The 2009 motocross campaign cranked into life for the Teka Suzuki WMX1 team on Sunday as the Starcross International at Mantova in Italy once again opened the international calendar after the winter break.
A soggy sandy surface at the Grand Prix venue proved a tough first test for a large majority of World Championship regulars and RM-Z450 pilots Ken de Dycker and Steve Ramon steadily flexed their competitive muscles with fourth and sixth positions overall after three motos.
The Italian fixture has traditionally been a meeting in which the top riders could banish any off-season rustiness, and while hardly an indication of what results may come, the race does represent the commencement of activities for the season.
For the potent Teka squad, Mantova signified the first sprint in a busy spell of races prior to the first Grand Prix of 16 in the 2009 FIM series.
De Dycker - a Grand Prix winner in 2008, his first term with the team - went 2-16-6 in the three Mantova motos for his overall standing; a double slip in the second race ruining any shot of a podium place. 2007 MX1 World Champion Ramon cautiously came up to speed with finishes of 7-6-5.
Said Team Manager Eric Geboers "Obviously we would have been pleased if our riders could have won at Mantova but with it being the first race of the year it was not something we absolutely expected. It has been a tough winter period in Europe and I could see that a lot of riders still have some work to do and people are behind schedule a little. Our guys will improve from this showing and so will everyone else."
Geboers also revealed that the team are awaiting their race machinery for 2009 and will arrive in a matter of weeks. "We made some very good tests towards the end of last year and now we have just three weeks until we receive our 2009 technology. We have a busy programme up until the first Grand Prix."
The Teka-backed factory team will contest several more International events - in Belgium, France and the UK as well as being committed to two rounds of the Italian Championship - over the next six weeks before the opening round of the FIM World Championship takes place on March 29th at Faenza in Italy.
"The first two races of the World Championship will take place on hard-pack tracks so doing the Italian series was part of the plan to get in the best shape possible for when the season begins in earnest," Geboers added.
As Constructors World Champions, the team, with their fettled and fuel-injected RM-Z450s, will be looking to defend their title and push on to regain the Riders crown that they grasped in 2007.