As if achievements like winning his maiden MX1 World Title already at his first full season in the category, or taking his maiden MX1 GP win at a single selected outing in 2007 while he was a regular MX2 rider were not enough to prove his value, in 2010 an upbeat Antonio Cairoli went on to take the revolutionary KTM 350 SX-F machine to success and wrap up his fourth World Title – as many as Legends Harry Everts, Torsten Hallman and Heikki Mikkola.
Winning seven GP’s onboard his new bike, which represents a total revolution in the sport of Motocross by combining the agility of a 250 and the power of the 450, Cairoli has worked his way inside the top ten of all time GP winners courtesy of a total of 36 Grand Prix wins – as many as Roger De Coster and Mickael Pichon. Starring another hard battled season, Cairoli is currently the most successful Italian racer to have taken part in the FIM Motocross World Championship.
The arrival of the KTM 350 SX-F marked also the Austrian manufacturer’s return to success in the MX1 class with their last Title dating back at 1985, when Heinz Kinigadner took his second of two World Titles in the 250cc class.
“I did not expect to win here but it is always nice to be World Champion as soon as possible,” the 24 year old Sicilian said. “I did not take any risks and I was also a bit lucky that Desalle stopped, but that is racing. For sure I am happy with the new bike. I never had to stop for any technical problem and that is really important if you want to be constant. I love this bike and the whole team, they have helped me a lot!”
Cairoli’s Carrer in the FIM Motocross World Championship
Entering his first FIM Motocross World Championship campaign onboard a 125cc machine in 2002, it took Cairoli two years to get to grips with the series and express his full potential. 2004 is actually the year the Sicilian meets fellow Italian Claudio De Carli, managing his own Yamaha squad and offering Cairoli a ride. The association resulted into Tony’s maiden win in Namur, one of the toughest tracks ever, and a solid third place in the MX2 Championship.
Cairoli and De Carli continued working together in 2005 with the goal of becoming World Champions and that is exactly what happened at the end of the season. Cairoli won six Grand Prix’s and took the Title despite two major mishaps: his disqualification at the French Grand Prix, which let rival McFarlane increase his points lead, and his scaphoid injury during the qualifying for the Dutch GP, which Cairoli raced in strong pain just to seal the Title. Being 19 at that time, Cairoli had just become the youngest Italian to have won a Motocross World Title.
2006 was the year of Cairoli’s Title defense but it ended with a runner up position. After a difficult start to the season, Cairoli found himself again and went on to take 12 moto wins – against the four of eventual Champion Christophe Pourcel – but it was too late to catch Pourcel, who had pulled away from the Italian in the meantime. Cairoli’s “never surrender” attitude saw the Italian win both heats at the final round in France, Pourcel’s home GP, but the French took the Title eventually. With the duo starring the 2006 season, third placed Philippaerts found himself 100 points away. Cairoli tried to make up for the Title loss at the Motocross of Nations, collecting a stunning heat win in the MX2 class and leading Team Italy to fourth overall.
2007 recorded Cairoli’s second World Title, which came with two rounds before the end of the season at the GP of Northern Ireland, where runner up and defending Champ Pourcel picked up a severe back injury. Learning from the previous year’s mistakes, Cairoli lined up much stronger and dominated the season with 21 heat wins and 10 GP wins out of the series’ 15 meetings, holding the red plate in each single round. On top of that, Yamaha gave freshly crowned World Champion Cairoli the chance to race the British GP at Donington Park in the MX1 class. Qualifying in 12th, Tony was second in heat one and won heat two, the result assuring his maiden overall win in the top class at his very first attempt. Completing the season with a winning return to the MX2 class in Lierop, Cairoli had proved the strongest MX2 rider of the year.
2008 ended much earlier than expected as a left knee injury at the South African Grand Prix saw Cairoli abandon the series when he was holding a close second place in between eventual Champion Rattray and team mate Searle. The efforts leading Cairoli to four Grand Prix wins and two second places on the podium out of nine rounds vanished in South Africa during a first lap contact in moto one. The Italian tried to complete the rest of the heat in pain but had to pull out after just four laps. Fans will need to hold on until 2009 before seeing him back on track but the coming season will unveil to be worth the wait.
2009 was the year of Cairoli’s permanent move to the MX1 class, where he had already shown potential by winning a GP in 2007. Proving wrong all rumors about his fitness after his previous year’s knee injury, Cairoli took the Title with gallantry in a season recording four Grand Prix wins, including Turkey where the Championship was for its first time ever, and other five podiums. With his knee troubling him again before the Dutch Grand Prix, Cairoli overcame pain to collect the Title with a sixth place overall. With the Motocross of Nations taking place in his home country Italy, Cairoli won the first race but was unlucky to get caught in a group crash at the final heat and miss another potential success.
In 2010 Cairoli and the whole De Carli squad switched to KTM in order to debut the revolutionary KTM 350 SX-F, a machine whose potential was yet to be discovered. Cairoli made the most of the bike’s agility to steer the machine to its first success in Mantova where he snatched the red plate from team mate Nagl. The result was followed by Valkenswaard’s win, with Cairoli dominating both heats. The Italian went on to build on his advantage by performing podium finishes as well as wins on all sorts of terrains -except for Bellpuig and Teutschenthal- and never left the red plate until he turned it into a Title at the Brazilian GP. The event held a very small chance for Cairoli to take the Title but a technical failure of runner up Desalle in the final heat granted Cairoli his seventh Grand Prix win and fourth World Title with two rounds to go before the end of the FIM Motocross World Championship.
In 2011, which should see the presence of more 350cc machines on the grid, Cairoli and KTM will continue being together to defend their Title and face even stronger opposition on the global stage of the FIM Motocross World Championship.