With nine World Championships to his name, 92 Grand Prix victories, 270 race wins, and 172 podiums, his statistics are more than just a little impressive. And while he is now 35 years old, that motivation to win is still clearly his main goal.
“To be in a team that is mostly winning is nice,” Cairoli said recently.
“Because my mentality is a winning mentality. My motivation is the same every year, to win the championship every time. That is the goal and that is why we are here in 2021.”
Germany’s Pit Beirer, a former GP winner is the main man in the Red Bull KTM off-road strategy and knows that 2021 is going to be important for KTM and also for Cairoli, and it might be a time to celebrate one of the best careers the sport has seen.
“We are planning a pretty fantastic farewell tour for Tony,” Beirer said. “It could be his last season this year. I think this coming season will be a mix of giving him the chance to finish his career a proper way, his last GP must be a GP with a lot of fans and not alone (like in 2020 and COVID-19). He will definitely put his signature on a brand-new motocross generation that we will bring the year after so also there he will be heavily involved. He will be more than busy in 2021.”
As for being the greatest Grand Prix rider of all time, we left that up to Dutch four-time World Motocross Champion Jeffrey Herlings to give his opinion on Cairoli and the man with the most titles and Grand Prix victories, Belgian legend Stefan Everts.
“I mean if you look at where Tony came from,” Herlings said. “To where he is right now, that is just amazing. As for Stefan, his father was a (four-time) World Champion, he grew up in the sport and always had good connections because of his father, because his father is also one of the best in the history.
“Talent wise, it is hard to say, if you look at both their good years, they dominated in those years, I think at the time Tony was racing the competition was stronger, the racing got more professional, although Youthstream (now Infront, the sport’s organising body) made it more professional, the riders were making more money and the teams were stepping it up, so a lot of things happening.
“Coming back to your question and it is hard to judge, but if you look at the record books, Stefan is the leading guy, but if you look at Tony, he also deserves a lot of respect.”
So, with a couple of months before the 2021 FIM Motocross World Championship begins, it is time to reflect for all of us, and the Sicilian youngster who burst onto the GP scene in 2004 is celebrated for what he has given us, both in memories and excitement.
Photo courtesy Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
Words by Geoff Meyer
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