Kawasaki/Racer X Race Report

May 19, 2008 7:49am

Honda Happiness for de Reuver at Mantova

That Martin Honda’s Marc de Reuver could win the Italian MX1 Grand Prix, the fifth round of fifteen in the FIM World Championship, at the Mantova circuit with two third positions is an indictment of the incidents and the inability of any one rider to grapple the event and conquer a difficult track.

MX1 start

Not that it was the lively Dutchman’s fault. De Reuver, long a victim of injury and hapless errors that have dashed his once fine reputation as a fast and fearless racer, showed maturity and confidence to obtain his third career win, his first since 2006 and his maiden MX1 trophy in his second season. It also is, of course, the first victory for Honda since Josh Coppins ruined Stefan Everts’ attempt at a perfect season in 2006 and the opening thrust in HRC’s renewed return to Grand Prix.

Marc de Reuver (14) grabs the holeshot

One could feel a sense of relief for the hardworking and entirely amiable Martin Honda crew, who almost looked to have a championship through two years with Mickael Pichon but since 2004 have suffered immense bad luck with the likes of Brian Jorgensen, Javier Garcia Vico, Antoine Meo and Pascal Leuret all registering a long list of injuries. Then there was the ill-fated Ryan Mills episode, the departure of a young Antonio Cairoli to Yamaha in 2004, and the escape of highly rated prospect Gautier Paulin to Kawasaki last winter.

Ken De Dycker

Mantova was a home Grand Prix for the squad, as it was for a healthy selection of teams in the paddock, but the normally reliable Italian sunshine was beaten back by cloud cover that threatened to deliver the same kind of deluge that engulfed the Spanish round a few weeks beforehand. The circuit was much better equipped for rain - in fact its flat stadium setting is perhaps the nearest the series gets to an “all-weather” venue. The showers and humidity caused the sandy to cut-up, get rough and create some perilous take-offs. Non-Italians were probably quite glad for the increased technical depth but almost everyone acknowledged the difficulty of the terrain.

Steve Ramon

So what happened to the winners of each moto? Sebastien Pourcel (Kawasaki) departed from the hoards in the first two laps in Moto 1 and was helped by a fourth-corner pile-up that saw Jonathan Barragan and championship helmsman and local hope David Philippaerts (Yamaha) on the ground. Round one winner Ken De Dycker returned from results obscurity to find second place, but all the while most the of circuit was transfixed by the progress of the stylish Philippaerts, who fizzed his way up the leader board with aplomb to reach fifth.

A mistake by Pourcel ruled him out of victory in Moto 2 as Max Nagl (KTM) repeated the Frenchman’s trick. Even the irrepressible Philippaerts, this time un-handicapped, was unable to reel in the flighty German. Josh Coppins was content with sixth overall at a track he openly confesses to hating, De Dycker calmed the nerves at Suzuki with fourth, Nagl fifth (a poor start in Moto 1) and Billy Mackenzie was seventh and maybe should have made the podium if he hadn’t crashed down from fourth position in Moto 1. Only three points split the top four in the final count (the same would happen in MX2). World Champion Steve Ramon did not have the best day and was ninth and Jonathan Barragan felt the treacherous nature of the Mantova mounds when he was pitched hard into the sand in Moto 2.

American Mike Brown commented that the Grand Prix was one of his worst ever races as he languished at the back of the field and far off the pace. The veteran allegedly has some suspension issues with his Honda and must be glad of the two week break to return home, see the family and take stock.

Tyla Rattray (4) and Antonio Cairoli (222) battle for the holeshot

The MX2 class was already a showcase for Antonio Cairoli and his multitudes of fans (count around most of the 29,000 attendance) although the world champion came close to leaving them unsatisfied. His second win of the season was certainly hard-earned. He fell foul of Erik Eggens’s swipe of his front wheel in a packed second corner in Moto 1 and then embarked on a chase from last to fourth spot, in something of a first act to the later Philippaerts “production.” The talented Sicilian strolled away with Moto 2 but, thanks to Tyla Rattray’s second spot, could not wrap the weekend in perfect style by regaining the red plate he had lost in Bulgaria. Tommy Searle was third overall and looked far from happy at having blown what seemed a clear victory in Moto 1 when he lost his rhythm, made mistakes and allowed a spritely Nico Aubin to push ahead and celebrate a first checkered flag with his Yamaha this season. Aubin was curiously off-song in Moto 2 in sixth place, and even he was at a loss to explain the speed difference that ultimately cast him in fourth overall.

Tommy Searle

Ashley Fiolek ran with the leaders in the second round of the Women’s World Championship but the small Honda U.S.-backed racer could not prevent Stephanie Laier from taking an authoritative double on her first GP appearance of the season. The German has the might of KTM behind her and despite pain from a damaged right shoulder ligament she held no peer at Mantova to announce herself as a late entry for the title. Katherine Prumm gained her first podium of the season on her new Yamaha and the tiny Larissa Papenmeier put aside discomfort from her ankle ailment received in Bulgaria last week to secure third. Bulgarian winner and series leader by a slender margin (two points from Prumm) Livia Lancelot was fourth. The ladies rejoin the male fraternity in France in just under a month.

Cairoli stood atop the podium in MX2

The points tables after a third of the MX1 and MX2 series show three riders in each class started to move adrift. Philippaerts now has a 28-point advantage over Ramon with Coppins just 10 points further back while Rattray sits on the MX2 perch by just three points from Cairoli and Searle is eight in arrears.

After traversing a chunk of Europe over the last ten days the MX1 and MX2 teams can now filter back to their respective bases and enjoy a free weekend. Round six will see the paddock roll into the first of three new circuits on the 2008 schedule as the freshly constructed course around the Mallory Park road racing facility faces its inauguration and a great deal of curious anticipation.