The biggest adjustment Clement Desalle and Kevin Strijbos have to make is the lack of time to make adjustments. Not only are the two Belgian guests from the FIM World Motocross Grand Prix circuit having to adapt to American tracks, racing, weather (and Colorado altitude, specifically) they get precious little time to do it.
“There’s so little time with the one day format,” says their Rockstar Suzuki Team Manager Eric Gebeors. “In the two day format in the GPs, they are used to getting warm up time, then qualifying races, and you see the pace slowly get faster throughout the weekend until it’s time to race the motos. Here, you have to go fast right from the start.”
That, apparently, was not a problem. Desalle—who you may remember from leading Ryan Dungey most of the way through the second 450 moto at Unadilla a few years ago—was second fastest of anyone in the first 450 qualifying session today, behind only series leader Ryan Villopoto. Strijbos was also impressive in sixth. Considering the speed and depth of this year’s 450 Class, and how experienced most of those riders are with this one-day format, seeing the two visitors go that fast that early could be a sign of great things to come when the races begin this afternoon.
But Gebeors, himself a multi-time World Champion, knows better than to put that kind of heat on his riders. “No pressure, no pressure,” he said this morning. “This is just an experience for them, and I told them they need to come in thinking that they are underdogs. At least Clemente raced here a few years ago for Motocross of Nations, so he knows the track. But Kevin, we walked the track three times yesterday, but you really don’t know what to expect until you actually ride it.”
They’ll pit out of the Rockstar Energy Racing truck this weekend and also next, as they plan to race the Tennessee National at Muddy Creek. The Rockstar team provided the basic bike, including the engine (same spec used by Ryan Sipes) and the Europeans put on their suspension, tires and other small parts. Desalle says his bike is similar to what he races in the GPs, but definitely not the same, and he only has two days riding in a California on a “similar” bike, but not this exact one.
Because of all the change, Desalle himself tempers expectations, saying this morning that he just hopes to do well, and doesn’t have a specific finishing position in his head as a goal. But his past performances here in the U.S., which include not only that fantastic second-overall result at Unadilla a few years back, but a third in the final moto of the ‘Nations at this track, indicate he’s a sure-fire podium threat. These guys are just learning, but apparently, they’re fast learners.