“The King is back” read the customary t-shirts as the novelty trinkets of victory shared the same sense of playfulness as another Italian dimension of motorcycle racing, Valentino Rossi. Tony Cairoli, he also of superlative style, profile, definition and ability, climbed the podium at the Grand Prix of the Netherlands, despite finishing sixth after mathematically confirming the 2009 MX1 title. The 23-year-old was adorned with the customary shiny ‘bling’ of celebratory attire, but his accompanying small list of achievements was also an element that glistened from his efforts with a painful left knee courtesy of a meniscus problem through the thick and relentlessly wavy Lierop sand. Cairoli is the first rookie MX1 champion, the youngest, and also the first rider to have scooped MX2 and MX1 crowns since the categories were created in 2004. He is already the most successful Italian motocrosser and now has three career accolades to equal Alessio Chiodi’s total.
A modest 18,000 spectators were there to witness the latest world championship coronation; fittingly a venue where Cairoli first tasted glory as a title winner in 2005. The sun was patchy but present and while Ken De Dycker delivered the most authoritative and dominant sweep of moto victories this season, chased onto the podium by Josh Coppins and Clement Desalle, it was Cairoli who rightfully filled the sunbeams that bolted down from the vast Dutch sky like radiant spotlights.
De Dycker, out of favor with his works Teka Suzuki team for 2010 and currently the most sought-after rider for the saddles remaining in the paddock, was simply majestic on the rippled terrain; that a great many of the riding fraternity labeled as the toughest test this season, outstripping the powdery Lommel and the vast bumps in Latvia. He took Pole (his fourth of the year) and was fastest in each practice session. With a comfortable distance by the third lap of moto one, the inconsistent and oft-criticized Belgian was already signaling to animate the crowd and pulling whips over the sole tabletop of the layout. His runaway was repeated in moto two and gave the 25-year-old an undisputed second win of 2009.
Coppins unveiled his calling card of strength and determination to ride to his third podium appearance in what theoretically could be his final European GP after almost fifteen years as a world championship face. Desalle, on the LS Honda, was third despite doing his best ‘Ostrich impression’ at least three times in moto one. He was steadier for third in moto two. Outgoing world champ David Philippaerts was an excellent second in moto one at the place where he dashed Belgian hearts 12 months earlier to set up his emotional date at Faenza, but a rear-wheel slide-out meant he could only recover to eighth in moto two while another Yamaha rider, Tanel Leok, missed the podium courtesy of a second-race prang and buckled front disc brake.
Two decisive moments occurred that decided the 2009 MX1 title chase: Works KTM rider Max Nagl, Cairoli’s sole threat with a deficit of 45 points (meaning the Yamaha rider needed at least five to be popping champagne corks), looped out of third place in the closing stages of the first sprint while leading his rival. A two-point gain turned into a three-point loss and Cairoli needed just two from the second bout of 35 minutes and two laps. Around mid-distance, the two diminutive individuals faced-off, and Cairoli’s reliable and mature pace brought him up and around the German. He then bobbed-and-weaved to the finish line, where he was snatched away from the glare of the large gaggle of photographers, much to their ire.
“I am struggling to find the words. I wanted to win here because all my family and many people from Sicily had come to see me. I found it hard to walk on Friday and I was worried for the weekend, but as the track got rougher and slower I could push a bit harder,” said Cairoli, who will undergo minor surgery on his knee on Monday and face a five day hiatus before traveling to Brazil, where he and some members of his team have planned a few days holiday post-race before the melee of attention and build-up begins for the Italian team at Franciacorta for the Nations. Cairoli has unfinished business for an American audience. He ranks his moto win on the 250 at Matterley Basin in the UK during 2006 as the best race of his career, but the ill circumstances around the Budds Creek fiasco, two crashes in France in 2005 and the injury-enforced absence twelve months ago at Donington Park mean that U.S. fans still have not seen the aesthetic treat that the Sicilian evokes on a weekly basis for the Grand Prix hardcore.
Even though a prized asset will be lost to the color of orange in 2010, Yamaha was able to congratulate themselves on a championship defense for the YZ450F; its fifth title in six years of MX1. They also picked up the Manufacturer’s gong and now will focus on their upcoming brand-new model, due for public consumption in the coming weeks, as a worthy heir apparent.
