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Suzuki in Hawkstone Park

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After the unveiling of the new Factory RM-Z450WS at the team’s Lommel HQ in Belgium on Friday, Suzuki World MXGP kicked-off the 2017 motocross season with strong performances at the Hawkstone International in the UK on Sunday.

With Kevin Strijbos and Arminas Jasikonis on the new machine, this was the first chance to really put it through its paces – the first time for fans and world media to see the brand-new bike in action in race conditions – and overall it was a good trial-run as both riders put in strong rides in sandy and muddy conditions at the former Grand Prix venue in Shropshire.

In the two-moto format, it was Jasikonis who had the fastest qualification time in the MX1 class (MXGP in the FIM World Championship), then going on to get the third-step of the podium with a third and fourth in the two races. He came through the field in both races and was pleased with his improvements on what is his first full year with the team: “Overall, the speed of one lap was good, I won the qualification. I made a small mistake in the first moto but I’m happy, I know where I am, I made quite big-steps since last year and a big thanks to Stefan and the team for making that possible,” said the tall Lithuanian.

Strijbos ended-up with a fourth and a sixth in the class but saved his best performance for the combined MX1/ MX2 Superfinal where he came fourth, but was pushing hard for the last podium spot all the way until the end. He had this to say about his day: “It went pretty good, better than expected, to be honest, because I didn’t have a lot of time on the bike. We changed some stuff before the race and during the day and I felt good. I wasn’t trying to push too hard, just put some laps on the bike and overall it was a good day.”

Team Suzuki World MXGP General Manager Stefan Everts was also similarly-impressed that the new RM-Z450WS did so well considering they had such little time to test it: “This morning we were first and second in timed qualification, which is a great start. I see good things from AJ (Arminas Jasikonis), he’s riding better than last year and Kevin didn’t really push it but was getting better in each moto in what was the first race for this bike.”

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In the MX2 class, it was rookie Hunter Lawrence who was the best-placed Suzuki rider, just edging-out team-mate Jeremy Seewer for fourth overall. Lawrence’s sixth and third-place finishes were almost good enough for a podium spot so the Australian was pleased with his debut ride: “It was good, only a pre-season race just to get into the swing of things, but it wasn’t too bad. We got to see how myself and my bike works in race conditions and now we’re coming out safe and uninjured and one-step closer to lining-up at round one in Qatar. I’m very happy with how things went.”

For Seewer, he managed a fifth and a fourth and then was the third-best MX2 finisher in the Superfinal, but suffered as confusion surrounded what each was actually allowed to do to ‘prep’ the concrete start gate. The MXGPs move to a metal-mesh start for 2017, so – and this won’t be a problem come the start of the season – apart from those issues, he felt he had a decent day: “I have a good feeling on the bike, that’s the most important thing. I could have won and not felt good, but I think it’s better to know you’re feeling good and have extra to give.”

The last member of the squad was Bas Vaessen, who got an eighth and a seventh in his two motos after also struggling with the concrete starts: “Overall it went well, but I completely messed-up my starts. The first moto, I think, I was dead last and came all the way-up through the field and almost the same in the second race. I started to push more-and-more at the end of the race and my lap-times were good, so I think it was a decent first day racing,” said the Dutch teenager.

Zachary Pichon was originally meant to be racing, on what would have been his debut ride for the Suzuki World MX2 Team, but due to illness, it was decided that recovery was the better option as he prepares for his EMX250 campaign.

All the riders will now head back to Belgium to continue testing and working on getting ready for the first round of the 2017 World Motocross Championships on February 25th in Qatar.

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