At the end of the 2014 season, Frenchman Gautier Paulin was moving from Kawasaki to Honda, presumably to make room for Ryan Villopoto's impending move to the green GP team for the 2015 season. Paulin left Kawasaki with one massive going away present, dominating the Motocross of Nations with 1-1 scores in his two motos and leading France to the 'Nations victory.
That walk-off MXoN ride led everyone to expect big things from Paulin moving forward, but he never hit the expected heights with Honda. In his first year on red, he finished second in the 2015 MXGP standings, but scored just three moto wins and finished the year nearly 150-points down from champion Romain Febvre. He redoubled his efforts for 2016, even spending the off-season training with Aldon Baker at the Baker's Factory in Florida, but he missed time with injuries and never really got going. He didn't win any motos and finished 13th in the standings, and meanwhile another Honda rider, Tim Gajser, dominated the series.
Time for a fresh start. Paulin is heading to the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team for the 2017 season. Combine him with the re-signed Max Nagl and MXGP rookie Max Anstie, and that squad looks pretty potent. The team will continue to be managed by former GP racer Antti Pyrhönen.
Here's what the principals had to say in a Rockstar Energy Husqvarna press release today:
Gautier Paulin – Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing: “I’m really excited to be part of Rockstar Energy Husqvarna. In our sport there are no limits to improvement and I believe I’ve got everything I need now to take my riding a step further. I’m in a very professional team that’s proven they have the potential to win championships. We have a very good base in terms of equipment and the best support to battle for the top. Obviously, I need time to adapt to my new bike but my goal is to get the best feeling I ever had on a bike. With 20 rounds announced for next year’s MXGP series, it’s going to be more important than ever to remain consistent and stay away from injuries. My plan is to work harder than ever to get familiar with the bike and prepare myself for every different kind of track.”
Robert Jonas – Vice President Husqvarna Motorsport: “Gautier Paulin has been one of the best riders in MXGP for quite some time and we are excited to have him on board. We strongly believe he has the speed to win GPs and a vast amount of experience to remain in the battle for championship honours during the next two seasons. For us the MXGP series is the pinnacle of international motocross competition and we’re happy to be further strengthening our presence with three top-level riders for 2017. It’s going to be an exciting season and everyone involved within the Husqvarna Motorsport team can’t wait to see our riders battle for the top once the new season begins.”
Antti Pyrhönen – Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing MXGP team manager: “We’re really looking forward to working with Gautier Paulin. Gautier is a true professional motocross racer and I believe he will be a perfect fit to our team alongside Nagl and Anstie. He is extremely motivated to succeed and he has already shown his huge potential in the past. His speed and riding technique are simply unquestionable. We’re very happy that he joins our team for the next two years. Our goal is to provide him with all the necessary tools in order to battle for podium results and GP victories as soon as the new season starts.”