2016 MXGP runner-up, Motocross of Nations MXGP class winner at Maggiora and still the most successful rider in the premier class in the last decade, Red Bull KTM’s Tony Cairoli claims that the recently finished FIM Motocross World Championship campaign was one of his worst.
Despite three Grand Prix wins (joint second best with Romain Febvre) and eight podium appearances on two different types of motorcycle this season Cairoli failed to wear the red plate as series leader on at least one occasion for the second year in a row.
The aggression and form of Tim Gajser and Febvre – who picked up Cairoli’s crown when the Sicilian was injured at the mid-season point in 2015 – as well as experimentation with 2017 and 2018 prototype parts on both 350SX-F and 450cc machinery, not to mention a pre-season crash that left him nursing broken ribs and facing a slow recovery from nerve damage to his shoulder and neck, meant that the recently turned 31-year-old faced a term of adversity.
“This year I am second and I am not riding at even 70 per cent,” he said by way of explanation but also fortification for 2017. “I think my speed was lower than before: with the injuries I Iost some confidence and speed. This year was one of my worst for riding and I felt very bad watching myself on videos and stuff – it wasn’t really me that I was seeing. I can still pull the pin and will be more prepared and more focussed next year.”
Cairoli veered between the 350 and 450 in search of that confidence and feeling. He settled on the 450SX-F and KTM are testing in the coming weeks to be more advanced with their work for 2017. “I struggled in the beginning of the season with the 450,” Cairoli admits. “We moved to the 350 and that was good for me mentally because I knew the bike but it was not competitive enough so we went back to the 450. We will have another winter now to understand the bike.”
Red Bull KTM will again consist of Cairoli and team-mate Glen Coldenhoff in MXGP next year from within the De Carli-helmed faction of the squad. Dirk Gruebel will oversee Jeffrey Herlings’s first season in the premier class (on a 450SX-F) alongside MX2 athletes Pauls Jonass and Jorge Prado.