Analysis: Ruben Fernandez return and the future of Grand Prix in Spain

MXPG Spain 2024, Arroyomolinos Rider:

HRC eyeing end of season return for Fernandez as MXGP anticipates multiple GPs in Spain

Team HRC will soon confirm a schedule for Ruben Fernandez to get back on the CRF450R after recovery from a torn left ACL sustained in the Qualification Heat for the season-opening Grand Prix in Argentina in March. For the second year in a row the Japanese giants have relied on mostly one-rider representation, but this time it was the 25-year-old’s turn to sit on the sidelines after he carried the crew in 2023 when former world champion Tim Gajser convalesced from a broken femur.

Fernandez was forced into the operating theatre before the Spanish Grand Prix in late March. He has only just been able to start training and rehabilitation. “We had a last check three weeks ago and the doctor is really happy,” said Team Manager Marcus Pereira de Freitas, exclusively. “Ruben is eager to start early but we wanted him to let the body heal in time rather than push. He has the green light now, so he’s started some cycling and physical training and to build up some muscle around the knee again. I called him this week and he’s happy. He was aiming to be on the bike earlier than planned but then he also appreciates the medical point of view, and, for us, there is no need to rush.”

Image: JP Acevedo

After the Grand Prix of Italy, MXGP jets to the island of Lombok for an Indonesian double. HRC will then wait until after their return to Europe before they can fix a more detailed plan for the Spaniard, who is in his second term with the factory crew and is expected to sign a new contract to continue in red. “We will make a plan after Indonesia for when he can race again; maybe for the last three or four rounds,” the Brazilian added. ‘We are not setting any deadline but we are trying to figure it out and maybe after Lommel [Belgian GP in late July]. He hopes to be riding again in a couple of weeks.”

De Freitas admits that the vast HRC structure suffers in terms of development when the rider roster is hit. The crew have suffered similar bad luck with racers like Brian Bogers, Mitch Evans and Evgeny Bobryshev in the last decade. “Last year we had the same story but the other way around!” he half-smiles. “It is frustrating to have just one bike there when you have all the crew working hard but we still try to gather as much information as we can for Japan and for the U.S. to help each other make the bike better.”

Image: JP Acevedo

With Jorge Prado all-but confirmed for a three-year contract to race in AMA SMX, Fernandez will become the country’s leading MXGP athlete, and the flurry of other promising youngsters like David Braceras and Oriol Oliver means that the World Championship can still depend on Spanish presence in Grand Prix. There have been three GP dates on the Iberian Peninsula so far in the first six months of 2024 – Madrid, Agueda [Portugal] and Lugo – with the season-ending trip to Cozar still to come on September 25th. Promoters Infront Motor Racing are confident that MXGP will still make several visits to Spain for 2025 (Fernandez’s Galician roots also helping the status of the race in that region) based purely on the Prado effect and the mini-talent boom.

“It is still too early to say [for 2025] but we have a three-year contract with the three races so normally it should be long-term and the Spanish Federation are working hard to have Spanish youngsters coming into the championship: we see that difference compared to twenty years ago,” said Infront Motor Racing’s CEO David Luongo. “Jorge Prado is the best ambassador for the Spanish market but you also have Ruben Fernandez and the riders coming up in MX2 and the European Championship. I think the base we have now allows us to have at least two races and also all the races in Spain are supported by the local region to bring awareness and visibility. So, I’m confident we will have more than one race in Spain in the future.”

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