Antonio Cairoli | Renews Red Bull KTM MXGP Contract
PHOTOS | Ray Archer
The 2020 Monster Energy FIM Motocross World Championship was going to be an important season for Antonio Cairoli. Aware that he cannot race forever, still a contender at the front of the pack, eager to return after missing much of 2019 with a shoulder injury, and in the last year of a contract with the Red Bull KTM MXGP team, the 34-year-old Sicilian made it clear his future plans would be determined by the outcome of the international tour. The series started with a third-place overall finish at the 2020 MXGP of Great Britain, which Cairoli scored while dealing with a second-degree PCL tear in his knee, and a fourth-place run at the 2020 MXGP of the Netherlands that put him third in the point standings. Things were looking good for Cairoli as the series headed to round three but then the came the COVID-19-caused halt, which the MXGP series is still dealing with, and he hasn’t raced since.
With the future of the 2020 season uncertain, Cairoli and Red Bull KTM MXGP have decided to ink a one-year contract extension to keep him on the track in 2021. This is massive news for the nine-time champion, as 2021 will be his eighteenth year as a full-time competitor in the championship and his twelfth year with KTM. “I’m really motivated for another good season next year so I’m really happy with the renewal of my riding contract,” stated Cairoli in the official press release. “We’ll see what 2020 has in store but my goal is to aim for the championship and again in 2021. I’m very proud to have been so long with this factory team and I still want to write some pages in the history of KTM motocross.”
The relationship between Cairoli and de Carli cannot be undersold, as the duo has been together for the entirety of the racer’s career, including his debut in the MX2 class in 2004. By all indications, Cairoli’s last moto as a professional will be on a bike built by the Italian team, whenever that might be. “Tony expressed his willingness to ride for at least another year and this obviously makes us happy and confirms his truly unique character and attitude for the sport,” said de Carli in the announcement. “His final choice to remain with KTM gives us great satisfaction because it also confirms the good job we have been doing responding to his technical requests and the strong bond we have established over many years. Next season Tony will be in his twelfth year with KTM, and with my crew for the eighteenth. I think this says it all! We’re really proud of him and would like to give thanks to KTM for making this next chapter possible.”
KTM’s continued support of Cairoli comes as no surprise. His switch to the brand in 2010 and a successful run to the MXGP championship aboard the then-new 350 SX-F is widely regarding as a turning point for the Austrian OEM, which he backed up with five more titles in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2017. “It says a lot for Tony as a rider and a person and an athlete that he is still so competitive when MXGP is at a top level. He could have walked into other teams when it was clear he wanted to continue in 2021 but it was important for us to extend his story with KTM and that couldn’t make us any happier,” explained KTM Motorsports Director Pit Beirer. “We have no doubt that he has the desire to go for a tenth title either in the season we will eventually have in 2020 or in 2021. It makes us all very proud to have a team with the caliber of Tony, Jeffrey and Jorge. I believe we can be the ones to beat again in MXGP with this strong trio and combined with the whole team and technical crew with Claudio, Davide, Dirk and everybody who makes the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team tick.”
Cairoli getting confirmed for another year means there will be three factory 450s on the track, as the Red Bull KTM MXGP crew have signed Jeffery Herlings and Jorge Prado through 2023.