Tim Gajser looks for Sardinian MXGP redemption, Mattia Guadagnini up to 450s

Domination from Tim Gajser in Maggiora in the absence of his main rival only strengthened his grip on the 2022 MXGP title at round seven.

Tim Gajser, 2022 MXGP of Italy. - Honda Racing Corporation.

TIM Gajser won the MXGP of Italy in Maggiora last weekend, while Jorge Prado was forced to sit out due to a shoulder dislocation. 

The news of Prado’s inability to race in Maggiora pretty much guaranteed the title for Gajser on the Thursday before the seventh round of this year’s 20-round Grand Prix series. Prado was 66 points behind Gajser going into Maggiora, and his guaranteed no-score meant he certainly fall even further back by the end of the weekend. 

Tim Gajser, 2022 MXGP of Italy. - Honda Racing Corporation.

Indeed, a 1-1 for Gajser on Sunday in Italy means Prado is now 116 points behind Gajser. Even if Prado is back this weekend in Riola Sardo at the MXGP of Sardegna, it is going to take a disaster for Gajser to bring the two-time MX2 World Champion back into play. 

And, news out of GasGas might suggest that a Prado return to MXGP is perhaps a while away, as today it has been announced that GasGas’ factory MX2 rider, Mattia Guadagnini, will be stepping up to the MXGP class for the rest of the season. 

Guadagnini’s MX2 season has not gone to plan so far. Having won Grands Prix in 2021, and been in the title fight in the first part of his rookie MX2 season last year, mistakes and misfortune have cost Guadagnini dearly in 2022. Without a podium so far in 2022, Guadagnini’s vertical growth in recent times has meant an MXGP move for 2023 was in his plans, anyway. Since his MX2 season had been a disappointment, and his title chances were all but gone already after seven rounds, the Italian’s move to MXGP will be a an opportunity for a low-pressure 13 rounds of development on the MC 450F GasGas before his first full 450 campaign in 2023. 

Mattia Guadagnini, 2022 MXGP of Italy. - GasGas Media/Juan Pablo Acevedo

“I had great expectations for this season. I prepared very well with the team, but things in the races have gone wrong too many times,” said Guadagnini, in an honest assessment of his season so far. “I have made mistakes and also had some bad luck! We are not yet halfway through the season, but realistically it is very difficult to achieve the goals that I had set for myself,” he continued. 

“I thought that it would be more logical to look forward and prepare for next season, especially as I have so many rounds to adapt to the MC 450F,” the #101 said of his MXGP move. He continued, “I talked about it with De Carli and the team, and perhaps this change will be positive for everyone? I thank the team and management for this opportunity."

Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing’s team manager, Claudio de Carli, said, “Between mistakes and unlucky episodes, Mattia is going through a difficult period. We all know his talent – he can return to doing very well and is still in the top ten in MX2.

“Mattia always works with great commitment and is a mature, determined, professional and very fast rider. We talked about it, for his interest, and among the various possibilities he himself decided to move to the MXGP category. This transition was planned for next season, but we are all convinced that it is a good solution to make the move immediately. In MXGP he will not have to worry about the results. There are thirteen rounds to race, in which he can become familiar with the 450 and thus prepare himself as best as possible for 2023,” De Carli added.

With Jeffrey Herlings out for the whole season already, and with no Antonio Cairoli, the loss of Prado has meant that Red Bull have no bikes in the MXGP class. Last year, they had three KTMs, with Herlings, Prado and Cairoli, all of which won GPs, and Herlings ended up the champion. Now, with the retirement of Cairoli from GPs, the transition of the De Carli side of last year’s KTM awning to GasGas for 2022, and the injury of Herlings, there is no Red Bull KTM out there in the top class. So, Red Bull’s only representation was the GasGas of Prado, but if his shoulder injury is more severe than initially anticipated (the pre-Maggiora plan for Prado was to be back for Riola Sardo), Red Bull were faced with having no MXGP representation. With Guadagnini’s struggles on the 250, and his plans already in place for 2023, it makes sense also from a sponsorship perspective to get Guadagnini moved up to the MXGP class. After all, GasGas still have Simon Laengenfelder - winner of the MXGP of Great Britain this year - in MX2, and Red Bull KTM’s 2020 MX2 World Champion Tom Vialle is in the 2022 title fight with Yamaha’s Jago Geerts. 

Maxime Renaux, 2022 MXGP of Italy. - Yamaha/Full Spectrum

And, speaking of French MX2 World Champions, last year’s winner, Maxime Renaux, is precisely where Guadagnini might hope to be in the first part of his first full MXGP season next year. 

Renaux has been great so far on the 450, winning a moto in Argentina where he tied Gajser for the GP victory (Gajser taking the top spot courtesy of winning the second race that day), and finishing on the podium multiple times. That he is not in the title battle with Gajser is not a condemnation of his season, but another marker of the impression Gajser has made in 2022. Renaux himself is now second in the championship, a position which he last held after the Argentinian race, thanks to 3-3 finishes in Maggiora, and is 24 points ahead of his factory Yamaha teammate, Jeremy Seewer.

For Seewer’s part, Maggiora was his best race of the season, and he took his second podium of 2022 at the Italian round with a 2-2 score card. Seewer’s season was somewhat derailed by his crash with Thomas Kjer Olsen in Argentina, after which the Swiss suffered what seems to have been a quite severe concussion. Despite this, he did not miss a race, and is now coming back to something like his top form. For Olsen, it went a different way, as he crashed in the Latvian qualifying race and remains in a medically-induced coma. 

Whether Seewer’s improving form will be enough for him to challenge Gajser in Riola Sardo this weekend is unclear. At the Sardo Grand Prix in 2021, Gajser arrived with a one-week-old broken collarbone, and his results suffered. He went 19-8 for 12th overall last year, and saw a 28-point lead in the championship turn into a one-point deficit. 

Tim Gajser, 2021 MXGP of Sardegna. - Honda Racing Corporation/Shot by Bavo

Ahead of his return to Riola this weekend, Gajser said, “Last year Riola Sardo was one of the most difficult races of my career, going there having broken my collarbone just one week before. In the end, I was able to salvage some points but I’m looking forward to riding there fully fit and just showing everyone what I am capable of on this track when I’m at 100%.”

At this point, a podium would be a disappointment for Gajser, after going 1-1 in the last three GPs, and winning six of the first seven Grands Prix. But, as long as he does stay on the box between now and the final round of the season in Oman this September, the title should be his without question.