After several productive pre-season international race meetings, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing are now set for the 2023 FIM MXGP Motocross World Championship with the first of nineteen rounds taking place at Neuquen this weekend for the Grand Prix of Argentina.
The works effort will be led by five-times world champion (2012, 2013 and 2016 in MX2 and 2018 and 2021 in MXGP) Jeffrey Herlings; the Dutchman completed his third race appearance in a year with a dominant victory in the opening meeting of the French Elite Championship last weekend. Herlings took Pole Position and won both motos at former Grand Prix venue La Capelle Marival to make the long trip to South America with the taste of victory once more.
Herlings, 28, will resume his MXGP career at Neuquen after missing the entirety of the 2022 campaign but hopes to reignite his world championship potential at the loose and fast circuit in the depths of Patagonia. Neuquen first entertained the series in 2015 and Herlings has claimed two wins at the site. If the 450 SX-F rider achieves two Grand Prix triumphs in 2023 then he will equal the all-time record of 101 held by Stefan Everts achieved in 2006.
Herlings will share the awning in Argentina with a new MX2 line-up. Red Bull KTM are the reigning Team and Manufacturer world champion with the KTM 250 SX-F but have a fresh rider roster and an emphasis on developing youth. Andrea Adamo brings more Italian presence to the squad after Mattia Guadagnini was the last to shine so brightly in his first term with the crew in 2021. Adamo won two motos in two different outings of the Internazionali d’Italia last month. Liam Everts is still searching for prime race fitness after suffering a sore wrist in a practice accident but will nevertheless also attempt to make his MX2 debut in Red bull KTM colors. Sadly, Sacha Coenen will not make the trip across th Atlantic. The teenage Belgian has been struggling with a left shoulder problem and will undergo a surgical procedure that will delay the rookie’s Grand Prix introduction in 2023.
The Argentine appointment at Neuquen was created in 2015 and launched the world championship in 2018 and 2019 before a two-year hiatus forced by the recent pandemic. The Grand Prix returned to the region near the town of Villa la Angostura in 2022 where it was again the first date on the calendar.
Jeffrey Herlings: “It was a good day at La Capelle. I was first in Timed Practice and led both motos from start to finish with two holeshots: it was nice to have that feeling again! We made some improvements and slight changes to the bike as well, which was very positive. I’m looking forward to seeing where we are with the big boys next weekend. I’ll give everything I have – as always – but I know I’ll need a bit of time after a whole year away from MXGP. I think anywhere between 3rd-6th is realistic and we need to build-up in the first five rounds. It’s not like we don’t have enough races this season! If we start winning soon then there are a lot of possibilities.”
Tony Cairoli, Red Bull KTM Team Manager: “We’re going to Argentina with good expectations. The MX2 boys have had some good pre-season races and are ready to battle. We’re sorry, of course, that we won’t have Sacha with us but we hope he can recover soon from surgery and join us at the GPs. Andrea is ready to go but Liam has a few physical niggles so will have to ease into the season. Everybody knows about Jeffrey’s potential and although he missed a lot of racing, he has the speed and the desire to get back to the podium. He will have to build up the race pace and fitness but it won’t be too difficult for him to get back to contention soon. Argentina gives us one of the best tracks of the season, so we’re looking forward to travelling there again. It will be the first GP of a long year so we would like to start in a positive way and take some good points.”
Robert Jonas, Head of Motorsport offroad: “We’re really excited to get another MXGP season underway and while our objectives have changed in the MX2 class compared to recent years it’s great to have Jeffrey fit and motivated to attack the MXGP category once again. It is the second world championship since we introduced the latest generation of the SX-F bikes so we can push ahead with our goal of results and more development. We’ve also had some changes inside the team so it will be interesting to watch these take shape in the Grand Prix environment. Our world championship motocross team has been such a strong contender for success and an outfit that has given us immense pride in the last fifteen years and more. We hope they will again have a lot to celebrate in 2023.”
Pit Beirer, KTM Motorsports Director: “2023 has started so well for us at the DAKAR and with AMA Supercross wins and now it’s the time of the MXGP boys! Argentina is the first GP of another long season for the team and the new format of points for Qualification races is a factor that will add to the show but also increase the demand. It’s fantastic to have Jeffrey back leading the team and working with Tony in a way that is new for both of these Grand Prix heroes. Our MX2 guys have a lot to learn but they are part of one of the best teams in the sport and they have all of our support.”