The inaugural Grand Prix of Spain took place in 1962 and 47 years later a rider from that country finally managed to win a race that took place within the Iberian Peninsula. The sixth round of the FIM World Championship occurred at Bellpuig and the nearest thing to moisture in the air – a climate feature that completely wrecked the 2008 edition of this event as twelve hours of rain and a yard of standing water washed out the meeting – was thankfully only seen by the champagne spray enacted by the victory of KTM Silver Action Team rider Jonathan Barragan. The Spaniard celebrated his second win of the season on his Mattighofen factory steed by going 1-4 at the Grand Prix of Catalunya, despite rupturing left shoulder ligament ten days previously, and had the majority of the crowd in rapture at his landmark achievement.
Also on the podium was another case of the slightly walking wounded in world champion David Philippaerts, who astonished with a 3-3 scorecard on the works Yamaha Monster Energy YZ450FM after racing with a left index finger broken seven days previously in Portugal and for which he had spent the week in England undergoing laser therapy. On the third step was series leader and second moto winner Tony Cairoli. The Sicilian was again the fastest rider on his Red Bull De Carli machine as his dominance in practice and his second pole position in the qualification heat partly justified, but a troublesome opening race led to eighth position with a double crash and a set of sore ribs.
The first moto was more a case of “Barra-gone.” Cairoli had clashed with CAS Honda’s Billy Mackenzie (himself competing with a painful right thumb courtesy of wrenched ligaments, and once again alone in the British team after Cedric Melotte could not put his weak back through the full Saturday program and is now allegedly considering retirement) and both hit the deck while disputing second-place on the second lap. Mackenzie was furious afterwards while Cairoli felt he had made a valid overtaking move. Both restarted mid-pack while Barragan had the gap he needed to sprint clear of Clement Desalle and a close Philippaerts in third.
The rippled and rough, hard-pack Bellpuig terrain was curious through its two-metre main racing line with often a trip into softer and wetter mud (thanks to slightly desperate watering to try and contain the dust) for riders wanting to make passes. Surrounding the course was the usual excellent level of preparation by the Moto Club Segre that has the GP at the hillside venue until 2012.
Barragan undoubtedly enjoyed the support of the 20,000 crowd but the applause was conservative rather than feverish. That the GP of Benelux winner had taken to the track in the colours of the Spanish flag deep in the Catalan region, for more than a century seeking independence from the central government, might have made a small difference. Catalan pride is currently bubbling high thanks to the exploits of the Barcelona soccer team that not only won La Liga for the first time in three years on Saturday (as the paddock staying in hotels at the nearby city of Lleida will be able to testify thanks to noisy nocturnal celebrants) but also the Copa Del Rey for the first time since 1998 last week. In the past two weeks a thorough and symbolic defeat of Real Madrid 6-2, also had the blood pumping in the veins of the six million populous of the dominion. It seemed that the captivating charge of 15-year-old Ken Roczen in his valiant chase for victory in the second MX2 moto caused more of a stir among the public, excited to witness another piece of history in the making.
Cairoli was tremendous in his flight back from the depths of the top twenty to fifth, even with a damaged fuel tank that forced the former MX2 world champion to be conservative with the throttle in order to last the distance. When he attempted to snatch a line from a consistent but inactive and physically struggling Josh Coppins for fourth, he caught the rear wheel of the Yamaha and went down again. He finished eighth.
The second moto saw a more changeable affair as Mackenzie led the first half and slowed, barely able to hang onto the bars, to be caught by KTM’s Max Nagl. The German had a ten-second lead but a mistake on the last two laps let a surging Caroli get near and a sixth moto win from the last eight was inevitable for the series leader, who thanks to a first moto crash, broken clutch and DNF by Teka Suzuki’s Ken De Dycker, extended his championship advantage by 11 points to 36, now ahead of Barragan. The Spaniard had briefly slipped off in the opening stages but rallied in the tussle between Philippaerts and Cairoli (a duel without incident although the pair did not even exchange a glance as they were almost alone in the press conference room and patiently waiting for the media to file in) to clinch victory by a slender three-point margin.
