Rockstar Energy Suzuki Europe launches its wide-ranging international racing season this weekend with the Grand Prix of the Netherlands; the first meeting of 16 in the FIM Motocross World Championship.
The MX2 Suzuki effort will pitch up at the Valkenswaard circuit, south of Eindhoven, with the factory-backed RM-Z250 Suzukis with new riders Harri Kullas and Petar Petrov ready to do battle.
Back to full strength after a difficult campaign in 2011 with a sole rider, the German team, that has extensive links to the factory MX1 operation, will now guide the fit and fast Finn Kullas through his third GP term while Bulgarian Petrov will undertake just his second attempt at the World Championship. Numbering 16 rounds in 15 countries, the team will negotiate the longest FIM calendar since 2005 and can anticipate trips to Mexico, Brazil and Russia as non-European events.
Kullas shone in his debut season in 2010 where he scored points in 29 of 30 motos and he continued his education throughout 2011. After finding his feet with the RM-Z250 and dominating the Frankenbach International meeting in Germany last month the 20 year old is hoping for more good form coming to Holland even if he is nursing a small back problem.
"It is great to get the GPs started again. It is quite close to my base here and especially being in the sand! I didn't have a great race in Germany last weekend and I was struggling a bit with arm-pump and also a strain in my back but I think I should be OK for Valkenswaard. It certainly helps the race is on a Monday! The bike is working very well so I'm looking forward to getting to the circuit and seeing what we can do."
Petrov was also a protagonist at Frankenbach and although he had to nurse a small hand injury, the 17 year old is excited to start the Suzuki chapter of his fledgling career. "I'm feeling pretty good about the weekend," he said. "Valkenswaard is a sandy track but one that gets so rough and rutty so for sure it will be hard work! I like the performance and the feel of the Suzuki and everything is working very well with the team. The pre-season period went OK for me. I was happy with the riding and the progression we were making to be ready for the first GP even if, for one reason or another, the results could have been a bit better. Anyway, I'm keen to go and hopeful for Monday."
The team has been working diligently on the preparation of the 2012 RM-Z250, one of the pioneers of fuel injection at the highest level. In fact, upon recent delivery of a set of fresh parts from Japan, experimentation is still on-going to ensure optimum set-up and performance for Valkenswaard.
Technical Co-ordinator Jens Johansson explains: "From the majority of our work this winter the engine and chassis have remained more-or-less the same and the set-up has been customised to the riders' preferences. We tested suspension settings over the winter but some new engine and electronic components only just arrived from Japan a few weeks ago so we are still busy now to see what further improvements we can find before the first Grand Prix."
Exciting young Spaniard Jorge Zaragoza comes into the spotlight in two weeks time at the Grand Prix of Bulgaria (Petrov's home meeting) for what will be the first of seven rounds in the European EMX125 series with the RM125.
The weather forecast for the weekend predicts cloudy and cool conditions.