Team Tangerine have plenty to celebrate going into the final round of the 2017 MXGP Championship, as Cairoli already has the red plate in the bag while simultaneously heading almost every statistic for 2017.
Cairoli posted the most pole positions (six), led the most laps, scored nine moto wins (a total that teammate Jeffrey Herlings overtook at Assen), won six Grands Prix from 18 up until the Netherlands fixture and appeared on the podium 13 times.
Importantly, and after two injury-hit years, Cairoli has held onto the red plate as series leader from round seven and showed that even at 31 years of age, that he is still the top dog in what has been called the most competitive term of MXGP to-date.
“The previous two years were a little bit difficult for Tony and there was a period where we did not know he could strike back in such a way said KTM’s VP of Off-Road Motorsports Robert Jonas.
“He could really show the young guys that he was still the one to beat. He is such an experienced rider and with so many titles in the backpack, he is one of the most confident. Next season won’t be an easy one for the rest of the class and their target will still be to beat Tony Cairoli one day.”
2017 has been a stellar season for the entire Red Bull KTM crew with three times MX2 World Champion Jeffrey Herlings becoming an authentic protagonist and 2018 title threat in his maiden campaign on the KTM 450 SX-F .
KTM are also close to MX2 success with Pauls Jonass’ performances and Jorge Prado’s prolific holeshots. The zenith came at the Grand Prix of Belgium where all three MXGP riders filled the rostrum spots. Herlings also excelled in the United States, with a victorious wildcard appearance at the final Lucas Oil AMA Pro National in Indiana (which you can read all about in the current issue of DRD!).
The story of the year is Cairoli however, and his fantastic turnaround from a broken arm in 2015 and nerve damage in his neck and arm in 2016 (when he still finished as series runner-up) to again prevail in Grand Prix and therefore nudge closer to Stefan Everts’ record haul of ten world titles and 101 wins (Tony is on 83).
“It was an important championship for me because we didn’t start as the favourite, and for everybody who was ‘talking’ [doubting and criticizing] this is for them, Cairoli said.
“I know what it takes to make a solid and consistent championship. We made it and I’m really happy about this. It was an amazing season, one of my best. It is amazing that I can still improve myself after almost fifteen years in the world championship. I’m proud of this and I think we can still work to be a bit better in some cases but right now I want to enjoy this title. It is the first with the KTM 450 SX-F for me, which is very special. The rest were with the 350 and when I was injured, we were never really in a position where we could test [the 450] a lot. This year I felt very good with the bike and we improved a lot in the winter.”
Cairoli will now try to close the book on 2017 with yet more champagne at the Grand Prix Pays de Montbeliard in France before he goes on to represent his country at the 71st Motocross of Nations at Matterley Basin on October 1.