2008 has been exciting so far for the factory Suzuki MX1 team who welcomed aboard a new title sponsor this year and were renamed as the Teka Suzuki WMX1 team.
The German-based company produce high quality stainless steel products and equipment for kitchens and bathrooms and as one of the leaders in their field wanted to join forces with the leading motorcycle manufacturer and leading team in the FIM MX1 Motocross World Championship to help promote the Teka brand globally.
"The Teka Group was founded over 80 years ago in Germany and has expanded not only in the number of countries where we work but also in the product lines we offer," explained Teka spokesperson Cecile Kaufhold. "We are producing high quality stainless steel products and equipment for industrial or home kitchens as well as for bathrooms.
"The reason why the Teka Group is involved in the sport is easy to explain. The brand name Teka is very famous in countries like Spain and Portugal but unfortunately not in the other European countries. Therefore we wanted to make the brand name Teka more common for everybody.
"The bosses of GRP, the managing director of Teka KÃ¼chentechnik GmbH and the Managing Director of Suzuki International Europe came together with the aim to support the Teka Suzuki WMX1 riders in the best possible way. The reason behind this is that they respect and admire the professional work of each other. The common base for GRP and Teka is sustainable, long-lasting and solid products based on a wide knowledge in technology development. Our products are dedicated to reach men in achieving their goals with high-performance material. Therefore motorsport and the creation or manufacturing of our product range are fitting perfectly together."
As well as working with a new title sponsor in 2008, the Sylvain Geboers owned and managed race team welcomed a new rider - Ken de Dycker - to the fold to race alongside their reigning MX1 World Champion Steve Ramon. Armed with perfectly prepared factory Suzuki RM-Z450 WS race machines both Ramon and De Dycker would soon make their presence felt.
Round one of the MX1 World Championship was held in Valkenswaard, Holland underneath grey skies. Heavy rain fall in the run up to the event would ensure conditions would be deep and heavy which played into the hands of De Dycker who dominated the day's racing. While Ken went 1-1, Ramon's defense of his title started well too as he finished right behind his team-mate in second place overall with a 3-4 scorecard.
Heavy rain meant only one moto was run at round two of the championship in Bellpuig, Spain as the MX1 riders made the wise decision to not start moto two in the very difficult and dangerous conditions. With the overall being decided on the results of the first moto Ramon - who had dominated with his fuel-injected machine in the deep slop - took his first ever MX1 GP overall win while De Dycker took third overall - after charging from the back of the pack - to hold on to the MX1 series lead ahead of Ramon.Just one week later and the conditions couldn't have been any different as bright blue skies and high temperatures greeted the MX1 contenders in Agueda, Portugal. The Portuguese round of the series was a bad one for the Suzuki riders as De Dycker struggled all day long with a sore and blistered hand and was only able to score seven points. Ramon's day was much better by comparison although his 6-4 finishes were quite below par for the Belgian rider as he struggled with leg cramps that would affect him for much of the season ahead. Maintaining second in the series - although now behind Italian rider David Philippaerts - Ramon was confident he could improve his placing heading into round four of the series in Bulgaria.
The fast hillside Sevlievo circuit saw changing weather conditions that ensured the first moto would be run in dry dusty conditions while moto two would be a slick rain affected affair. Ramon's consistent 5-3 finishes would place him fourth overall on the day while the still subdued De Dycker finished 10th overall to consolidate his fifth place in the standings.
De Dycker bounced back to top form in the Italian Grand Prix held at the sandy supercross style circuit of Mantova. Runner-up in race one Ken battled from 10th to fifth in moto two that was held in a heavy rain shower that made passing particularly difficult to finish fourth overall and elevate himself to the same position in the series standings. Ramon meanwhile had a tough weekend in Mantova running 6-9 but still held second in the series.
The team's fortunes turned around briefly at the British GP held at Mallory Park as De Dycker and Ramon finished 1-2 in the first moto. Amazingly De Dycker had powered through the pack from a second turn fall and only snatched the lead from his team-mate two corners from the finish. Race two would also see the Suzuki team-mates finish next to each other on the track although this time back in sixth and seventh as De Dycker struggled to come through the pack after a bad start and Ramon continued to struggle with cramping legs.
Round seven of the series was held at the spectacular hillside Saint Jean d'Angely circuit in France where Ramon was in race winning form once more. As he powered away from the pack in moto one to a commanding lead a loose rock rolled into the World Champion's path causing him to crash heavily on the fast hardpack circuit. Only able to remount and finish 11th in moto one, a race two third ensured Steve narrowed the points gap between himself and the series leader with the gap now down to just six points. De Dycker meanwhile had a tough day finishing seventh overall after suffering the consequences of a huge crash that cut his arm causing lasting nerve damage.
