As a consequence of the sheeting rain that intermittently soaked the circuit close to Le Mans in northeast France and proved the weatherman’s forecast was on the money, the track was slippery and one-lined in the opening motos of both categories. With a fierce spell of sunshine, a drier and rougher course permitted more invention and courage in moto two, and thankfully the final MX1 outing provided some close racing unseen in the earlier processions, and the tussles for second and third positions between a pack of five riders was particularly interesting.
The injury-decimated premier MX1 fraternity was dismayed to see yet another protagonist succumb to the bizarre wave of misfortune delivered in 2009. Winner of the Benelux and Spanish rounds, factory KTM’s Jonathan Barragan needed a stint in intensive care to repair two broken ribs and removal of his spleen. The consequences of his practice crash would mean a period of convalescence of well over a month, and another title candidate lost. From the total of 11 riders considered as pre-season world championship contenders from five brands, the realistic list has rattled down to four from two manufacturers.
To Nagl’s side on the box were World Champion David Philippaerts (his third podium in a row with the Yamaha Monster Energy YZ450FM) and Tony Cairoli (his fifth podium with the Yamaha Red Bull De Carli YZ450F), back in the top three after his crash drama seven days earlier in the UK.
Musquin extended his advantage in the MX2 class to 30 points with neither Gautier Paulin nor Davide Guarneri getting near the podium either moto through bad starts or mid-race slips. Instead, Anthony Boissiere survived a first moto with a deflating rear tire to make second overall while 18-year-old Loic Larrieu completed an all-French top three and became the first rookie to spray champagne in 2009; only after eight races on the Yamaha Monster Energy YZ250F.
Ernee, the scene of Ricky Carmichael’s last dominant stand outside of the US at the 2005 Motocross of Nations, had not seen a Grand Prix since 2006. On that day, former MX1 title foes Stefan Everts and Mickael Pichon ended their world championship careers in very different ways. Pichon was stretchered away after a first-corner smash while Everts was hoisted on the shoulders of his team after bowing out of an era-defining ten-title spree and notching a record 101 victories in all categories.
While Everts was still working his magic at Ernee, but in the attire of a team manager’s jersey, Pichon was back to bury some demons, and after a reaffirming performance at the British Grand Prix, the semi-retired former 250cc World Champion and 125cc supercross number one was the darling of the copious French public gathered within the splendid amphitheatre setting. A decent run to fifth in race one was unsurprising and his battle back to ninth after a second-corner crash in moto two left the 33-year-old almost as content as his Martin Honda team.
Other stand-out figures from the MX1 exploits were Tanel Leok (Yamaha Red Bull De Carli), who battled to third in Moto2, and Billy Mackenzie (CAS Honda), who despite missing a ligament in his thumb, held second spot to Nagl for almost the whole second sprint and ended up having to wave Cairoli and Co. through in the final few minutes. Ken De Dycker (Teka Suzuki) was desperately unlucky as his third from moto one was wiped out by a broken footpeg while running second in moto two.
In MX2, Musquin, the rumored target of tomatoes by unimpressed public for his mid-season switch from a privateer Honda team to the might of the factory KTM squad (the technicalities of which are now being poured over in the offices of legal experts), did not witness any projectiles of vegetation and his pole-position performance on Saturday drew noisy appreciation. They say that the sun shines on the righteous, well, the half a dozen crackling lightning bolts and ominous skies that accompanied Musquin’s last three-lap run to the flag in moto one was enough of a visual demonstration that something karmic is still not right about his KTM domination. There is no doubting the skinny French teenager’s talent, though, for what was his second triumph in a week, and he now has a clear four moto wins on the 250 SX-F. Musquin is similar in style and speed to Christophe Pourcel and it is certainly only a matter of time before US audiences will be able to judge for themselves, especially if the lawyers conspire to further murk his campaign.
Another teenage star, Ken Roczen (Teka Suzuki Europe), picked himself up from a crash to finish a clear second in moto two and equal a career-best in just his fourth GP. A fall in the first corner of moto one robbed any chance of a podium. The ranking of the MX2 class can be identified practically from a first-corner photograph, such was the similarity in speed in the motos.
