The FIM MXGP Motocross World Championship will kick off in Argentina at the beginning of March and the Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team is ready in its new livery to push for victory in 2018.
After a five-month break everyone is now preparing to jet out to South America where the 2018 MXGP World Championship will be launched on March 3/4 at Neuquen in the Patagonia region of Argentina. The factory KX450-SR race machines are ready to be shipped in a few days, and Clement Desalle will enter his sole pre-season race at Lacapelle Marival in France this weekend while new team-mate Julien Lieber continues to train in southern France.
Forced to sit out the final two GPs last season due to injury, Desalle narrowly missed a top three world ranking after a strong season, but his second year with the Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team was a good one with two GP victories and several podiums. In the wake of their experience working together through the last two years the Belgian rider and the team, aided by the strong partnership with the Japanese engineers and those at the Kawasaki Motors Corporation in the USA, have established a close relationship to set up the bike perfectly for the rider and everyone in the team is confident that the 2018 set-up will deliver even more success.
“We worked mainly on details concerning both the engine and the chassis with KHI, KMC and our technical partners,” explained team manager Francois Lemariey. “The relationship with Japan grows stronger every year, and we are pleased to see that the engineers give us more and more support. Clement is very happy with the result – he had a strong winter and we are optimistic for the season.”
The Belgian leader narrowly missed a top three series ranking last year, but he recovered quickly from the broken vertebra which brought his season to a premature close and was already able to start his preparation in November. New team-mate Julien Lieber had to wait a little longer before testing his new bike as the young hopeful recovered from a knee injury – back on the bike in January, Julien has skipped the pre-season races to focus on the MXGP season and will make his debut for Kawasaki in Argentina.
It will be the first time that the MXGP series has started in South America – the championship will visit 19 venues in 15 countries on three continents between March and the final round at Imola in northern Italy on September 29/30.
“I had a very good winter preparation with no injuries and have been able to train in good conditions in southern Spain,” said Desalle. “I was back on the bike in November and we had enough time to work with the team on the bike – there are no big changes but a lot of delicate fine-tuning, mainly to the chassis. I’m very happy with the results and have a very good feeling with the KX450-SR.
“My season will start this weekend with the Lacapelle International – it was our choice not to contest too many races as the season will be long enough. I’m totally focused on the world championship, and I’m happy to start the season in Argentina as it’s a nice country and a nice track – the goal this season will be to perform well in each round.”
Julien Lieber: “I’ve been back on a bike for three weeks and the feeling with the KX450-SR is better day after day. The first week I used a production bike as I had a four months break due to my knee surgery. It was the best way to ease back into riding and after that week I jumped on the factory bike – I must say that the first sessions were not easy as this bike is so much more powerful, but we worked with the team on the settings to adapt the bike to my riding style and we have found a very good set-up.
“It was not my first experience on a 450 as I did some sand races a couple of years ago and I really love this class. We skipped the pre-season races as I was not ready to go racing so soon after returning to riding, but I’m confident for Argentina – it was better to focus on our tests and my training.”
Steve Guttridge commented: “The start of an MXGP season is always filled with anticipation and excitement. For Kawasaki we add to this the confidence that KRT will approach the 2018 Championship with two well-respected and strong riders in Clement Desalle and Julien Lieber. It’s always tough in the premier class but we are sure KRT will push for success on the factory KX450-SR and deliver good times to Kawasaki fans around the world.”