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Grand Prix of Belgium Report

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On the weekend of the GP Limburg Grand Prix of Belgium, held within the treacherously rough sand of Lommel, unsurprisingly a home-grown rider conquered the terrain and Teka Suzuki’s Ken De Dycker picked up his first MX1 win of the season for the twelfth round of fifteen in the FIM Motocross World Championship. In MX2, a legit Marvin Musquin – now settled in the factory Red Bull KTM squad after a settlement was reached in the dispute with his old NGS Honda team – completed a faultless weekend of speed and conviction with a double victory.

  • Ken de Dycker took his first win of the year at Lommel.
  • Max Nagl was second overall.
  • Antonio Cairoli was third overall.
  • Steve Ramon returned to action and finished fourth overall.
Twenty-four hours earlier, Tony Cairoli, the MX1 series leader and arguably the motocrosser with the highest profile in the world championship, confirmed his (and his Red Bull-backed De Carli team’s) new alliance with the KTM factory in creation of a fresh setup that will see six riders in both classes working from a two-truck structure with Stefan Everts still maintaining a managerial role, for his fourth year in orange. Alongside Cairoli will be Max Nagl and Rui Goncalves (in 2010 too old for MX2 and rumored to be the lead candidate for the new 350cc machine) and in MX2 Musquin will sit with Shaun Simpson and emerging Dutch talent Jeffrey Herlings.

It was the major news of the weekend and reaffirmed KTM’s commitment to Grand Prix motocross, although several questions remain open about the restructuring. Claudio De Carli has been very much a free spirit with his Yamaha development (since ’92), so how will his (successful) approach fall into line with KTM factory policy? Off-road Motorsport Director Pit Beirer also commented that the status and level of support to the five satellite teams has still to be decided; KTM could well be the strongest team in 2010 but the manufacturer might no longer be the most represented.

The Lommel sand is a curious beast that shape-shifts with every lap, like a choppy sea. The bumps demand absolute commitment and concentration and have a swift tendency to swallow the soul as well as the motorcycle for those careless enough to disrespect it for any given time. A prospect like Lommel is no longer the domain of the local cache of Benelux riders. The town or region itself is home to a vast array of world championship talent (Cairoli, Philippaerts, De Reuver, Simpson, and Coppins, among others) and the layout has been lapped countless times by the hefty grand prix fraternity that temporarily bases themselves in the country to take advantage of such terrain.

Over 28,000 spectators attended the event marshaled by Eric Geboers and Stefan Everts with ample support from the local government. Lommel is becoming a viable Grand Prix venue thanks to the track alterations and concessions to a better viewing experience (graded banks, varied enclosures and open corners). Sadly, the Belgian weather could not be modified, and the sheets of rain Sunday morning were a downcast start to what had been an impressive and busy occasion.

Geboers may have been grateful for the on-track distraction when De Dycker – rumored to be hovering on the door step of the Belgian crew – conquered a tussle with Washougal wanderer Clement Desalle in moto one for his first and overdue checkered flag of 2009. The 25-year-old was third behind title rivals Max Nagl and Cairoli in moto two, plowing through the course at its roughest. Nagl gated poorly in the first sprint, suffering wheelspin, and also admitted they he did not ride to his full potential, but was still able to take a runner-up berth overall. The German has dropped out of the top three in a moto only three times from the last thirteen races. Cairoli was third on the podium, which was surprising considering his double crash on Saturday and 21st position on the line. He started the first race slowly but results of fifth and second again proved his capability on the 450 in the sand.

Desalle lost a shake of the champagne bottle after a fall in the first corner of moto two that also collected a strong Josh Coppins and Tanel Leok, and his flight back to fifth was ruined by the ear-splitting rasp from a damaged exhaust that saw him penalized by a minute and dropped to ninth. De Dycker’s teammate, Steve Ramon, made his comeback to GP racing after missing seven rounds due to a fractured neck. The 2007 world champion’s consistent laps brought him to the same point tally as Cairoli. Defending number one David Philippaerts had an off day while Kevin Strijbos defied shoulder pain to pick up points and a painful second moto was mercifully ended when his works Martin Honda expired with a broken water pipe.

