Professional rider on closed course competition.

SUZUKI START 2006 CAMPAIGN IN MANTOVA

February 13, 2006

The new-look Suzuki MX1 World Championship motocross team begin their 2006 assault on the FIM series and national Belgian Championship with the first of several pre-season ‘warm-up’ races this weekend.

Riders Steve Ramon and Kevin Strijbos (pictured), together with their works RM-Z450 motorcycles, are currently testing in southern France and will head down to Mantova in Italy on Friday for the opening International event of the winter period that allows the Grand Prix stars to get up to speed and complete final technical adjustments to their race machines.

Former 125 cc World Champion Ramon is set for his first competitive outing with Suzuki after signing for the Lommel-based crew towards the end of 2005.

“We have been down in France for more than a week and everything is going well,” said the 26 year old who has completed two seasons in the MX1 class, finishing fourth both times in the Championship. “I have been riding the bike at home in the sand a lot but this has been my first chance to get serious kilometres on hard tracks. I think we still have some work to do but I am happy with our progress. The Suzuki has a strong engine and we have been experimenting to get it working how I would like. I have not had the chance to practice many starts but I am sure it will be quick off the line. The bike’s handling is a very positive aspect. I can turn it short whenever I want and it feels stable.

“I am ready to go for Mantova,” he continued. “It is still early in the year but it will be good to see how we are doing and the speed. We will be taking it easy because it is stupid to take risks at this stage but of course if there is a chance of victory then I will chase it.”

Kevin Strijbos gave the four-stroke RM-Z its first Grand Prix victory last year in the Czech Republic. The 20 year old is fully fit for 2006 having missed chunks of the previous season due to injury problems that involved damaged ankle ligaments, a dislocated shoulder and thrombosis in his left arm.

For team owner Sylvain Geboers the line-up of Ramon and Strijbos represents a youthful and renewed push for further Suzuki success in 2006. The former 250cc Grand Prix winner will also adopt a more hands-on role this year together with his brother and ex-five times World Champion Eric Geboers.

”We have a new rider who is preparing himself well,” he remarked. “Steve’s presence has also motivated Kevin because they are both young and Strijbos seems to be responding more to Ramon as a team-mate. It will be a different situation for Kevin because he is not struggling with an injury this time and hopefully will make it to the first Grand Prix in top condition.”

“In terms of the motorcycles not a great deal has been changed because the overall base of the bike is very good,” he added. “Suzuki has made some small improvements and I think the riders will be able to show these in their lap-times and comfort on the RM-Z. I am confident that the bike it good enough for the job and I am happy with how Steve has adapted so far.”

Regarding the switches to the team structure, he said: “Eric is now onboard and although this was already planned before Jens moved on, I think his experience as a rider and World Champion will be of enormous benefit.”

Past winner of the 125, 250 and 500cc World Championships, the first 875 rider, Eric Geboers has been enjoying his time working with his two young countryman and taking a more in-depth involvement in the team where he as acted as a consultant in past years.

“So far I am really pleased with how things have been going, although I like to remain a little cautious because I know as a past rider that when you are happy with the bike and your riding you can still get a smack in the face the next week at the racetrack!” he confessed.

“Mantova will be hard for our riders but it will also be difficult for everybody else because it is the first race after the break. We are preparing more for the first Grand Prix in Zolder than any international race. The attitude of the riders has been good and we all know that the team is professional. We have a productive atmosphere here and it is great to see the creativity, the understanding and an open spirit for suggestions. I think we have a lot of potential to do well this season,” he offered.

Team Suzuki will also be racing in France, Belgium and the United Kingdom before the first round of 15 in this year’s Grand Prix series at Zolder, Belgium on April 2nd.

For more stories about Steve Ramon, click here . For photos, click here .

For more stories about Kevin Strijbos, click here . For photos, click here .

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