Speaking of knee work, Joel Smets will be back on the factory Suzuki RM-Z450 four-stroke with Kevin Strijbos next year after recuperating from his operation. Once the 2005 season is over, Smets intends to retire and become a Suzuki team manager. His young Suzuki partner, Strijbos, improved a lot this year (winning two motos), and he is bound to the yellow bike till 2006.KTM reconfirmed with both Belgian Steve Ramon, who capped off the year with an excellent fourth in the final results, and unlucky Norwegian Kenneth Gundersen, who raced only a few times because of problems with his right knee. Last but not least is the fresh MX2-class champion Ben Townley. KTM managers expect much from the 19-year-old Kiwi, and he’ll go face-to-face with Everts and company in the MX1 class on an all-new 450 SXF.After seeing Mickael Pichon’s excellent results in the last GPs and his runner-up series finish, Honda decided to change strategies. The company hasn’t demonstrated a big interest in the World Championship during the last few years, but look for more official Honda presence in future in the MX1 class. Through its European branch office, Honda signed an agreement with the Italian Tiscali Martin Honda team to be its Southern European team. So Pichon stands to benefit and enjoy special treatment from Honda. New Zealander Joshua Coppins re-signed with the English CAS Team, which will have a similar arrangement with Honda as its Northern European team.The Jan DeGroot team, running the Kawasaki effort in Europe for years, lured this year’s revelation rider in the MX1 class, Tanel Leok, away from Suzuki to race the new factory Kawasaki 450 four-stroke.KTM owned the 125/MX2 World title in 2003 and 2004. To stop this domination, Yamaha made a surprise move by bringing L&M/Rinaldi rider Cédric Melotte from the MX1 class back to the MX2 class. The Austrian company is relying on Dutchman Marc De Reuver and South African Tyla Rattray to counter this effort aboard the fully developed 250 SXF.Of course, the rider most requested by the team managers was the young and acrobatic Antonio Cairoli. The 19-year-old Sicilian inked a two-year agreement with the Italian De Carli team (a Yamaha satellite team). To see an interview with Antonio Cairoli Click here. After 2005, Cairoli hopes, as all young promising European riders do, to have the opportunity to race in the United States. He will join veteran racer Claudio Federici, who will campaign a Yamaha in the MX1 class. The Italian RZ team will entrust its Yamaha to former world champion Alessio Chiodi next year; and Australian Andrew McFarlane will replace Andrea Bartolini, who will simply be a test rider for Yamaha. Representing the green bikes, Stephen Sword will again be racing for the Jan DeGroot team–on its only factory KX250F.