Rockstar Energy Suzuki Europe will face the Grand Prix of Italy at the Maggiora circuit this weekend for the ninth round of 17 in the FIM Motocross World Championship.
With Max Anstie looking to improve on his seventh position in the MX2 standings on his RM-Z250, the trip to Italy will be an important one heading into the second half of the campaign.
A famous and historic track north of Milan; Maggiora has undergone renovations thanks to fresh investment and will look to re-establish itself as one of the premier circuits for motocross in the country. Indeed the new version of the venue is already slated for the 2015 Motocross of Nations.
On the eve of proceedings starting to build-up in Italy, team Technical Co-ordinator Jens Johansson checks-in for a few questions on the 2013 development of the factory backed RM-Z250; the motorcycle that the rest of the team, from RM85 to RM125 and the RM-Z250 used in the European EMX250 series by Jeremy Seewer, are aspiring to reach and ride.
How was it meeting the new noise regulations for 2013? Quite a challenge?
“The initial work was done by our exhaust supplier Akrapovic and when the first prototypes were ready they were sent to the SMC engineers in Japan. All of the work at the beginning was done by those two parties and when we go into it we had the information and reports from both sides and what the test riders felt. We started our testing a week after the 2012 ‘Nations with Max [Anstie]. We had that prior information from Japan, so what Max felt was pretty much what we expected. Suzuki had developed some new specs and character of the engine to make-up for the disadvantages of the new exhaust. I think after the first week of testing we had something that we were quite happy with. We then went to the U.S. to race Supercross with Max and that involved another noise regulation again because the AMA rules were at the level of 2012 Grands Prix. Still, we were able to use that time in the U.S. to work on the GP configuration and since the start of the season we have made more steps again. Especially before Valkenswaard.”
Was the pressure on because of the time limits?
“The work that Akrapovic and Suzuki had done before was really good so when we came into the equation as the race team it was only to make a couple of steps and confirm the results. What we had in Qatar and Thailand was pretty much spot-on. It was a good base and then we make some more progress before Holland. We are still working on starts right now, and of course a bit of it is down to the rider, but Julien made the top 10 of the Superfinals and Max almost had the holeshot once or twice in the opening GPs. I have a feeling we are better than we were in 2012.”
What is your level of satisfaction with the RM-Z250 under the awning now?
“I’m quite happy because the riders are pleased with how the engine works and how they can ride the bike. The response and the torque of the engine has received some really good comments and we haven’t had any fluctuations in performance. Obviously you always want a little bit more and we are working on that to try and push the limit a bit further.”
Max seems a very precise and technical rider. Has his feedback for development been good compared to riders you’ve had in the past?
“You mustn’t forget that when you work and race in MX2 then most of the riders you are dealing with are quite inexperienced. They don’t have much luggage with them in regards to testing. In October I think we did the biggest and longest continuous test for the MX2 programme since we started, then with the U.S. and also before Valkenswaard and then some more again since…I think we have tested a lot. What was good before Valkenswaard and round three was that both Max and Julien had the same ideas for the direction they wanted to go. Julien was riding in his own privateer team and didn’t have that many options before coming here and his feedback was good; such a shame with the injury. Max as well. The riders were both ready to work a lot and that’s important.”
What about the future of MX2, the costs of development and the noise regulations making the job a bit trickier?
“I think the noise regulation is a good way for the sport. I cannot speak for everybody but my personal point of view is that all manufacturers want to go this way. They know that to sell motorcycles they need to be as quiet as they can be. The bikes are still performing and it doesn’t look like anybody is going any slower, but the general noise level has gone down. Nobody is complaining any more it seems. For the future of MX1 and MX2 I think if you asked 10 different people then you would have 10 different opinions. The Superfinal idea looked a little bit strange for MX2 and riders felt they were penalised. I think MX1 should remain as one class and MX2 as another. If MX2 also has to go overseas then that is something that can be talked about and to keep costs down maybe it should just be European-based. I also think the 23-year-old age limit has outlived itself now because there are not enough paying rides in MX1 and it makes no sense to push people up and then other riders who are still 26-27 get pushed out. Teams tend to take the younger MX1 rookie out of MX2 just because he might be cheaper, and that’s not the way it should be. If we want to keep MX2 as a world championship class then the age limit should go; that would give some opportunities to both classes.”
What about some of the new GPs?
“Qatar is great for the image of the sport and Thailand is important because in terms of motorised vehicles and mobility that market is very busy…for sure we should go there. The same for Brazil and if people see opportunities in Mexico then we should travel there also. I like that, and the overseas events are definitely something that has to be a part of the calendar but maybe we should watch out that we don’t have too many GPs. A limit on the number of races would help with costs and perhaps also considering a one-day programme like the U.S.”
MX2 World Championship standings (after 8 of 17 rounds): 1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 397 points; 2. Jordi Tixier (FRA, KTM), 287 p.; 3. Jose Butron (ESP, KTM), 247 p.; 4. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), 237 p.; 5. Christophe Charlier (FRA, Yamaha), 230 p.; 6. Dean Ferris (AUS, Yamaha), 197 p.; 7. Max Anstie (GBR, Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MX1), 193 p.; 8. Jake Nicholls (GBR, KTM), 181 p.; 9. Alessandro Lupino (ITA, Kawasaki), 162 p.; 10. Dylan Ferrandis (FRA, Kawasaki), 149 p.