Teka Suzuki’s Ken Roczen blazed to seventh position overall just seven days previously in Portugal in what was perhaps the most accomplished Grand Prix debut since a certain Eric Geboers scored a fifth-place sometime in the mists of the last century. The 15-year-old German, who had to wait until the fifth round of the series before hitting the permissible age to race at this level, was the headline grabber in MX2 at Bellpuig despite a debut win from two solid performances by KTM’s Jeremy Van Horebeek (2-3).
Roczen, who raced the B class at Loretta Lynn’s last summer with help from Cernic’s Racing, was proactive in his overtaking and one of the few to cause movement in the first race lap chart as he rose from 11th to 6th. A better start in Moto2 saw him fighting closely for the entire distance with Anthony Boissiere; the scrubs and flicks of his RM-Z250 in his plight to pass the Frenchman drawing more admiration with every lap. The pressure of hype and the revered standing which this talent holds within his team cannot be easy on such young shoulders but Roczen’s emergence lies in hand with Cairoli’s and Pourcel’s in terms of impact, style and recognition of a gifted rider commencing his journey in the sport.
Boissiere hung on for his first chequered flag since 2005 and through an injury-plagued spate of time in between, and Van Horebeek overtook a goggle-less Nico Aubin on the last lap for third to take the GP.
Winner of the previous two rounds, Red Bull KTM’s Rui Goncalves, led a five rider group to the first moto finish line but a crash placed him 5th in the second for second overall, ahead of Boissiere, and Roczen fourth.
Marvin Musquin became the new championship leader with an unlikely 11th position overall. The wiry Frenchman admitted that talks about his immediate future over the weekend had led to him being distracted on Sunday and a first moto fall hardly helped. His promotion to the peak of the points table, although with just a small four-point gap, was thanks to Bud Kawasaki’s Gautier Paulin also eating dust in the first moto and then becoming a victim in a first corner pile-up in Moto2.
Musquin might be the first rider ever to lead the MX2 series with a CRF250R but his fractious relationship with the NGS team could see him take the red plate to the works KTM set-up by the time of the British GP in two weeks, with Shaun Simpson’s idle SX-F still gathering dust for the Austrians.
Bellpuig was home to a round of the Veteran’s series last year but this time the aged gave way to round three of the Women’s World Championship. KTM’s Stephanie Laier won her first race of the campaign and was followed on the rostrum by Larissa Papenmeier (Teka Suzuki) and the second time in a week and then world champion Livia Lancelot, who owned the second moto but took 5th after a run-in with a hay bale and crash in the first affair Saturday afternoon
No Ashley Fiolek on this occasion; the AMA champ electing to fly home to prepare for the upcoming domestic campaign and Tarah Geiger was also absent due to her broken scaphoid (Utag Yamaha.com team-mate Zach Osborne is currently in the UK undergoing laser and oxygen treatment in a bid to heal his chipped wrist bone). KTM’s Sarah Whitmore was 11th.
“I’m sorry that Ashley had to go back to the States but we understand her reasons,” commented Lancelot. “I hope she wins out there, not only because she is my friend but also because she couldn’t win here and it will further prove the strength of our series.”
After the hottest and driest race of the year so far, now onto arguably the biggest and liveliest with the British Grand Prix set to take place at the Mallory Park racing complex in two weeks time for round seven.
