Rumors of Hunter Lawrence’s impending future in the United States have been confirmed today by Honda—the young Australian has signed with GEICO Honda and will race Monster Energy Supercross and Lucas Oil Pro Motocross beginning in 2019. He'll remain in the MX2 class in the FIM Motocross World Championship for 2018, but switch to Team Honda 114 Motorsports, which is owned by Giacomo Gariboldi. Lawrence rode for Stefan Everts' Suzuki team in 2017, but that team is rumored to be shuttering—both MXGP and MX2.
Our Steve Matthes and Adam Wheeler both reported on the rumor that Lawrence was Honda-bound during this weekend's Motocross of Nations. Perhaps the big surprise of the details is the length of the contract—Lawrence's GEICO Honda deal is for three seasons: 2019, 2020, and 2021, which means he's locked into Honda for the next four years.
“To join GEICO Honda and their list of riders past and present is an honor,” said Lawrence in a press release. “My family gave up a lot to get me to this point so the decision to sign with GEICO was a big one for us. They felt like family from the minute we started talking and are giving me support next year with 114 Motorsports Honda to win a world title. Then I will make the move to the U.S. full time in 2019.”
Lawrence finished ninth in his rookie MX2 campaign, but really cemented his place among the best prospects toward the end of the season, with an overall podium at the MXGP of USA and a moto win at the season-finale in France. Lawrence was brilliant at the Motocross of Nations last weekend as well, winning the MX2 campaign over Team USA’s Zach Osborne.
GEICO Honda team manager Dan Betley said negations with Lawrence started before the USGP.
“We’ve been talking to Hunter and his family for some time, even well before his strong performance at the USGP in Florida. His talent is obvious, and in the second half of his rookie season in MX2 you could really see him spread his wings and start running up front. Hunter and his family expressed the desire to stay in the GPs for one more season with the goal of winning the World Championship, following in the footsteps of other Australians like Chad Reed, who spent time winning races and battling for a title in the GPs before coming over here. We have watched Hunter ride and feel he will be more than ready by the time he comes here in 2019, and while we haven’t seen him ride supercross yet, we believe he has the talent and skills to excel there, too, and with this deal, also plenty of time to prepare.”
In the deal, GEICO Honda announced it will also provide technical support to the Gariboldi-owned Team 114 Motorsports Honda team, which is the first-such collaboration between the U.S. GEICO outfit and a Grand Prix team. Gariboldi is well-known in GP circles, as Tim Gajser rode for him en route to the 2015 MX2 World Championship, and Gariboldi has deep ties within the Honda HRC MXGP (450) team, which Gajser rides for today. We hear the new 114 Motorsports team will reportedly be managed by now-retired Women's World MX Champion Livia Lancelot.