One of five Grand Prix winners in 2014, Monster Energy DRT’s Max Anstie can again be considered as a protagonist in the MX2 class for the coming season… even if the Brit is coping with yet another change of scene for a world championship assault.
After a term struggling with his British team’s development work on the 2014 Yamaha YZ250F, Anstie now pilots Kawasaki KX250Fs thanks to Team Principal Steve Dixon’s move away from a quarter of a century association of being ‘blue’.
For Anstie it means a return to the motorcycle with which he made his full-time GP bow back in 2011 and has bounced around Honda, Suzuki – and Yamaha – technology since.
“Every year I’ve changed bikes and that wasn’t the intention this time but I’ve got the same group around me that know what I want and how I like the settings,” he commented from his base in Catalunya and where he is riding and training with new team-mate and former European Champion Mel Pocock.
Anstie led both motos of the 2014 Qatar GP until suffering mechanical issues but took podium finishes at rounds two and three with the 2013 YZ. It was when the team returned to Europe and became prototype work on the ’14 model that he suffered with electrical problems; the glitches almost derailed his successful outing at Lommel, Belgium where he finally clinched a first ever GP win last August.
Dixon’s collaboration with motorsports tuning giants Cosworth has seemingly segued into the KX engines without any trouble. “Cosworth are very happy with the development and it should be at the same level as the Yamaha but just more reliable and stronger with more parts and possibilities,” Anstie says.
“Steve wants to make the best Kawasaki 250 that has ever been raced, that’s the goal. It is going positively and we are on the right track… although we won’t really know just how much until Qatar.”
Anstie, Herlings, Jordi Tixier, Dylan Ferrandis and Tim Gajser are the pick of a young and determined crop in MX2 with regards to the title whereas the likes of Alex Tonkov, Valentin Guillod, Jeremy Seewer, Julien Lieber, Thomas Covington and Pauls Jonass are also expected to challenge for race trophies.
The news that 2012 and ’13 champion Herlings might not be up to full fitness as he strives to recover from complications around the femur he broke last summer means that his rivals could look to steal an early march on the ruthless Dutchman come the end of February.
21-year-old Anstie – who has 2015 and ’16 to try and earn the MX2 crown before he has to move into MXGP – is staying cautious with his forecasting. “I think it [Herlings being unfit] might spark a bit of life into everyone and make for some good racing.
“Of course the championship cannot be won in the first three rounds and I don’t think the season will really start until we get back to Europe. You only have to look at what happened with Tixier last season. My aim is for consistency. Whether Jeffrey is fit or not I don’t think it will really matter because everybody will be pushing hard; Jordi has the number one plate for a reason.”
“Everyone always says ‘yeah, my off-season has been great!’ but at the end of the day I can only say that it has been a really positive time for us,” he adds when asked to dwell on what should be a fertile stage at Losail to launch his second career chapter with Kawasaki. “Qatar was great – in a way – last year and I will not go there with any added pressure but knowing that it should be possible to do what we did. However… a lot of different things could happen.”