Five-time motocross world champion Joel Smets has been appointed KTM Motocross Factory Racing Sports Director.
KTM Motorsport Director Pit Beirer announced the appointment of the popular Belgian legend and said it was a welcome return to the KTM international family for Smets, whose name is firmly anchored among the finest in the sport.
“I’m pleased and proud that we have been able to bring a personality like Joel into this new position,” said Beirer.
“I’m confident that he is going to lead our riders onto even greater things. Joel’s experience and his career achievements speak for themselves, and clearly he’s also a strong role model for both our senior and junior factory riders.”
Although Smets came into the sport of motocross relatively late at the age of 17, he took his first world title in 1995 and won again in 1997 (ahead of New Zealand’s Darryll King) and 1998 (again with King the runner-up).
His fourth and fifth titles were while he rode for KTM in 2000 and 2003. Smets started in 168 GPs during his career, and with 57 GP victories, he established himself as one of the sport’s greatest riders. Smets was also six-times Belgian National Champion and was Belgian Sportsman of the Year in 2000.
Smets joins KTM to fill this newly created position within the factory team structure and both Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team Managers, Claudio de Carli (MXGP) and Dirk Gruebel (MX2) welcome him on board. He will be in charge of overseeing general planning, and will co-ordinate and facilitate training schedules to the best advantage. Smets will also be head of the race workshop in Belgium.
The MXGP, MX2 and KTM Factory Junior teams will now share two comprehensive base camp facilities, one in Belgium and a second near Rome. The two locations will allow them to take best advantage of prevailing weather conditions, and to work out of two top class facilities.
The Austrian workshop at KTM Factory Racing headquarters, the exclusive location where all factory bikes and engines are built, remains the hub for the company’s worldwide factory racing activities, Beirer confirmed. “This new setup, along with Joel’s appointment, guarantee we have the very best of everything in Italy, Austria and Belgium. With this strong management structure and excellent facilities we will always be ready to race.”
Rumours had been circulating recently that fellow Belgian motocross great Stefan Everts would be moving from KTM to the Suzuki factory and although no confirmation has been provided yet, this latest development adds strength to the beliefs.
It was believed that 10-time world champion Everts had been preparing a bid to purchase control of the factory Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MXGP team.
Geboers Racing Promotion owner Sylvain Geboers, who has just recently celebrated his 70th birthday, had been looking to hand over the reigns of the Lommel-based operation for several years and speculation of Everts taking control had increased significantly in the past two months.
© Photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com
Find BikesportNZ.com on FACEBOOK here