It is finally official that Thomas Covington will return to Europe and contest the 2020 FIM Motocross World Championship, except this time things will be a little different. Covington will not have the advantage of a factory effort nor will he have too much experience to fall back on, as he is set to venture into the unknown and hit the premier division for the first time.
There is a lot to unpack here and one could argue that the most pressing issue is the perception of the Gebben Van Venrooy set-up. There are very few American fans who will even be aware of the team, which is hardly surprising. The Dutch crew has never helped a rider land on the Grand Prix podium, nor have they even housed a talent capable of such results. However, in fairness, the team has only been operating at its current level for four years. A lot of squads tend to run before they can walk, right? The steps that they are taking are reminiscent of the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC KTM team in the USA.
The support from Yamaha will help the squad take a leap forward, as the package that is on offer is far superior to the level of Kawasaki support that they previously experienced. This is going to be a step forward that leads to more emphasis on results. Anyway, they are equipped to handle the change in pace as the infrastructure that is already in place is quite impressive. It is rather astonishing that a couple of riders have passed up an opportunity to ride for them in the past – their assets are what some can simply dream of.
The point here is that whilst some may turn up their nose and question the amount of damage that Thomas Covington will be able to do with a satellite team, there is not much of a reason to be concerned. Is it going to be as amazing as a factory effort? No, but it will be damn close. The biggest issue for Covington could be the fact that people will undoubtedly judge. Following a season in the USA that failed to meet expectations – not all of the blame falls on his shoulders – he will be under a microscope and people will be expecting him to bounce back with a bang.
There is then a chance that will lead to lofty and unrealistic expectations, so what would actually make this a success? It is highly unlikely that he is going to win rounds like he did the last time that he was here and that is okay. A string of top-ten finishes would be impressive in a field that consists of six former champions and that would then set him up well to edge towards the podium the following year. Covington should be treated like any other rookie and not subject to an unfair amount of scrutiny. The current landscape of the Grand Prix paddock hardly helps that situation though.
An intriguing question that needs to be answered now is what the long-term plan is. When Covington raced here before, it was always known that he would return to the USA at some point. Returning to the USA and then coming straight back to the Grand Prix scene was never forecast, so what is the next step? Is returning to the Monster Energy Supercross series still a priority or will the world stage be the focus until retirement looms? One would presume that it would be the latter but the blueprint that was used previously has been thrown out and there are no guidelines now.
This is a fresh start for both Covington and Gebben Van Venrooy – there is a lot of room for both parties to grow and make the naysayers take notice. It is not exactly a make-or-break year for either side but there is going to be some who assess it like that.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Husqvarna/Simon Cudby