Ramon stepped closer to the MX1 series lead in Teutschenhal at the Grand Prix of Germany by finishing second in moto one. Just four points shy of the series lead most of Steve's hard work was unraveled by a moto two crash that left the factory Suzuki bent and battered. Working hard to score three points in moto two Ramon remained second in the series but the gap between himself and the leader was now much larger. De Dycker finished the day second overall with a fantastic 4-2 scorecard in the amphitheatre like setting of the German circuit.
Rain in Sweden made the Uddevalla circuit a sloppy one-line mess for the ninth round of the MX1 series. This however didn't stop Ramon from riding brilliantly to beat Philippaerts in both motos on his way to a 3-3 scorecard that saw the Belgian rider stand in second place on the podium. De Dycker meanwhile had a tougher time and was only able to manage a pair of eighth place finishes. He lost time as he stopped for fresh goggles in moto one as the sloppy sand jammed his roll-off system and then struggled with sore eyes and blurred vision in moto two due to the damage caused by riding without goggles briefly in the opening gambit.
Round 10 of the series saw the MX1 contenders travel to the only overseas race of 2008 in South Africa. A quite tight and technical circuit in Nelspruit awaited the riders and it's one that seemed to suit Ramon as he dominated qualifying and then moto one too in fine style. Falling sick between motos Ramon bravely toughed out the second race but his race pace suffered and he was only able to manage an eighth place finish. Despite feeling sick and his results suffering as a result Steve still managed to take one point out of Philippaerts series lead and the gap now sat at 11. De Dycker's day in SA wasn't great as he struggled to find good lines and didn't feel comfortable on the bike. Finally finishing the day eighth overall Ken was confident he could turn his results around at the next round of the series in Belgium.
The Belgian Grand Prix is always a special occasion for the Teka Suzuki WMX1 team and this year's race was even more so as not only was it promoted by Team Manager Eric Geboers but it was also held at the Lommel circuit that is situated extremely close to the team's base. This year's Belgian GP would prove to be a very special occasion for the team as despite taking more falls on race day than he'd care to remember Steve Ramon finally took hold of the MX1 series lead and the red plate that goes with it. While Ramon's 4-5 scorecard was far from exceptional the Belgian two-time World Champion was pleased to finally take the lead in the championship - something he's worked so hard for all year. De Dycker took second overall with a pair of third place finishes to not only solidify his fourth place in the championship but also close in on the third place rider.
The 12th round of the MX1 World Motocross Championship was held on the fast and exciting Loket circuit in the Czech Republic. Proudly displaying the red series leader's red number plate on his factory RM-Z 450 Ramon fought hard for a pair of fourth place finishes on a circuit that's far from being his favourite. De Dycker meanwhile made up for a disappointing first moto eighth by scything through the field to third from way outside the top 10.
Fairyhouse race course near Dublin in Ireland hosted the 13th round of the series. This proved to be a good event for the Teka Suzuki WMX1 team riders as they finished second and third overall with both riders strengthening their position in the championship. Ramon finished third overall on the day but most importantly of all took two precious points from Philippaerts lead while De Dycker turned a moto win and a third place into second overall and in doing so took over third place in the MX1 series standings.
With just two rounds of the MX1 World Championship left to run in the Netherlands and Italy over the next couple of weekends everything's to play for as Philippaerts holds a slender five point lead over Ramon while De Dycker's third just 27 points behind and ready to strike if either of the leading pair suffer a bad race or DNF.
World Championship standings (after 13 of 15 rounds): 1 David Philippaerts (Yamaha - ITA) 441 points, 2 Steve Ramon (Suzuki - BEL) 436, 3 Ken De Dycker (Suzuki - BEL) 414, 4 Jonathan Barragan (KTM - ESP) 389, 5 Josh Coppins (Yamaha - NZL) 382, 6 Sebastien Pourcel (Kawasaki - FRA) 371, 7 Max Nagl (KTM - GER) 356, 8 Tanel Leok (Kawasaki - EST) 322, 9 Billy MacKenzie (Honda - GB) 293, 10 Clement Desalle (Suzuki - BEL) 235
Manufacturer World Championship standings (after 13 of 15 rounds): 1 Yamaha 507 points, 2 Suzuki 504, 3 KTM 481, 4 Kawasaki 467, 5 Honda 398, 6 TM 33, 7 Aprilia 12.