An American’s Guide to the MXGP of The Americas |MXGP comes to America for the first time in 2016 at the Monster Energy MXGP of the Americas at The Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway.While Americans are well acquainted with the likes of Eli Tomac (Monster Energy Kawasaki), teammates Justin Barcia and Phil Nicoletti (Autotrader/Monster Energy/JGR Yamaha), and Dean Wilson (Red Bull KTM), if you aren’t a follower of the FIM MXGP and MX2 Motocross World Championship series, the rest of the names may be a bit of a mystery to you.
7 Must See Racers
We’ve put together a quick guide of who to watch for at the MXGP of Americas today. If you want to watch it live, you’ll need to sign up with MXGP-TV (coverage starts at 1:30 pm EDT, with the first race at 5pm local time). Otherwise, you can watch the replay on CBS Sports Network on Sunday at 4pm EDT.
- Tim Gajser (#243. Honda Gariboldi). A rookie this year, Gajser has been on a mission this year, starting with a double win in his MXGP debut at the first round in Qatar. Since then, he has gone on to win nearly half of the races this year. The result is a 65-point lead with four races (two rounds) remaining. Gajser is coming off a disastrous Sunday at Assen in the Netherlands, but he can clinch the championship at Charlotte. The master of the scrub, Gajser is an amazing rider to watch—as good as anyone in the world.
- Tony Cairoli (#222. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing). An eight-time World Champion, Cairoli has been battling injuries for a couple of years. Still, he is the only rider left chasing Gajser for the championship. When he’s on, he puts on a how-to-ride clinic that you will not want to miss. Cairoli will have to outscore Gajser by at least 16 points if he wants to prevent Gajser from winning the title in Charlotte. That’s a big ask.
- Romain Febvre (#461. Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP Team). The defending champion was locked in an epic battle with Gajser for the 2016 MXGP title until he suffered a concussion during qualifying at Matterly Basin in England. Although he only missed two rounds, it was enough to put him out of contention. In the four rounds since returning, Febvre has no wins, so he definitely has something to prove in the remaining two rounds. Febvre, like Gajser, is something to watch. Cross your fingers and hope for a battle between these two riders and someone like Tomac.
- Max Nagl (#12. Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing). Nagl runs hot and cold, but when he’s hot, he can win. Recently, he had three race wins in a row, though the last two rounds have not been as successful. Should he catch fire, Nagl could end up on top.
- Jeffrey Herlings (#84, Red Bull KTM). One of the most gifted motocross racers in the world, Herlings has been plagued with injuries the last three years. They cost him the championship in 2014 and ’15, but even though he missed three rounds before returning in Assen, he still comes into Charlotte with a 76-point lead over Jeremy Seewer (Team Suzuki World MX2). Seewer is the only other rider left with a chance for the championship, even though he has no wins. If Herlings finishes in front of Seewer in either race at Charlotte, Herlings takes the MX2 championship. Don’t be surprised if Herlings goes 1-1—Herlings has won all but two races he has ridden in 2016, and finished second in those races. Of course, Cooper Webb (Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha) may have something to say about that on his home turf.
- Jorge Prado García (#61. Red Bull KTM). He’s only 15 years old, but he gave Herlings fits at Assen in his rookie ride. Not a rider to back down, there would be nothing more fun than watching García, Webb and Austin Forkner (Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki) take on the dominating Herlings for the win. In fact, don’t be surprised if that three of those four make up the podium…but which three?
- Darian Sanayei (#45. Team Monster Bud Racing Kawasaki). You might not have heard of this 18-year-old, but he’s an American. Fresh out of the European 250cc Championship where he finished second overall with six race wins, Sanayei is definitely a dark horse. Still, he’s also a real podium possibility.Photography courtesy of Youthstream