2014 was an abortive and forgettable first season for former world champion Tyla Rattray in the premier MXGP class but the 29-year-old South African has the right tools and environment from the Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team to make a deeper impression this summer.
Rattray, like many of his peers, is coming to Qatar in a buoyant mood. The ex-AMA race winner is not phased by his lack of pre-season action – which is the same situation for team-mate Ryan Villopoto (although Rattray did attempt the wet and muddy Valence international in France two weeks ago before deciding not to take any risks) – and believes the late winter weather in Europe is hardly conducive to beneficial preparation for Grand Prix.
“I feel good. I’ve been working hard for four months in the U.S. so I know my fitness is not a problem,” he says. “It is always good to do one or two [events] before the first GP but I’m not worried because I raced for five years in the U.S. and we didn’t have any warm-ups there; when we got in the gate it was serious and ‘time to go’.
“There was never a race that didn’t mean anything. So it doesn’t bother me too much, especially because I don’t think people got that much from the Internationals this year. From what I saw they were snowy, frozen, foggy or washed out and we are due to go from those conditions to 27 degrees and night and then more heat in Thailand.”
Without injury problems – a broken thumb, finger and concussion in 2014 alone – Rattray simply has to be counted among the large group of athletes going for MXGP podiums. He is back on KX450F technology and with copious Kawasaki support; the brand with whom he struck up a strong rapport in the USA from 2009 up until his departure at the end of 2013 when briefly rode for Husqvarna.
“It has been a solid off-season with a lot of riding hours,” Rattray assessed after lapping with Villopoto as a gauge for his speed. “You can always make improvements and you can test every day if you want to but you have to draw the line somewhere.
“The guys at KRT have worked really hard and are expecting big things from Ryan and myself. I cannot wait to begin. My last GP was Lommel in August so it has been a while since I’ve been in proper race conditions.”
“MXGP is stacked,” he feels. “There are a lot of good guys and solid riders. With Ryan in there then it is going to attract more attention pretty much everywhere. It is going to be an exciting season.”