Confidence is a great thing. It imbues you with the power to take on the odds, however large, and makes you believe that you can actually conquer them. And the funny thing is, the powerful mental processes set into motion by a healthy dose of confidence, often mould circumstances in such a way that things actually start falling into place. Of course, confidence must be backed up with a fair spattering of ability, especially if the activity we are talking about is a specialist one like world championship motocross.
There is no doubt that Kevin Strijbos still possesses a formidable armoury of riding talent. After a few good racing results on the trot, including a totally dominant outing at the last British championship event, his confidence was also riding high going into the ninth round of the world championship series, and this combination boded ill for the opposition.
Apart from the confidence factor, it is also that time of year when riders discuss their contracts with the teams, and this also tends to sharpen up the performances. As Kevin boarded the flight to Sweden, therefore, his head was full of one thing only – hammer out the best results possible on the challenging track of Uddevalla.
The Belgian guided his game HM Plant KTM350 into action on Saturday. He struggled to find his rhythm during the qualifying session, but improved substantially for the qualifying race, securing gate 10 for his efforts. Some pelting rain early on Sunday and continuing heavenly leakage during the first race rendered the track quite muddy, but fortunately Uddevalla’s soil is such that it doesn’t turn into sticky mud, although the softening effect of the water did cause some monster ruts to form.
Kevin fired a warning shot during early morning warm-up, posting the second fastest time. The first race delivered not the best of starts for the unassuming Belgian, and he had to navigate his way forward from 15th position. All the factors mentioned earlier in our story however combined in the brewing pot with optimal effect, and he made rapid progress through the field. By lap five he was firmly ensconced in the top 10 of the field, and he continued to bounce over the opposition like a pedigree racing rabbit. Towards the end of the race, he was posting the fastest lap times of the field on worsening track conditions, and after a dedicated effort, he steered his machine across the finish line in 5th position.
Kevin had the heady aroma of champagne in his mind’s nostrils as he lined up for race two. This goaded him to a far better start, and he joined the fray in sixth position, a pretty good platform from which to take his cause further. He gained a position every few laps, settled in to prepare and plan his next attack, and then did it again. He repeated this cycle a few times, and by lap 11, he was in third position. With a few laps to go, he had the attention of the TV producer and broadcast commentator Paul Malin as he took the battle to second-placed Christophe Pourcel. He looked for all the world to have the goods to unseat the former world champion, but a backmarker and his weavy ways intervened, and Kevin lost the tow. He did manage to post the fastest lap time of the race in the process though.
Nonetheless, crossing the line in third position for the race brought another prize – a second visit to a GP podium for the season. He has also reclaimed the sixth spot in the championship that he held earlier, and has made serious inroads into the lead enjoyed by Ken De Dycker in fifth position.
Kevin’s next world championship outing will be at the Kegums, Latvia, a track that he enjoys. He hopes to continue with his blazing form of late, and add even more weight to his already-overladen trophy shelf.
The trademark Strijbos half -smile gained an extra ten centimetres each side after a job well done. “I had a bad start in the first race but kept pushing myself to improve with every lap,” he said. “I felt I had a good rhythm and posted my best times towards the end of the race. The second start was better, and I just kept pushing and pushing. I am happy with my form lately, and hope I can continue this in the rest of the GP’s.”
Reporting by Tinus Nel