Team Suzuki will start the 2007 FIM MX1 World Championship with both of their riders, Kevin Strijbos and Steve Ramon - who finished second and third in 2006 - among the favourites for the title.
The first round of 15 in the series will take place at the newly modified and reversed Eurocircuit at Valkenswaard in the Netherlands for the Grand Prix of Benelux.
The team have been through a fairly decent pre-season period. Strijbos gained podiums at Valence (France) and Hawkstone Park (winning the overall in Great Britain) while Ramon suffered with illness but swept all three motos at Mons for the opening round of the Belgian Championship on Sunday.
"It wasn't too difficult actually," said Ramon. "My start in the first moto was not so good and the track was wet and quite tricky because of the ruts. It wasn't that easy to pass and I had to wait until near the end before I could overtake Priem and win. My riding got better and quicker during the day and with two holeshots the next motos were pretty straightforward. It was a decent win but with Kevin out and De Dycker racing in Britain there were not that many GP riders there."
Strijbos elected not to compete less than a week after undergoing minor knee surgery. The Belgian - the first and only rider so far to give the RM-Z450 a Grand Prix victory - is currently nursing the joint and is optimistic of making the start gate on Sunday even if he is unlikely to be 100% fit.
"The knee is not bad but then it is not that good," he said. "It was alright last week and I went cycling on Friday with the doctor giving me the ok but it felt sore afterwards and I knew I would not be able to race at Mons. Normally I should be fine to race at Valkenswaard. I am hoping to ride on Wednesday and then I will see how it feels; I'll visit the doctor again on Thursday. I will be at the first Grand Prix even if I have to have an injection or race trying to ignore the pain. My goal will be to take a top five finish if the knee is ok and as many points as I can. With these circumstances I don't want to lose much ground for the Championship and then get better and ready for Spain."
The Eurocircuit, just south of Eindhoven, last hosted a Grand Prix event back in 2004, scene in fact of the RM-Z450's maiden podium result - a third position overall taken by Joel Smets - and has a long World Championship history, hosting it's first event back 33 years ago back n 1974. Valkenswaard also holds pleasant memories for the team as Mickael Pichon owned the 250cc class with the all-conquering RM250 for three consecutive seasons at the venue.
For 2007 and the circuit's return to the world stage the facility has undergone a major facelift. The shallow sandy course along with its trademark hill (quite an unusual feature for Dutch tracks) has been reversed with a new start-straight located on the other side of the site. The paddock has also become more compact as the Eurocircuit bids to compete with Lierop as the Netherlands' premier motocross location.
Steve Ramon has taken two victories at Valkenswaard in the past while Strijbos was second in Timed Practice and fifth overall in 2004.
"I went to the launch press conference last week but it was raining a lot so I did not even get a chance to walk around it," said Ramon. "From what I have seen on paper the changes look interesting and the track still has many good features. I liked the old Valkenswaard track and won two 125 Grand Prixs there in the past. It is not a special place for me but I am feeling fit and looking forward to the race; the bike is working well and we are confident."
Said Strijbos: "I haven't seen the track but it sounds like it could be fun to race it the other way around. It is a good place for me; the sand is not that deep but the jumps are cool. It is close to where I live so there is always a lot of support for me."