Rumors that Thomas Covington is headed back to Europe have been confirmed. A new Yamaha MXGP team was launched officially today at the EICMA show in Milan, Italy, with Covington, Italian veteran Alessandro Lupino, and recent MXoN winner (Team Netherlands) Calvin Vlaanderen on board.
Both Covington and Vlaanderen have gone over the 23-year-old age limit to race in the MX2 class, so 2020 will mark their first season on 450s in MXGP.
Covington, originally from Alabama, headed to Europe to race the MX2 class in the Monster Energy FIM Motocross World Championship when he turned professional for the 2014 racing season. He raced for the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team for several seasons, notching fourth overall in the 2017 standings and fifth in 2018. He was also a member of Team USA at the 2017 Motocross of Nations, but suffered a torn ACL in his qualifying race on Saturday. The knee injury lingered into his 2018 season, but he did recover to reel off podiums toward the end of the campaign. That could have set him up as a title contender for 2019, but he choose to forgo his final year of MX2 eligibility to take a chance on racing in the U.S. Supercross was new to Covington, and he struggled. He finished 11th in his first race at Minneapolis, but the bottom dropped out from there, and Covington started failing to qualify for mains, then missed time with a knee injury.
There were hopes his motocross experience would allow him to turn the season around for the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, but he struggled early before revealing he was suffering from the Epstein-Barr Virus. He attempted to come back to racing a few times, such as the Florida National and and then the final two rounds at Budds Creek and Ironman, but he scored just a single national point in those four motos.
With this new Yamaha deal, it appears Covington's time in the U.S. and with Rockstar Energy Husqvarna has come to an end.
The full press release from the new Yamaha team is below:
Yamaha Motor Europe is delighted to announce that a new partnership has been formed with the freshly named Gebben Van Venrooy Yamaha Supported MXGP Team where the outfit based in Rogat, The Netherlands, will operate as a Yamaha Motor Europe 'Supported' team inside the 2020 FIM Motocross World Championship. The team will field three YZ450F riders in the premier class. High profile MXGP veteran Alessandro Lupino will continue with the team for a third year and will be joined on the gate by two exciting young rookies, Thomas Covington and Calvin Vlaanderen.
Former Junior Motocross World Champion Alessandro Lupino will remain on the Gebben Van Venrooy Team for a third season. The happy-go-lucky 29-year-old from Viterbo, Italy is excited to enter his fifth season inside the premier class with the familiar support of the Gebben Yamaha Supported MXGP Team where he will line-up on a cutting edge YZ450F machine.
Joining Lupino on Yamaha's proven YZ450F, former MX2 Grand Prix winners Thomas Covington and Calvin Vlaanderen will make the step-up from MX2 to the MXGP class in 2020. Between them in MX2 they have accumulated 26 podium finishes and five Grand Prix wins.
As the most successful American to contest the FIM Motocross World Championship in the last decade with four MX2 Grand Prix wins and 16 MX2 podium finishes, Covington, a 24-year-old from Alabama, is set to return to Europe where he will make his MXGP debut onboard a YZ450F at the opening round of the 2020 FIM Motocross World Championship at Matterley Basin in Winchester, England.
Joining Lupino and Covington after a powerful end to his MX2 career where he celebrated a maiden win for The Netherlands at the 2019 Monster Energy Motocross of Nations, in Assen, The Netherlands, Vlaanderen is highly motivated to start training with the Gebben Yamaha Supported MXGP Team. The 23-year-old South African, who has also obtained Dutch citizenship, made four podium appearances in his final MX2 season and, like Covington, is determined to make a successful transition from the 250cc to the 450cc.
Alessandro Lupino: “I’m really happy to be back on Yamaha. I made my World Championship debut on Yamaha and I was a part of the Yamaha Family for many years, so it is really nice to be back on a blue bike especially with this team because they have worked so hard over the last two years that I have been with them. The team started out as a small team and they have improved year after year, so I am happy that next year we will line up with a very strong team. I think that with my teammates Thomas Covington and Calvin Vlaanderen, we can do a lot for the team, and I know they will do a lot for us. I am looking forward to training with them and I think it will be a great and fun season.
Thomas Covington: “I’m super excited to be coming back to MXGP for the 2020 season. Especially with a great team like Gebben Van Venrroy with the support from Yamaha. I’m looking forward to a fresh start to show what I can do in the premier class”
Calvin Vlaanderen: “I am really excited to have signed with Gebben Van Venrooy Yamaha Supported MXGP Team for 2020 and I am extremely grateful for this opportunity. I’m really motivated to move up to the 450cc and although everything will be new to me and it will definitely be a learning year, I feel I have had some incredible experiences in MX2 that I can carry with into the bigger class and I feel like I can get some good result. The team is awesome and extremely motivated especially with the switch to Yamaha, and I get a good feeling from that. I know that we will work very hard for the upcoming season.”