The 23 year old Estonian has been drafted into the formidable Italian set-up and will have his first taste of the ’08 title-winning machine the YZ450F during winter tests.
Leok first came to prominence at the start of the century by winning Junior World Championships with 80cc and 125cc machinery. He was then fast-tracked into Grand Prix racing during 2002 and 2003. He suffered with injury during his apprenticeship but upon moving to the MX1-GP division in 2004 on a privateer 250cc two-stroke he began to shine, taking a handful of top ten and top five positions against factory opposition. His aggressive and relentless style forged a speed that was never far from placing him among the protagonists in the following seasons as he developed four-stroke technology as a works rider, gaining his first podiums in 2006.
Renowned for his pace in qualification (he obtained the most pole positions in 2007) Leok was a protagonist in 2008 and dazzled his rivals in Dublin to earn his maiden GP victory. He now steps onto a Yamaha for the first time in his grand prix career.
“This is a great opportunity for me, the team looks really impressive and I am looking forward to getting started,” said Leok, who became a new father earlier this year. “They have a workshop in Belgium which means I can still be based there but doing things like the Italian championship and testing in southern Europe will be a new adventure.” On the prospect of linking up with Cairoli: “He is a really good rider and it is positive to be able to work with someone like that,”
“The YZ450F will be a new experience but the record of the motorcycle speaks for itself,” Leok, who will contest the MX1 Italian championship won this year by Cairoli, added. “There will be new surroundings for me but I still want to be top five in the championship and hopefully top three; that is what I am working for and I know I have the speed.”
“I have been following the professional career of Tanel for many years, although he’s still so young!” commented Team Principal Claudio De Carli. “I have always appreciated his speed, his talent, and also is character, so quiet and positive. Thanks to the great support from Red Bull, Yamaha, and all the other sponsors; my team is entering in the MX1 class with the best effort to be competitive.”
“With Tanel joining Tony and together with our factory team Yamaha will have a very strong presence in the 2009 MX1-GP world championship,” remarked Yamaha Motor Europe’s Racing Division Manager Laurens Klein Koerkamp. “This year we were delighted to win the world championship and reclaim our crown and you only have to look at the talent we have for next season with David, Josh, Tony moving up and now Tanel to realise that we are firmly aiming to be protagonists once again. Full credit to Claudio, he has a very talented and determined pair of riders to enter the class next year and we look forward to seeing what they can do.”