The thirteenth round of fifteen in the dwindling 2009 FIM Motocross World Championship saw the eighth different winner in the MX1 category emerge with Clement Desalle – a name now a little familiar to American audiences – who gave Honda some credit in an injury-splattered campaign. The premier class crown edged closer to the hands of 450 rookie Tony Cairoli as the Red Bull De Carli Yamaha rider defied sickness to classify fourth, losing points to the factory Red Bull KTM of Max Nagl but needing just six more than the German next time out in Holland to complete a very memorable year.
In contrast the MX2 competition was prized open as Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin saw a probable podium result evaporate with the plumes of smoke emanating from the pipe of his expired SX-F in the second moto. Bud Kawasaki’s Gautier Paulin was the overall victor and a sick Rui Goncalves took podium trophy number six to slash the Frenchman’s lead by almost half.
The antiquated Loket circuit is an admirable bastion of GP racing’s yesteryear with undulations galore and a hard-pack with varying grip levels, fast, unmerciful to the careless and demanding of a rider’s skill and bravery with overtaking. 21,000 spectators, a large majority seemingly from across the border with Germany a short distance away, basked in warm sunshine.
Before the action got underway there was the latest gaggle of news and gossip that was trying its best to keep everyone interested but with several brands being made to wait until the latter half of August for budget updates the reams of speculation continued.
The release of factory Teka Suzuki riders Steve Ramon and Ken De Dycker onto the market created new permutations for the fraternity not only looking for saddles but also trying to avoid competing and risking life and limb for a pittance. The overall scene at the moment involves teams holding power to pick, choose and dictate contract terms with more gusto and authority than perhaps ever before. However a large selection of teams themselves are still waiting to see what level of support can be provided by manufacturers and some are even considering switches of material. It seems that currently the most valuable commodity in this sphere of the world is a rider who can bring budget to the table. A slew of rumour and talk accompanied comments on the racing at the weekend. Ramon – a rider with an unparalleled track record in the MX1 category and a works rider since 2001– is struggling to find the right deal at the right price while De Dycker was a target for Aprilia while also possibly filling a direct saddle swap with Clement Desalle at LS Honda. Desalle is unofficially confirmed as a Teka Suzuki rider for 2010 but the works squad do not yet know their capabilities for a second representative.
Yamaha have Philippaerts and also supposedly Monster Energy (which could dictate if and who a second rider in the factory team might be), Honda Europe are waiting for budget confirmation but allegedly want decent MX2 presence to push the new fuel-injected CRF250R, and Kawasaki have yet to confirm a three rider MX1 crew but it is widely known that Jonathan Barragan will end a seven year association with KTM to be a factory KRT rep with Seb Pourcel and A N Other in 2010.
KTM announced their Red Bull super-team of one structure, embracing the De Carli team, with three riders per class at Lommel. One week after being able to digest the information offered by KTM management in Belgium many were scratching their heads in wonder at how an independent and seemingly technically proficient crew will merge with a direct factory effort. Control over development is bound to be a difficult subject and exactly how Stefan Everts will be able to affect the MX1 side of the operation is also unclear.
The first rider out of the cold (and also suffering the physical effects of one at Loket) Tony Cairoli missed the MX1 podium for just the fourth time from thirteen occasions this season. The Sicilian saw his tussle for the title with Nagl crank up a notch with the rapid-starting German edging the Yamaha wide both times in the first corner. Contact from the ever improving Aprilia of Julien Bill in the first race sent Cairoli up onto the adjacent ridge where he could have high-fived the crowd. Leaping down meant he was towards the rear of the pack and after a hard trawl back through benefitted from the generous nature of team-mate Tanel Leok – one of the hard workers of the class and looking as though he will be a thoroughly undeserving victim of the De Carli KTM association – boosted him to 6th. A better getaway in Moto 2 led to a close and tense dice with Philippaerts for second position until making a clean move on his countryman and sprinting away, too far though from Desalle.
The Belgian was a thorough winner of this event and his burst of speed on Saturday for his second consecutive pole position indicated that the graffiti was on the wall. He played a distant runner-up to Nagl in Moto 1 but was free to escape in Moto 2. Nagl complained of stomach pain before the second race (bizarrely the same condition affected Rui Goncalves and Ken De Dycker) and was unsteady on his feet in the post-race press conference. World champion David Philippaerts scooped his fifth podium with two third positions and his lengthy interactions with Josh Coppins and Cairoli in either moto were the MX1 action highlights of the day. A very worthy mention must go to another MX1 rookie Gareth Swanepoel, who has had an underwhelming season on the works Kawasaki but was strong and consistent at Loket to go sixth overall. The South African will be riding under the Kawasaki US banner at Unadilla.
Although Nagl beat Cairoli the six point difference is mirrored in a different way. In three weeks time Cairoli can become the 2009 world champion by out-pointing the KTM rider by six marks in the sand of Lierop; in truth, a possible and likely scenario.
However the perils of premature chicken counting is a hazardous exercise (just ask Josh Coppins whose dominant 2007 trail to the MX1 title crashed down with the tumbling Kiwi here at Loket) and a slither of Marvin Musquin’s brain must have been doing sums as he held his head next to the dormant KTM in the second moto. The decisive failure coming as he fought for the lead and looked certain to add to his tally of four GP wins thus far. The Frenchman was not as invincible at Loket compared to his lesson in the sand of Lommel and Teka Suzuki’s Ken Roczen was again a worthy sight for any motocross fan as he moved to the front with an array of attacking line invention and bravado. The 15 year old claimed the first race for his second chequered flag of the year but lost the GP after getting punted on the opening corner of Moto 2 and becoming buried in the mire of riders scrambling for space and slots in the formative thrusts of the sprint. A recovery was enacted, but fruitless for a third 2009 podium shot.
Roczen in fact watched teammate Xavier Boog enjoy the better start and run as runner-up to Paulin for his second trophy of the season. Rui Goncalves was as white as this page background when he came to the post-race press conference due to a stomach affliction that had plagued him since Lommel. The Portuguese’s excellent runner-up performance put him once more into unlikely championship contention. And then of course there was Paulin. The tall, likeable Frenchman at last getting the elusive good start to disappear from the pack and run unhindered once any looming threat from Musquin had gone.
Sympathy was felt for luckless Yamaha Monster Energy rider Nico Aubin who was another victim of mechanical gremlins while running second in race one.
The MX2 table makes bad reading for Musquin but still a safe bet for KTM. Goncalves now only needs to breach a gap of 20 points and proved his proficiency in the sand with his first win at Valkenswaard. Paulin is still in the ring, albeit with a weakened punch at 28 points; 100 are left.
The world championship now has a further two weeks to stew. Further movement on the shape-shifting for 2010 is unlikely with the holiday period interrupting frantic button pushes on calculators around Europe and in the depths of accounts offices in Japan. The penultimate round of the series ventures once more into the sand with the Grand Prix of the Netherlands taking place at Lierop on August 30th.