  • Marvin Musquin returned to KTM and dominated in the sand.
  • Dennis Verbruggen was third overall.
  • Rui Goncalves was fourth overall in MX2.
  • Zach Osborne was back in action but failed to score points on the day.
Musquin’s attack of the surface in the opening laps of both MX2 motos was beyond ferocious. It was captivating to watch, until his winning margin had been accrued and then he switched to an efficient cruise mode. The physical output of the Frenchman seemed to carry signs of the frustration of his recent predicament and having to be a sidelined victim of gossip hounds several weeks before in Sweden. There were easy smiles in the paddock across the weekend and even bigger glee after inflicting his ‘education’ on Sunday afternoon. He gave Rui Goncalves and Joel Roelants little chance of competition in both motos and by being fastest in every single MX2 session unveiled another perfect set; a performance entirely that of a champion. “This was really nice for me and to be able to do it like in Britain and France by being number one in each session was special and very good for the championship,” he said.

Roelants was second for a career-best and the third step of the podium belonged to LS Honda’s Dennis Verbruggen for the very first time. Ken Roczen defied a lowly gate pick after a disastrous qualification heat in which he crashed and had his bike wrecked by Zach Osborne for a decent Lommel debut. “I was pleased with the recoveries I could do here,” he said. “The track was fun but very hard and you have to change your style a lot.” Osborne was making his third attempt at a GP return after breaking his left wrist at round four. Lommel was a tough ask and the Turkish GP winner was merely a spectre of himself. Mistakes and a lack of confidence did not lead to any points, but valuable race mileage was obtained. Loket will be more the Utag Yamaha.com rider’s cup of tea.

One other mention in MX2 must go to 17-year-old Dane Rasmus Jorgensen. The teenager finished sixth in his world championship debut with absent Xavier Boog’s Teka Suzuki, an achievement second only to Roczen in 2009.

Cairoli and Musquin now have fairly decisive margins in the series standings and the destination of both crowns is starting to become clearer with 150 points remaining. The Yamaha rider has a lead of 49 points over Nagl (who must be wondering where he could have been without the pre-season hand injury that set him back at the first couple of GPs) and Philippaerts needs to point more than 78 over his Nations teammate if a title defense is manageable. Musquin is without a doubt a deserving MX2 candidate and yet another scarily formidable talent from France with designs on the USA. His gap of 48 points (now over KTM shadow Goncalves) has been built with the lion’s share of spoils in 2009, regardless of the make of motorcycle.

The world championship continues at pace with the Grand Prix of Czech Republic at the old-fashioned, fast and slippery Loket circuit due to take place next week. Similar results to the past few events could set up title celebrations at the penultimate meeting in the sand of Lierop (Holland) at the end of the month.

MX1 Race 1 top ten: 1. Ken de Dycker (BEL, Suzuki), 43:03.805; 2. Clement Desalle (BEL, Honda), +0:06.893; 3. Steve Ramon (BEL, Suzuki), +0:18.879; 4. Joshua Coppins (NZL, Yamaha), +0:48.843; 5. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, Yamaha), +0:49.076; 6. Maximilian Nagl (GER, KTM), +0:50.650; 7. David Philippaerts (ITA, Yamaha), +1:11.853; 8. Tanel Leok (EST, Yamaha), +1:13.690; 9. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Honda), +2:04.985; 10. Manuel Priem (BEL, Aprilia), +2:31.170;

MX1 Race 2 top ten: 1. Maximilian Nagl (GER, KTM), 41:54.880; 2. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, Yamaha), +0:30.961; 3. Ken de Dycker (BEL, Suzuki), +0:49.586; 4. Steve Ramon (BEL, Suzuki), +0:58.857; 5. Manuel Priem (BEL, Aprilia), +1:14.596; 6. Tanel Leok (EST, Yamaha), +1:14.903; 7. Joshua Coppins (NZL, Yamaha), +1:47.985; 8. Gareth Swanepoel (RSA, Kawasaki), +2:08.690; 9. Clement Desalle (BEL, Honda), +2:14.637; 10. David Philippaerts (ITA, Yamaha), -1 lap(s);

