The FIM MX1 Motocross World Championship cranks back into life this weekend with round four of 15 taking place at the Eurocircuit in Valkenswaard in Holland for the Grand Prix of Benelux.
For Teka Suzuki WMX1 it is a 'semi-home GP' with their base in Lommel only a short drive away across the border. The event had originally opened the series for the past two years and holds pleasant and fresh memories for the squad as Ken De Dycker dominated proceedings across the sandy terrain 12 months ago for his second Grand Prix win with the RM-Z450 and his first double-moto set.
With the Netherlands enjoying a recent good spell of weather, the ruts, bumps and technical difficulty of the Eurocircuit is unlikely to be complicated by rain and a rougher surface. Nevertheless the physical demands of the track - and on the bikes themselves -will mean that the GP of Benelux will be one of the harder meetings of the year.
De Dycker and Steve Ramon approach the race reinvigorated after a week's break in the aftermath of three consecutive Grands Prix that saw the team travel to Italy and then east to Bulgaria and Turkey. There has been an RM-Z450, now with second-generation fuel injection, on each of those world championship podiums, with De Dycker earning two trophies to stand second in the points table while Ramon sampled his first rostrum appearance at Istanbul and is currently sixth in the MX1 ranking.
De Dycker enters the Grand Prix as favourite, courtesy of his emphatic display in 2008 that saw him take both chequered flags by considerable margins. The Belgian's prowess through the sand is well known and the 24 year old will be relishing a re-acquaintance with the terrain after three Grand Prix on traditionally hard-pack courses. He has not ridden since Istanbul due to a back muscle complaint but will be fully fit for the weekend. "It is going to be a different track this year," De Dycker commented. "2008 was about heavy ruts and difficult line situations but this time it will be fast, hard with small bumps. It is still a GP that is close to home and that lends a little bit extra. I will have to be focussed all weekend and just do my thing and hope it works.
"There is not much difference with it being the fourth GP compared to the first, as in the past," he added. "We all have a few motos under our belts and I think it will be more open."
Ramon spent the weekend contesting - and winning - the first round of the German championship at Drehna. The motos provided the Belgian with good preparation for the Grand Prix ahead. "The track was a lot like Valkenswaard and we had two days there, with two long motos on Sunday," he recounted. "There were not many good riders there so the races were quite easy but we were able to work to a set-up on what was a heavy track, which we will use in the first sessions in Holland.
"I was happy with my first podium of the year; my speed was good and there was cause to feel pleased with how things are going," he added, concerning his second position in Turkey. "The terrain will be drier and faster this weekend and I hope for more of the same results."
Valkenswaard will also see the inauguration of the 'Teka Station', a brand new and impressive hospitality unit; a result of the collaboration between the team, their title sponsor and the recent alliance with Red Bull.
Before action begins, the team will first engage in some promotion activities for their home Grand Prix, set to take place on August 2nd at Lommel - a stone's throw from their workshop - with a press conference and photo opportunities for national and international media occurring on Wednesday and Thursday.
MX1 Championship (Top 10): 1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, Yamaha), 98 points; 2. Ken De Dycker (BEL, Teka Suzuki WMX1), 94 p.; 3. David Philippaerts (ITA, Yamaha), 88 p.; 4. Joshua Coppins (NZL, Yamaha), 85 p.; 5. Jonathan Barragan (ESP, KTM), 83 p.; 6. Steve Ramon (BEL, Teka Suzuki WMX1), 78 p.; 7. Tanel Leok (EST, Yamaha), 73 p.; 8. Maximilian Nagl (GER, KTM), 73 p.; 9. Clement Desalle (BEL, Honda), 61 p.; 10. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Honda), 50 p.