Returning champs, world-class talent, switched classes, young hot-shots, upended race format, and ‘loadsa’ money are the order of the day for the upcoming Arenacross Tour.
For 2019 the Pro 450cc and Pro Lites 250cc riders will be treated as one entity. Both classes will have two 12-lap main events, from which the top six of each will be seeded through to the 15-lap AX Main Event Super Final.
AX fans won’t be surprised to hear that the crew behind the series has yet again introduced a new twist for 2019, in that the top six Pro Lites 250 riders will get first gate pick. This has clearly given some canny Pros food for thought, as the likes of reigning AX Pro champ Cedric Soubeyras is switching to the Pro Lites along with Cyrille Coulon and 2018 sixth-placed AX Pro Adrien Escoffier, who won round four at Belfast Arenacross, and cleaned up in the SX2 class of the recent 2018 French SX Tour. They will line up alongside a fired-up and rejuvenated Martin Barr as well as the Pro Lites 2018 victor Joe Clayton. Underpinning the importance and competitive nature of this class is the inclusion of Julien Lebeau, arguably one of the best Lites riders in Europe at the moment, with both German and French Supercross championship titles under his belt.
Over on the Pro 450cc front, the three-time AX Pro champ and 2018 vice-champ, Thomas Ramette sticks with his successful Suzuki SR75 camp and is joined by last year’s third-placed Pro, the most aptly named Frenchman, Charles Le Francois. With Coulon in the Lites, this has to be a team to be reckoned with.
Team Green Kawasaki is fielding a strong team with an unpredictable force joining the Pros. Top ranking Frenchman Greg Aranda has been well up the leader board in European supercross this year, and battled right to the very end in the SX1 class of the 2018 French SX Tour last weekend. That championship went to the very last lap of the final race, with Soubeyras claiming the crown by a slim four-point margin. Clayton is Team Green’s Lites contender and AX regular Jack Brunell – 10th in 2018 will run in the Pro class.
Elsewhere on Kawasaki, fourth-ranking Fabien Izoird [the 2014 Pro champ] joins eighth-placed Hugo Basaula, in the Pros, with Scooter Webster, in the Lites, in the Shocktech Kawasaki team. Former Pro champ Izoird and Basaula are aggressive front runners and, with just the top six seeded through to the Super Final, they’ll take no prisoners when that AX gate drops.
Aussie ace joins Belfast fave
In the Yamaha camp, Daniel Reardon is expected to partner Barr in a newly-formed Crescent Yamaha powered by Protein Water team. Once he found his AX boots in the 2018 series, the tenacious Aussie was a power to be reckoned with. He’ll be back with a vengeance for 2019, starting where he left off at Wembley; on top. Northern Ireland’s Barr is taking his impending AX offensive seriously and engaging in a spot of supercross style training early in the new year, before the Tour gets underway in his home city of Belfast.
Dave Thorpe’s Buildbase Honda team sees American Austin Root out on a CRF450R. The 23-year-old from South Carolina showed heaps of promise in his early years, cleaning up in the schoolboy ranks with consecutive AMA Ultra Series championship wins. In recent years, he’s been there, or there abouts, and then showed his form just last month when he came over to Europe and smashed the 24MX Supercross Superfinal at Eicma in Milan. Under the watchful eye of Thorpe and teamed up with the handy Escoffier in the Pro Lites, Root could be something of a dark horse.
Ringing the changes for 2019 is a new Suzuki team; Castrol Suzuki MBC. The German-based official Suzuki team will field American hotshot Cole Martinez from Arizona and Portuguese Diogo Graca. AMA SX top-15 contender Martinez was crowned King of Stuttgart in November, taking the scalps of Aranada and Soubeyras and he won the Supercross European Championship in Poland in 2017. Graca is an eight-time Portuguese motocross and supercross champion.
Team FRO Systems is supporting the largest team of riders and with, the recently crowned French Supercross champ, Soubeyras moving to a 250cc, it’s paved the way for Nique Thury to contest the Pro 450cc class. He finished 11th in AX last year but, given that he only rode three of the seven rounds, the German SX champ cannot be discounted. His Pro class team-mate is fans’ fave Ashley Greedy, who has tasted off-season success and is training heavily for 2019.
Brit Matt Bayliss returns to the arena in the Pro class with Wooldridge Demolition and he’ll be joined by the aforementioned 21-year-old Frenchman Lebeau. Bayliss finished 17th last year and can beat the best of them on his day – Bayliss and Brunell are the only Brits in the Pro 450 class and, with the crowd behind them, can be counted on to deliver the goods.
A strong Northern Ireland representation will see privateers Glenn McCormick on his Unique FitOut Husqvarna, and James Mackrel on his G&G Ross powered by Russells Yamaha, line up on the Pro Lites grid with Barr. This is a class that’s fit to burst with podium-hungry, super-talented world-leading racers and the stage is set for it to go the wire.
The 2019 Arenacross Tour is gearing up to be the most electrifying yet – don’t miss it!