MX1 Overall top ten: 1. Ken de Dycker (BEL, Suzuki), 45 points; 2. Maximilian Nagl (GER, KTM), 40 p.; 3. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, Yamaha), 38 p.; 4. Steve Ramon (BEL, Suzuki), 38 p.; 5. Clement Desalle (BEL, Honda), 34 p.; 6. Joshua Coppins (NZL, Yamaha), 32 p.; 7. Tanel Leok (EST, Yamaha), 28 p.; 8. Manuel Priem (BEL, Aprilia), 27 p.; 9. David Philippaerts (ITA, Yamaha), 25 p.; 10. Shannon Terreblanche (RSA, Kawasaki), 14 p.;

MX1 Championship top ten: 1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, Yamaha), 466 points; 2. Maximilian Nagl (GER, KTM), 415 p.; 3. David Philippaerts (ITA, Yamaha), 388 p.; 4. Ken de Dycker (BEL, Suzuki), 383 p.; 5. Clement Desalle (BEL, Honda), 379 p.; 6. Joshua Coppins (NZL, Yamaha), 375 p.; 7. Tanel Leok (EST, Yamaha), 327 p.; 8. Jonathan Barragan (ESP, KTM), 215 p.; 9. Gareth Swanepoel (RSA, Kawasaki), 188 p.; 10. Aigar Leok (EST, TM), 167 p.;

MX2 Race 1 top ten: 1. Marvin Musquin (FRA, KTM), 41:56.587; 2. Rui Goncalves (POR, KTM), +0:09.841; 3. Joel Roelants (BEL, KTM), +0:20.355; 4. Jeremy van Horebeek (BEL, KTM), +1:55.488; 5. Dennis Verbruggen (BEL, Honda), +2:03.427; 6. Ken Roczen (GER, Suzuki), +2:17.114; 7. Davide Guarneri (ITA, Yamaha), +2:22.731; 8. Rasmus Jorgensen (DEN, Suzuki), +2:25.810; 9. Manuel Monni (ITA, Yamaha), +2:30.504; 10. Loic Larrieu (FRA, Yamaha), +2:35.433;

MX2 Race 2 top ten: 1. Marvin Musquin (FRA, KTM), 41:57.742; 2. Joel Roelants (BEL, KTM), +0:18.051; 3. Dennis Verbruggen (BEL, Honda), +0:35.797; 4. Nicolas Aubin (FRA, Yamaha), +1:01.908; 5. Marcus Schiffer (GER, KTM), +1:14.808; 6. Ken Roczen (GER, Suzuki), +1:28.517; 7. Rasmus Jorgensen (DEN, Suzuki), +1:29.605; 8. Rui Goncalves (POR, KTM), +1:32.435; 9. Davide Guarneri (ITA, Yamaha), +2:02.999; 10. Manuel Monni (ITA, Yamaha), +2:10.331;

MX2 Overall top ten: 1. Marvin Musquin (FRA, KTM), 50 points; 2. Joel Roelants (BEL, KTM), 42 p.; 3. Dennis Verbruggen (BEL, Honda), 36 p.; 4. Rui Goncalves (POR, KTM), 35 p.; 5. Ken Roczen (GER, Suzuki), 30 p.; 6. Rasmus Jorgensen (DEN, Suzuki), 27 p.; 7. Nicolas Aubin (FRA, Yamaha), 26 p.; 8. Davide Guarneri (ITA, Yamaha), 26 p.; 9. Manuel Monni (ITA, Yamaha), 23 p.; 10. Jeremy van Horebeek (BEL, KTM), 23 p.;

MX2 Championship top ten: 1. Marvin Musquin (FRA, KTM), 421 points; 2. Rui Goncalves (POR, KTM), 383 p.; 3. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Kawasaki), 372 p.; 4. Davide Guarneri (ITA, Yamaha), 357 p.; 5. Steven Frossard (FRA, Kawasaki), 284 p.; 6. Ken Roczen (GER, Suzuki), 269 p.; 7. Nicolas Aubin (FRA, Yamaha), 229 p.; 8. Joel Roelants (BEL, KTM), 222 p.; 9. Manuel Monni (ITA, Yamaha), 222 p.; 10. Xavier Boog (FRA, Suzuki), 197 p.;
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