Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MX1 starts its 2012 FIM Motocross World Championship campaign this weekend with the Grand Prix of the Netherlands at the sandy Valkenswaard circuit; the first of 16 rounds in 15 countries.
Steering the factory RM-Z450 Suzuki after a promising pre-season period of testing and international race appearances will be Clement Desalle and Tanel Leok. The former will start his third season with the Belgian team and third campaign in which he is expected to be a contender for the MX1 title. It will be the ninth year of the class and Suzuki has claimed the rider's crown on one occasion with Steve Ramon in 2007.
Leok will make his debut as part of the works crew but came into the team at the end of 2011 as a 'known quantity' having received technical support on his impressive maiden term in 2004. The Estonian is 26 years old but already has immense experience at the sharp end of the sport and has ridden at least five different motorcycles in his MX1 career.
Desalle will be mindful of the shallow and bumpy Valkenswaard sand this weekend. Although the Belgian is 100% fit and comes into the holiday fixture having claimed moto victories in France and the UK, the Dutch terrain south of Eindhoven has not always been friendly: In 2010 he dislocated a shoulder while in 2011 he rode to a solid fifth position - the only event from the first six of that season where he didn't finish on the podium. Still only 22, Desalle has no problem in accepting the now annual position and status of being a major Championship contender. "Another year and I am getting more experience in trying to fight for a Championship," he said. "If I have learned anything it is that something always happens throughout a season and the most important strategy is to aim for being consistent. Sometimes you have to remind yourself that the series is long and there are many motos to go. I feel good on the bike, we have a nice setting; and I knew from the race at Hawkstone Park that we were more-or-less ready for the sand. I won't be going too crazy this weekend. I just want to start the season in the right way and try to keep at a high level."
Nerves and eagerness are bound to be mitigating factors for many of the MX1 and MX2 protagonists for the opening event that takes place on Monday with practice and qualification on Sunday. Dealing with the wavy sand will be another major obstacle through the two 35 minute and two-lap Grand Prix motos. "It is a strange track and it can upset the bike a little bit because some parts are hard and it depends where the bumps are and how you hit them," Desalle says. "The conditions are the same for everyone though."
Leok is struggling for peak fitness after missing several weeks of riding with an ankle problem and is currently nursing a small arm infection in the wake of a subsequent rigorous period of activity. The typically hard-charging former GP winner is considering the challenge ahead. "I haven't ridden as much as I'd like. After missing some time with my ankle I perhaps then pushed a bit too hard on the bike and I'm nursing a small infection in my arm at the moment," he admitted. "I'll be as fit as I can for the weekend but I think it will be tough anyway because it is the first Grand Prix and normally a tense meeting. I like Valkenswaard but it gets rough and there are quite a lot of jumps for a sandy track."
Suzuki last won at Valkenswaard when Ken De Dycker owned both motos in 2008 but the team's ties of success go back more than three decades before that victory when current GRP owner and Team Principal Sylvain Geboers claimed the 250cc Grand Prix on a Suzuki in 1974.
The weather forecast for the weekend predicts cloudy and cool conditions.