The MX2 category will go to the last after Red Bull KTM riders Rui Goncalves and Marvin Musquin shared honors in the sand. The Frenchman grasped moto two in a flurry of riding and rhythm second only to De Dycker’s imperious stature to ensure his fifth win of 2009; his fourth with KTM. Only Ken Roczen and briefly Joel Roelants could match the 250 SX-F frontrunners. Roczen all-but securing an unbelievable top-five championship berth with his third set of silverware and having missed four rounds waiting to turn 15 years of age. Gautier Paulin stood a slim chance of upsetting KTM’s tilt at the title but a blown engine – a common occurrence for the Bud team this year – halted moto one. His victorious Leatt-Brace Golf Invitational teammate (a pleasant pre-event on Friday), Shaun Simpson, rode the SX-F with rear linkage suspension for the first time in a GP for over a decade. The Scot returned from the serious double-leg break sustained in practice during April and ran at the front in moto one before a crash bent the bike, and was easier on himself in moto two for sixth.
Utag Yamaha.com’s Zach Osborne fell out of a half-decent point-scoring slot in moto one and his bike expired later in the afternoon. His 19th place still represented his first numeration since breaking his wrist back in May.
The standings are still far from decided. In MX1, the positions between second and sixth are reasonably close, and split by 38 points. The MX2 division naturally needs a final word but the third, fourth and fifth slots are pretty solidly cemented by Paulin, Guarneri and Roczen.
The seven-round Women’s World Championship ended at Lierop with yet another victory for peerless German Stephanie Laier on the works KTM and subsequently her first world title in what was just the second edition of the competition. Italian teenager Chiara Fontanesi provided the pleasant rasp of a two-stroke to once again invade a GP podium with a narrow win in the first moto and a second place to allow a maiden podium visit. Larissa Papenmeier was third on the Teka Suzuki Europe World MX2 machine and will strap on the number-two plate for 2010.
And so now to Brazil. The sole flyaway on the ’09 Grand Prix calendar was supposed to be followed by the first U.S. round this century until its cancellation earlier this year. As a result, the transatlantic hop for a mere 50 points has become a pricey and – for some – unnecessary exercise. A quick count of factory riders and probable travelers sees less than 15 competitors from each class likely to board large commuter aircraft in the next seven days. Work-in-progress photographs from the venue close to the resort paradise of Florianopolis indicate that a curious and jumpy circuit will soon face its inauguration.
Grand Prix of the Netherlands Results - Round 14 of 15
MX1 Race 1 top ten: 1. Ken de Dycker (BEL, Suzuki), 41:21.920; ; 2. David Philippaerts (ITA, Yamaha), +0:05.058; 3. Tanel Leok (EST, Yamaha), +0:05.641; 4. Joshua Coppins (NZL, Yamaha), +0:12.075; 5. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, Yamaha), +0:29.008; 6. Clement Desalle (BEL, Honda), +0:36.742; 7. Steve Ramon (BEL, Suzuki), +0:51.600; 8. Maximilian Nagl (GER, KTM), +0:58.664; 9. Manuel Priem (BEL, Aprilia), +1:01.269; 10. Gareth Swanepoel (RSA, Kawasaki), +1:28.918.
MX1 Race 2 top ten: 1. Ken de Dycker (BEL, Suzuki), 42:25.366; ; 2. Joshua Coppins (NZL, Yamaha), +0:10.466; 3. Clement Desalle (BEL, Honda), +0:14.649; 4. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, Yamaha), +0:34.631; 5. Maximilian Nagl (GER, KTM), +0:38.477; 6. Tanel Leok (EST, Yamaha), +0:51.271; 7. Jonathan Barragan (ESP, KTM), +1:01.217; 8. David Philippaerts (ITA, Yamaha), +1:07.894; 9. Aigar Leok (EST, TM), +1:19.044; 10. Steve Ramon (BEL, Suzuki), +1:32.057.
MX1 Overall top ten: 1. Ken de Dycker (BEL, Suzuki), 50 points; 2. Joshua Coppins (NZL, Yamaha), 40 p.; 3. Clement Desalle (BEL, Honda), 35 p.; 4. Tanel Leok (EST, Yamaha), 35 p.; 5. David Philippaerts (ITA, Yamaha), 35 p.; 6. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, Yamaha), 34 p.; 7. Maximilian Nagl (GER, KTM), 29 p.; 8. Steve Ramon (BEL, Suzuki), 25 p.; 9. Aigar Leok (EST, TM), 21 p.; 10. Gareth Swanepoel (RSA, Kawasaki), 20 p.
MX1 Championship top ten: 1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, Yamaha), 537 points; 2. Maximilian Nagl (GER, KTM), 487 p.; 3. David Philippaerts (ITA, Yamaha), 463 p.; 4. Clement Desalle (BEL, Honda), 461 p.; 5. Ken de Dycker (BEL, Suzuki), 459 p.; 6. Joshua Coppins (NZL, Yamaha), 449 p.; 7. Tanel Leok (EST, Yamaha), 382 p.; 8. Gareth Swanepoel (RSA, Kawasaki), 238 p.; 9. Jonathan Barragan (ESP, KTM), 229 p.; 10. Manuel Priem (BEL, Aprilia), 195 p.