The Grand Prix of Europe represents the season’s first foray into Europe, after an opening double-headed in Qatar and Thailand. Held in the Dutch town of Valkenswaard, just over the Belgium border and close to Eindhoven, it also represents a change for the Honda Gariboldi Racing team.
Alongside Tim Gajser and Jorge Zaragoza, the Gariboldi squad will swell to full size with the arrival of Frenchman David Herbreteau as he competes in his first MX2 Grand Prix with the team and the CRF250R.
Herbreteau is sitting out the first four flyaways of the season, so Valkenswaard will be his debut outing before a short hiatus again until the GP of Latvia at the end of April.
Valkenswaard will bring back mixed memories for Gajser. Last year it was the event that followed his career-first MX2 overall victory, but the Slovenian’s weekend did not go smoothly. He suffered a spectacular crash in qualifying and was lucky to escape injury as he and the bike parted company at a great height, and in race one he was caught up in a crash at the start that saw him thrown into the venue’s lake.
Nevertheless, he now comes back to the track on the CRF450RW having taken a pair of runaway moto victories in Qatar to become the youngest ever MXGP class winner, followed by another podium in Thailand to lie second in the MXGP World Championship.
It’s easy to forget that the MX2 World Champion only took his first Grand Prix victory not even 12 months ago. Quite remarkable considering the absolute force he has become in the World Championship since.
Aboard the CRF250RW, Jorge Zaragoza returns to action after strong starts in the punishing and draining heat of Thailand, and the combination of cooler weather and the sand should suit the Spaniard well. He missed the race last year as a result of a pre-season back injury that he was still recovering from, but will be looking this weekend to build upon his top-ten potential in Thailand and demonstrate what he’s capable of.
Tim Gajser, no.243
“After Thailand I went back home, training hard and practicing like normal. We learned a lot from the first two Grands Prix which was our objective. Since I raced in the Slovenian Championship last week and have had some days testing on the sand in the Netherlands. I’ve done a lot of work in the sand and I like it – last year in Assen for example we were strong – so I think now it’s not so important where we ride as everywhere I feel I can do well. Last year we had a bad weekend in Valkenswaard, but the important thing was that we learned a lot from those mistakes. I’m really looking forward to getting back on the bike again this weekend.”
Jorge Zaragoza, no.101
“I’m feeling really good right now. Every time I’m on the bike it’s getting better and better. I’ve been training on the sand a lot since coming back from Thailand and at the start it was quite hard but now with the work it’s getting better and I’m feeling good. It was great to win in Spain last weekend and that helped with my preparation too. It’s been a long time that a rider other than Butron has won in the Spainish championship, so to win both motos was great and gives me more motivation to continue working in this way to improve my position in the World Championship. Last year was a tough one for me, but this year I feel everything is going in a good direction.”
David Herbreteau, no.338
“I am looking forward to starting this weekend in Valkenswaard. I struggled a little bit after the injury, but now I’ve been riding a couple of times and the feeling is not so bad. I’m still not 100 per cent, and for this weekend I am not going to have the speed I want but I’m going there to develop and progress. Every time I wake I want to do my best and learn and that’s what this weekend is about. I’ve been to Valkenswaard a couple of times before and it’s a good track, but it’s hard for the physical side. I won’t be at my maximum, but I want to learn everything about GP.”
Giacomo Gariboldi, Team Principal
“For the first time we will be three riders in Valkeswaard so it will be very busy I think! Last year I think we all know that this was one of the worst races of the season for Tim, but the picture is now completely different. He showed last year that he can ride very well on sand, winning in Assen for example, so we have plenty of hope for him this weekend.
“Jorge has also had a good time since Thailand, winning both motos in Spain last weekend, so he is showing that again he is finding the right form. Sand is not Jorge’s favourite surface, but we go to Valkenswaard with more confidence as every time he is at a track this season he is getting better and better and finding a good rhythm.
“We are also excited to welcome David to the team properly. He has only done a couple of local races this season and had to stay off the bike for one week with a little injury so his preparation is a little behind because we also started late with him. But he trains most of the time on the sand and likes it so he should have good speed. I think two motos will be tough for him, but he are treating this weekend more like preparation for Kegums when he will next be out.”