The fourth round of seven in the Women’s World Championship gave the crowd a morning warm-up for their cheers and air-horns. Defending number one Livia Lancelot soaked up the pressure of her home race to guide her works Kawasaki to a 1-1 score (the first moto taken on Saturday afternoon). Somewhat confidently, the tricolore was attached to the winner’s pole behind the podium after just three minutes of the second race, when the champion already had a lead of several seconds. Lancelot now leads the standings by 24 points over Steffy Laier and her success on French turf marked a career highlight.
After visits to Britain and France, the Grand Prix paddock can briefly exhale for a week before a northern European trek to Germany (Teutschenthal), Latvia (Kegums) and Sweden (Uddevalla) in successive weekends.
MX1 Moto One:
1. Max Nagl (KTM); 2. David Philippaerts (Yam); 3. Ken De Dycker (Suz); 4. Clement Desalle (Hon); 5. Mickael Pichon (Hon); 6. Josh Coppins (Yam); 7. Tony Cairoli (Yam); 8. Tanel Leok (Yam); 9. Aigar Leok (TM); 10. Tom Church (CCM); 11. Manuel Priem (Apr); 12. David Vuillemin (Kaw); 13. Gareth Swanepoel (Kaw); 14. Julien Bill (Apr); 15. Greg Aranda (Kaw); 16. Gert Krestinov (KTM); 17. Rob Van Vijfeijken (Yam); 18. Billy Mackenzie (Hon); 19. Shannon Terreblanche (Kaw); 20. Raphael Beaudouin (Hon).
MX1 Moto Two:
1. Max Nagl (KTM); 2. Tony Cairoli (Yam); 3. Tanel Leok (Yam); 4. David Philippaerts (Yam); 5. Billy Mackenzie (Hon); 6. Clement Desalle (Hon); 7. Josh Coppins (Yam); 8. Aigar Leok (TM); 9. Mickael Pichon (Hon); 10. Jason Dougan (CCM); 11. Manuel Priem (Apr); 12. Julien Bill (Apr); 13. Tom Church (CCM); 14. David Vullemin (Kaw); 15. Gareth Swanepoel (Kaw); 16. Gert Krestinov (KTM); 17. Shannon Terreblance (Kaw); 18. Bryan Mackenzie (Hon); 19. Carlos Campano (Yam); 20. Rob Van Vijfeijken (Yam).
1. Max Nagl (KTM); 2. David Philippaerts (Yam); 3. Tony Cairoli (Yam); 4. Tanel Leok (Yam); 5. Clement Desalle (Hon); 6. Josh Coppins (Yam); 7. Mickael Pichon (Hon); 8. Aigar Leok (TM); 9. Manuel Priem (Apr); 10. Ken De Dycker (Suz); 11. Billy Mackenzie (Hon); 12. Tom Church (CCM); 13. Julien Bill (Apr); 14. David Vullemin (Kaw); 15. Gareth Swanepoel (Kaw); 16. Jason Dougan (CCM); 17. Gert Krestinov (KTM); 18. Shannon Terreblance (Kaw); 19. Greg Aranda (Kaw); 20. Rob Van Vijfeijken (Yam).
MX1 World Championship Standings (After 8 of 15 rounds):
1. Tony Cairoli (291); 2. David Philippaerts (261); 3. Max Nagl (248); 4. Josh Coppins (238); 5. Clement Desalle (237); 6. Ken De Dycker (228); 7. Tanel Leok (223); 8. Jonathan Barragan (215); 9. Gareth Swanepoel (120); 10. Aigar Leok (118); 11. David Vuillemin (117); 12. Billy Mackenzie (103); 13. Steve Ramon (100); 14. Kevin Strijbos (82); 15. Greg Aranda (80); 16. Manuel Priem (77); 17. Mickael Pichon (56); 18. Tom Church (51); 19. Julien Bill (47); 20. Gert Krestinov (46).