Shaun Simpson and Arnaud Tonus have signed to ride in MXGPs next two years for the Wilvo Yamaha official MXGP team. The Dutch set-up transfers out of the MX2 class after two successful seasons in which they had Grand Prix victory with Valentin Guillod, enjoyed podium prominence thanks to the efforts of Julien Lieber and Aleksandr Tonkov and nurture the career path of Swedens Alvin Östlund.
After a management reshuffle and under the keen eye and willingness of Louis Vosters, the team will start development on their YZ450F race bikes with the expertise of 28-year-old Simpson and 25-year-old Tonus who returns from racing in the USA for Pro Circuit Kawasaki.
Simpson’s first Grand Prix triumph came with a YZ450F at Lierop for the final round of the 2013 FIM World Championship for what is still regarded as one of the unlikeliest wins in recent memory and the last time a privateer stood atop a MXGP podium. The Scot has previous history with Arnaud Tonus as the friendly duo were part of a British Monster Energy backed Yamaha team in 2012, with Simpson on the YZ450F and Tonus on the YZ250F in MX2. The Swiss was vying for the 2014 MX2 World Championship until suffering a shoulder injury and then chased his American dream before a timely return to the FIM series.
“The last time I rode a Yamaha was pretty memorable for me and I still think it was one of the best bikes I’ve ridden in terms of feeling and comfort,” says Simpson, winner of two MXGPs in the past two seasons and who finished fourth in the world in 2015. “I can only look at the next two years with optimism: I’m happy. Louis has built a good team and support structure and knows the importance of the rider in the whole set-up. Arnaud is a great guy and we’ve worked together before: I’m sure the atmosphere of the team and the way to work will be on-point. Yamaha have more than proved their competitiveness in the last couple of years and it has been impressive to see how they have grown and invested back into MXGP; it feels like a good time to be ‘Blue’ again.”
Simpson’s UK-based KTM team folded at the end of 2016. It’s not known whether he’ll race in the British championship as the Dutch team may not support a UK campaign and may want him to ride in the Dutch or Belgian series.
Tonus said: “It’s a different class for me and even a different championship now with twenty GPs. I’m happy to be back and of course I have my base over here so things are easier from that side. It will be a long season with a lot of competition on the 450 and so a big challenge but I’m really pleased to be with Yamaha again and Louis was very motivated to make this deal happen. I hope we can have good preparation and a decent winter of work. I’ll be based between Belgium and Switzerland where I have a nice facility for practice. We’re talking at the moment but I think the Geneva Supercross will be my first race on the Yamaha so we’ve got that to look forward to and I hope to get on the bike in the next two weeks.”
“I’m really looking forward to us moving up to the MXGP class and I’m very happy with our line-up with Shaun and Arnaud,” said team boss Vosters. “They both have great potential and I hope they will surprise us next year. Regarding Yamaha their strategy and way to work is very professional and positive so it’s nice to be part of the family. Arnaud should be on the bike for the first time at the end of next week and we’re already looking ahead to the Geneva SX and then the opening pre-season races.”