pack of Loket. “I don’t know how it will be, but difficult for sure,” he said. “I will do my best and try to have fun. Everybody knows that even when you are 100% a sand GP like Lommel is difficult! I’ll take it with a smile.”
Rockstar Energy Suzuki Europe duo Glenn Coldenhoff and Jeremy Seewer will have varying approaches to the Belgian fixture. The last time MXGP went into a surface with a sandy consistency (Kegums in Latvia) Coldenhoff took his first win in the category with two sharp starts and superb speed. The Dutchman knows a spotlight will be on his #259 RM-Z450 to see if he can again be one of the leaders at Lommel. “I’ve seen a lot of guys riding there in the last few weeks and I think [Gautier] Paulin and [Romain] Febvre will be strong,” he said before giving his own surprising view on the Belgian course. “I actually don’t like the layout of the track at Lommel. I think it is ready for a change. I don’t like it to be honest but I hadn’t ridden it much before I went there to practice in the last couple of weeks and I was feeling good. We’ll see.”
Seewer on the other hand is eager to get his teeth into the challenge. The 21-year-old Swiss turned full Pro this time last year when he finished his studies and for the first time in his career was able to dedicate a winter of training and preparation based around the sand. The #91 hiked his pace and efficiency to a new level and is now keen to see what results he can post, while keeping one eye on the MX2 world championship standings where he sits just 30 points away from second place.
“I feel pretty good about Lommel,” he says. “We had a good sand race at Tensfeld in the ADAC. Maybe a podium will be difficult because there are some guys who are really at home in the sand but top five will be the goal as well as getting a comfortable feeling. I practiced a lot in the winter in the sand and probably ride 80 per cent of my training motos also; I think that will pay-off there. It is hard work but if you find a good flow you can also enjoy it. You always need to try and find the fun side of it.”
Rockstar Energy Suzuki Europe will also be joined by EMX250 European Championship racers Brian Hsu and Bas Vaessen for the eighth round of nine in the series. Hsu posted his first victory on the RM-Z250 last time out three weeks ago in Latvia and Vaessen was also running with the leaders for the first time this season. The young Dutchman is sure to be competitive once more at Lommel.
The weather forecast for the weekend predicts bright and sunny conditions for race day.
MXGP World Championship Standings (after 13 of 18 rounds): 1. Romain Febvre (FRA, YAM), 507 points; 2. Gautier Paulin (FRA, HON), 419 p.; 3. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 416 p.; 4. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, HON), 389 p.; 5. Maximilian Nagl (GER, HUS), 360 p.; 6. Clement Desalle (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), 331 p.; 7. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), 306 p.; 8. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, YAM), 294 p.; 9. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), 266 p.; 10. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), 257 p.
MX2 World Championship Standings (after 13 of 18 rounds): 1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 423 points; 2. Tim Gajser (SLO, HON), 399 p.; 3. Valentin Guillod (SUI, YAM), 399 p.; 4. Pauls Jonass (LAT, KTM), 389 p.; 5. Jordi Tixier (FRA, KAW), 370 p.; 6. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), 369 p.; 7. Max Anstie (GBR, KAW), 337 p.; 8. Julien Lieber (BEL, YAM), 305 p.; 9. Aleksandr Tonkov (RUS, HUS), 256 p.; 10. Benoit Paturel (FRA, YAM), 236 p.
EMX250 European Championship Standings (after 6 of 9 rounds): 1. Nick Kouwenberg (NED, HON), 255 points; 2. Damon Graulus (BEL, YAM), 240 p.; 3. Adam Sterry (GBR, KTM), 222 p.; 4. Maxime Desprey (FRA, KAW), 217 p.; 5. Brian Hsu (GER, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), 169 p.; 6. Ander Valentin (ESP, YAM), 154 p.; 7. Alvin Östlund (SWE, YAM), 146 p.; 8. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, KTM), 132 p.; 9. Steven Clarke (GBR, HUS), 118 p.; 10. Simone Zecchina (ITA, KAW), 112 p.; 18. Bas Vaessen (NED, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), 56 p.