MX1 Race 1 top ten: 1. Jonathan Barragan (ESP, KTM), 40:38.899; ; 2. Clement Desalle (BEL, Honda), +0:10.982; 3. David Philippaerts (ITA, Yamaha), +0:11.453; 4. Joshua Coppins (NZL, Yamaha), +0:16.273; 5. David Vuillemin (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:17.446; 6. Gareth Swanepoel (RSA, Kawasaki), +0:18.617; 7. Maximilian Nagl (GER, KTM), +0:19.177; 8. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, Yamaha), +0:51.165; 9. Tanel Leok (EST, Yamaha), +0:54.074; 10. Aigar Leok (EST, TM), +1:05.652;
MX1 Race 2 top ten: 1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, Yamaha), 39:22.225; ; 2. Maximilian Nagl (GER, KTM), +0:01.314; 3. David Philippaerts (ITA, Yamaha), +0:13.691; 4. Jonathan Barragan (ESP, KTM), +0:18.063; 5. Billy Mackenzie (GBR, Honda), +0:20.186; 6. Ken de Dycker (BEL, Suzuki), +0:23.058; 7. Clement Desalle (BEL, Honda), +0:23.655; 8. Joshua Coppins (NZL, Yamaha), +0:23.983; 9. David Vuillemin (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:33.488; 10. Gregory Aranda (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:39.470;
MX1 Overall top ten: 1. Jonathan Barragan (ESP, KTM), 43 points; 2. David Philippaerts (ITA, Yamaha), 40 p.; 3. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, Yamaha), 38 p.; 4. Maximilian Nagl (GER, KTM), 36 p.; 5. Clement Desalle (BEL, Honda), 36 p.; 6. Joshua Coppins (NZL, Yamaha), 31 p.; 7. David Vuillemin (FRA, Kawasaki), 28 p.; 8. Billy Mackenzie (GBR, Honda), 26 p.; 9. Gareth Swanepoel (RSA, Kawasaki), 25 p.; 10. Tanel Leok (EST, Yamaha), 20 p.;
MX1 Championship top ten: 1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, Yamaha), 231 points; 2. Jonathan Barragan (ESP, KTM), 195 p.; 3. Ken de Dycker (BEL, Suzuki), 183 p.; 4. Joshua Coppins (NZL, Yamaha), 175 p.; 5. David Philippaerts (ITA, Yamaha), 174 p.; 6. Tanel Leok (EST, Yamaha), 162 p.; 7. Clement Desalle (BEL, Honda), 162 p.; 8. Maximilian Nagl (GER, KTM), 155 p.; 9. David Vuillemin (FRA, Kawasaki), 101 p.; 10. Steve Ramon (BEL, Suzuki), 100 p.;
MX2 Race 1 top ten: 1. Rui Goncalves (POR, KTM), 39:21.424; ; 2. Jeremy van Horebeek (BEL, KTM), +0:01.818; 3. Xavier Boog (FRA, Suzuki), +0:05.871; 4. Davide Guarneri (ITA, Yamaha), +0:06.426; 5. Steven Frossard (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:07.891; 6. Ken Roczen (GER, Suzuki), +0:07.954; 7. Anthony Boissiere (FRA, KTM), +0:24.346; 8. Manuel Monni (ITA, Yamaha), +0:29.578; 9. Marcus Schiffer (GER, KTM), +0:33.182; 10. Arnaud Tonus (SUI, KTM), +0:34.051;
MX2 Race 2 top ten: 1. Anthony Boissiere (FRA, KTM), 39:35.739; ; 2. Ken Roczen (GER, Suzuki), +0:02.240; 3. Jeremy van Horebeek (BEL, KTM), +0:05.212; 4. Nicolas Aubin (FRA, Yamaha), +0:06.794; 5. Rui Goncalves (POR, KTM), +0:09.792; 6. Steven Frossard (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:10.777; 7. Davide Guarneri (ITA, Yamaha), +0:19.102; 8. Xavier Boog (FRA, Suzuki), +0:20.462; 9. Marvin Musquin (FRA, Honda), +0:29.925; 10. Marcus Schiffer (GER, KTM), +0:36.699;
MX2 Overall top ten: 1. Jeremy van Horebeek (BEL, KTM), 42 points; 2. Rui Goncalves (POR, KTM), 41 p.; 3. Anthony Boissiere (FRA, KTM), 39 p.; 4. Ken Roczen (GER, Suzuki), 37 p.; 5. Xavier Boog (FRA, Suzuki), 33 p.; 6. Davide Guarneri (ITA, Yamaha), 32 p.; 7. Steven Frossard (FRA, Kawasaki), 31 p.; 8. Nicolas Aubin (FRA, Yamaha), 28 p.; 9. Marcus Schiffer (GER, KTM), 23 p.; 10. Manuel Monni (ITA, Yamaha), 20 p.;