A David Philippaerts victory might be a rare thing – this was the world champion’s first in ten months and just his third in a season and a half with the Yamaha Monster Energy MX squad- but it was not as surprising as the prickling sunshine that crimsoned the thirty-odd thousand spectators used to, well, gloomier conditions in Great Britain.
As usual the British fans flocked in droves to the premier off-road racing event of their calendar. The road racing complex in England’s midlands, a short distance from ’08 nations venue Donington Park, housed a buzz and feel around a world championship spectacle only matched by the visit to France, set to take place next week.
Mallory Park, a knotted contrast of excessive jumps and timing sections offset by long off-cambered turns and old-school bomb-holes, was the venue for the British round for the second year in succession (the first time for the instable meeting this century). For all the aesthetic appeal of the track and the undoubted efforts made by the promoter to improve the viewing experience (Mallory also entertained the second round of the Supermoto series on Friday and Saturday, as well as another outing for the Veteran’s World Cup), the loose/hard terrain somehow did not lend itself to great racing, with one-line popping up frequently and soaring talents like Tony Cairoli and Ken Roczen expressing a dislike to the place for its forced limits on overtaking.
Philippaerts went 1-2 for his first moto and GP win of the season (the fourth Yamaha rider in the accumulation of five wins for the brand) at this seventh round of fifteen and benefitted from a mistake by Red Bull KTM’s Max Nagl to glimpse the checkered flag. Nagl reset his errant concentration for race two and secured his first podium of a term disrupted by wrist and hand injuries. LS Honda’s Clement Desalle is fast becoming a rider on many team’s wish-list for 2010 as the young Belgian enjoyed his second podium of 2009 in third and could have threatened Philippaerts for second spot in Moto 2 if it were not for a momentary slip that banished all hope of a tow.
MX2 World Championship leader and Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin (yes, that’s not an error) rubbed salt into the open wound of his privateer and recently rejected NGS Honda team by enacting a display of impressive but controversial dominance on his debut with the Austrian machine. A murky legal situation now exists between KTM and Honda after the Frenchman’s startling mid-season defection with KTM still lacking clarity over their acquisition (having earlier stated that employing other team’s riders during the season was not their policy). The likeable but seemingly naive Musquin offered “I just want to win” in his skeletal English during the post-race press conference, when finally allowed to be quizzed by the media.
Musquin now has two GP wins this season, each one with a different motorcycle, and in the last two races has placed the red plate on two different machines. His judgement might be questionable but regardless of the steed between the teenager’s legs, his talent is undoubted and his defeat of Steven Frossard and Gautier Paulin (another all-Gallic podium) was emphatic and his perfect set of results across the whole weekend assisted towards a 15-point lead in the standings.
MX1 pace-setter Tony Cairoli lost only two points (now 34) despite finishing 8th at Mallory. The Sicilian had knocked into an almost-fallen Billy Mackenzie around the first corner of the qualification heat, crashed and was hit by several other riders, retiring immediately with back and wrist pain. The incident put the Sicilian at the back of the gate and from there he painfully rode for maximum point gain while curiously watching the thwarted progress of nearest rivals Ken De Dycker (7th with shoulder and wrist injuries and hitting a neutral at the start of Moto 2) and Spanish GP victor Jonathan Barragan (collision and broken clutch in Moto2).
After some weeks getting close and physical with Philippaerts the Red Bull De Carli rider now has his countryman chasing him in the points table.
Bud Racing Kawasaki’s David Vuillemin did not race with an injured finger while Zach Osborne managed just three laps in a premature comeback from a chipped left radius. The American tried to ride after just three weeks of treatment and will now sit out the trip to France and hope for better fortunes in Germany in another three weeks.
Mickael Pichon was a headline maker in the MX1 class. The 33-year-old Frenchman was called out of semi-retirement to fill one of the two vacancies in the works Martin Honda squad (his former team in the 2004 and 2005 MX1 campaigns where he challenged Stefan Everts for the title) and returned to the MX1 fold for the first time since 2006; where a first corner fall at the final GP of the season in Ernee ended his participation at the highest level on a stretcher. Pichon arrived at Mallory Park on Friday afternoon, tested the CRF450R, made minimal changes and then set the fastest lap-time in pre-qualifying practice. After taking second place in the heat to Philippaerts on Saturday, the Frenchman (and most successful rider from his country to compete in the world championship) lasted the distance with 6th overall and two 7th positions. What was that dictum about class being permanent?
“Everything is better than I expected; the speed was OK and my physical condition also because I could see that the second moto was alright,” said Pichon. “For sure I was tired but I was riding smooth and not pushing too hard. When the guys like Coppins and a few others passed me they were not pulling away and I was having fun, more so than the first moto. It was nice to come back to the GPs and see many people who I had been working with for a lot of years; it was pretty cool to be here. The new Honda is really good but I think we can always do better and improve it; everything can be better in life! I am going to try and work on it, for me it is not so important but if it helps Kevin and whoever else then I will be glad.”
“A rider with that experience and nice style will always be fast, he could get quicker in the next races,” observed Philippaerts.
The first of those closely packed meetings (four in the next five weeks) takes place next week at Ernee – site of the 2005 Motocross of Nations and Ricky Carmichael’s last hoorah on non-U.S. soil – for the Grand Prix of France.