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CAIROLI, KTM & ITALY WIN 2021 MXoN

3 weeks ago | Words: Andy Wigan | Photos: KTM Images, Infront Motor Racing

If you’ve followed the sport of motocross for any length of time, waking up to today’s news that 36-year-old Antonio “Tony” Cairoli had spearheaded an Italian team win in the 2021 Motocross of Nationals (MXoN) will surely have brought a smile to your face. Just weeks after Cairoli announced his retirement, could there be a more fitting way for the nine-time world champ to cap off his illustrious 18-year MXGP career (other than claiming his 10th Motocross World Championship win, that is, which still isn’t out of the question)?

Riding injured and despite a first turn crash in his first moto, Cairoli went 17-2 on the MXoN’s wet Mantova track for seventh Overall in the MXGP class and, along with Team Italy’s other KTM-mounted riders, Mattia Guadagnini and Alessandro Lupino, made history on home soil. It was Italy’s third ever MXoN victory and the first since 2002!

Joining the winners on the podium were Team Netherlands who finished just one point behind the victors (38 points) and Team Great Britain who notched up their fourth consecutive podium to finish third overall on 39 points.

Cairoli was understandably ecstatic after Italy’s MXoN victory, which all came down to his storming second-place finish in the event’s final moto. “This was the one missing achievement in my career and I’m really happy to get it,” he said. “For sure it was a bit risky to come here and ride after last week’s crash, and I didn’t feel 100 percent. On the dry track I could handle it better, but on the wet track I was really struggling. The first moto crash didn’t help and I didn’t have the best feeling. I knew I needed just one decent start and moto and I managed to do that. The other two guys did an amazing job, especially Mattia for his first time.”

Capping off a stellar MXoN for Austrian manufacturer, KTM, Jeffrey Herlings and Rene Hofer won the Overall in the MXGP and MX2 classes, respectively, while Liam Everts (making his MXoN debut for Team Belgium) walked away with the Ricky Carmichael Award as the best-performing youngster and fourth Overall in MX2.

With Cairoli winning six of his nine world titles with KTM (including 93 GP victories and 177 podiums), it came a little surprise that the Italian’s recent retirement announcement was coupled with news that he’ll take on an ambassadorial role with the KTM factory’s race department from next season.

CAIROLI TRIBUTE VIDEO

Released in concert with Tony Cairoli’s retirement announcement, long-term FIM Motocross World Championship promoters, Infront Motor Racing, together with the FIM, have made the magnanimous gesture to officially retire the #222 in honour Cairoli’s amazing career. Check out the cool edit they’ve put together to reflect on the popular Italian’s incredible racing achievements – and his sportsmanlike approach to racing – over an illustrious 18-season career.

According to Pit Beirer, KTM Motorsport Director: “We’ve had the privilege to be part of Tony’s story since 2010. We know how much we value him as a person and as one of the best riders the sport has seen, and it special that the rest of MXGP feel the same way with this retirement of his number – #222 belongs to Tony. He owned MXGP for a time when he changed the game and brought so much dominance to the championship. He raised it to a new level for riders while also showing a passion for racing that allowed him to have such a long and amazing career. Thanks to Infront Motor Racing and to the FIM for making this gesture. It’s not often a remarkable athlete like Tony comes along.”

Incidentally, Cairoli will see out his career at the season-ending Grand Prix of Cittá de Mantova – the same track as this year’s MXoN – on November 10. Could there be a fairy-tale finish for Cairoli with a 10th world title? Well, he’s currently in fifth place and 45 points adrift from the top of the MXGP-class standings – and up against an in-form Jeffrey Herlings and Tim Gajser – but don’t right him off. Not just yet, anyway.

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