The FIM Motocross World Championship will retain some needed American presence for the rest of 2014 and 2015 as CLS Monster Energy Kawasaki have brokered a deal to keep 17-year-old talent Thomas Covington on a KX250F in the MX2 class.
Covington, who was set to make his last appearance in the FIM series this weekend in Italy for round four of 18 and the Grand Prix of Trentino, has been operating out of the factory Monster Energy Kawasaki squad for his first GP events in Qatar, Thailand and Brazil.
He was set to return to the U.S. to start preparations for his first AMA Pro National event at Glen Helen on May 24 as part of Mitch Payton’s Pro Circuit crew.
At Beto Carrero last week Covington was entertaining the notion of finishing the ’14 Grand Prix term for extra experience and will then be one of a young pack eying the 2015 MX2 title with double world champion and dominator of the class Jeffrey Herlings set to move to MXGP along with seven other riders at the top of the MX2 leaderboard.
An agreement has now been reached with the French set-up where Covington will join Arnaud Tonus and Dylan Ferrandis in the 250cc ranks. Tonus and team-mate Lupino have to leave the class in 2015 due to reaching the 23 year age ceiling. But Lupino will make the step up early as he completes the remainder of this season on the 450.
CLS team owner, Jean Jacques Luisetti explained: “We offered Alessandro [Lupino] the possibility to start next weekend [in Italy] riding a 450; it’s a good opportunity for him to show what he can do in this class and I’m sure that his smooth riding style will suit our 450 perfectly.”
This means for 2015 Kawasaki will have a potent partnership of Ferrandis – who has already impressed with his speed and tenacity this season – and the teenager from Alabama.
“It was a pretty big decision and I had to talk about it with my parents for a while before we decided to go for it,” Covington said. “It was a good chance to do something different.”
Covington burst to prominence at the 2014 season opener by taking third position in the second moto under the Losail lights. Since then he has found GP racing pretty tough. Some set-up problems in Thailand pushed him down to 11th while a crash and then a DNF in Brazil was the low point so far. He now has to adapt quickly to his new team staff and a temporary new home.
“I got the first flight that was available after we decided to go for it,” the promising former amateur racer commented from Amsterdam. “I’ll be based close to the workshop here in Holland but Tommy Searle [team-mate in the MXGP class] also offered me a place to stay. The plan is to do some testing and get as ready as we possibly can for Italy where we’ll start to look for good results.”
“I am so stoked to be on the Monster Energy CLS Kawasaki team! I know they have great bikes as Tonus and Ferrandis are sitting first and third in the series. I’ve been on Kawasaki since I was 8 years old so it’s great to continue the relationship with Kawasaki and Monster Energy.
“It was like a dream to score a podium result in Qatar; for sure the next races were not as good but that didn’t affect my motivation. I’d like to thanks KRT who offered me a ride for the first few GPs, but now I’m impatient to be in Italy where I will race for the first time with the CLS Kawasaki.”
“We are of course very pleased to welcome Thomas, who raced with us last year in England,” said Jean-Jacques Luisetti in the official Kawasaki press release and referring to Covington’s visit for the European EMX250 series in 2013. “There was an opportunity to sign him for 2014 and 2015, and we couldn’t miss it; with him and Dylan we’ll have two very talented kids with us next season.”
Concerning British pilot Tommy Searle, Luisetti said: “He has never stopped training physically, and we expect to see him back in Holland or Spain; Thomas will be based with him in England, and when Tommy returns to racing we’ll have two riders in the MX1 class thanks to Kawasaki and all our partners.”
Thomas’ father, Mitch Covington said about the big move: “I am really proud of Thomas for deciding to stay and compete for a World Title for the next two years. Not many American riders with a Pro Circuit contract in hand would leave the comforts of home, but Thomas loves the thrill of the crowds around the world and knows he can go back home and do well with a good showing here for the next few years.
“The team and family over at KRT took great care of Thomas and that made the transition and the decision to stay a lot easier Kawasaki USA, Team Green and Pro Circuit have guided him all the way and we could not have asked for better partners on this long journey to get to this level. The other big help to get us here was Traxxas RC Cars; the owner Mike Jenkins has been a great friend to Thomas since his mini days and Thomas will always be a Traxxas guy. Thomas did not get here on his own – he had lots of help and guidance. Oh well, MXGPs here we come!”
The Monster KRT Team owner, Thierry Chizat Suzzoni commented: “It has been a pleasure to have Thomas with us, but the deal was to help him just for the first few GPs. As we are focused on the MXGP class it was not possible to keep him for all the season, and it’s great to see that he loves the GPs and will stay with Kawasaki.”