Team Suzuki Press Office – March 29, 2006. The 2006 FIM MX1 Motocross World Championship commences this weekend with the first round of fifteen in a six month, three continent trek. The Karcher Grand Prix of Flanders will be entertained by the Zolder circuit in Belgian for the third consecutive year.
The season will involve participation from six manufacturers in the 15 GP, 30 race contest. Team Suzuki, with the works RM-Z450s this season running the traditional Suzuki ‘yellow’ livery, field an all-Belgian line-up for the third consecutive year with Kevin Strijbos and Steve Ramon pushing the manufacturer’s cause at the highest level.
With moto victories at Hawkstone Park and most recently the second round of the Belgian Championships, Kevin Strijbos has put the injury nightmares of 2005 behind him when he damaged ankle ligaments, dislocated his shoulder and suffered thrombosis all within the first four months of the calendar year.
Although he is presently nursing a cold, the 20 year old - who begins his fourth season with the team and in the premier class and third term on the RM-Z 450 - is confident of his chances at Zolder especially compared to 12 months ago when he was barely fit to race and only scored seventh and sixth positions in the two motos.
“I am feeling pretty blocked-up at the moment and it is a bit disappointing because I had a good pre-season but my preparation for this week has been affected,” he said. “I hope I will feel better in the next day or so and be 100% for Zolder even if the rain doesn’t look as though it will move away.”
“We have been working on the bike and it is running very well,” he continued. ”We changed the suspension from last season and my starts have been great in the races so far. Zolder is a cool track with some nice jumps but it can get very rough especially when it is wet. It is always nice to start the World Championships in front of the Belgian fans and there is normally a good turn-out.”
Steve Ramon has been adjusting to the RM-Z450 over the past three months and has posted some encouraging results in the pre-season Internationals. The 26 year old will approach his first Grand Prix with the team this weekend. The Belgian sand was the setting of a remarkable debut for Ramon who won the first ever MX1 moto at the start of 2004.
“I like most tracks but Zolder is a little bit special for me because of 2004,” said the 2003 125cc World Champion who was 15th overall at the Grand Prix of Flanders last year. “I hope that the weather will be better than it is now. With the rain the soft terrain can get very rough and the ruts become deep. It is a hard GP because it is the first but I am looking forward to starting the season.”
Zolder has been one of the main racing venues in Belgium since the 1960s, sharing the Formula One spotlight with Spa Francorchamps. Famous names to have won there include Jackie Stewart and Niki Lauda. The road racing facility has changed little over the decades with the exception of the surface being re-laid and the installation of a new paddock, infrastructure and several chicanes. The layout of the course retains its fast and sweeping nature.
Motocross first set up residency in 2003 when the circuit hosted the Motocross of Nations. For the last two years it has been chosen to open the World Championships and is widely acknowledged as having one of the best set-ups within Grand Prix racing.
The track itself uses a soft, loamy terrain and is partially laid over the asphalt of the permanent race course. The remainder of the layout cuts across the banking and touches the woodland above the arena section. It is renowned for being a technical and tough physical test.
Since winning the 2002 250cc World Championship Team Suzuki has registered third spot in 2003, fifth in 2004 and a best position of sixth in 2005. Since 2002 however the squad have had poor luck with injuries with at least one of their two riders facing long-term lay-offs. The RM-Z450 owns one Grand Prix victory, four motos and six podiums in its two year existence.
The weather forecast for the weekend is not positive and predicts light showers over both days.