Marvin Musquin deservedly won the 2009 MX2 World Championship with his fourth double set of the year at Canelinha in Brazil. Clement Desalle claimed the MX1 class on his privateer Honda, before swiftly and surprisingly denouncing the inappropriateness of giving the manufacturer a win at their heavily branded event by claiming their support for him is minimal. The real headline maker at this calendar-closer was the Lazarus-style recovery of the first visit by the series to the country in ten years, and how a sodden and washed-out meeting could bounce back to be one of the most impressive of the six month and fifteen round campaign. Oh, and the second MX2 moto was also a corker.
Entering the circuit was congested and something of lottery, the glut of jumps of the layout could be called excessive for some and freak early springtime rain caused the track to bog and force Saturday’s entire timetable of practice and qualification to be cancelled, but by some criteria the first Grand Prix of Brazil this century was already a success by 10:00 a.m. Saturday morning.
The reams of public that filtered through the doors of the rain-hit venue, filled the majority of the eleven sizeable grandstands and chased Tony Cairoli around the circuit like some newly discovered messiah, was a surprise to many. Brazil was clearly enraptured by motocross and after a decade of abstinence a beast was re-awakened. Canelinha turned out to be a fitting stage not only for Brazil’s re-acclimatisation but for the world championship to reach its conclusion. Mercifully the sunshine that the whole travelling European contingent expected arrived with humidity on Sunday, the rich, red terrain swiftly dried through the hasty free and timed practice in the morning and the public enclosures swelled even further to an official figure of 60,000.
Jump-laden circuits like Canelinha, Donington Park, Kegums, Mallory Park and Nelspruit may have their critics and to sympathise with the naysayers the role and shifting form of a track is as much a character in a Grand Prix as the riders themselves, but the stages should not take the centre of attention. The nature of circuits has evolved and not just in motocross. Modern MotoGP and F1 tracks have been accused of being identikit and soulless but other needs are met in the compromise. Besides Canelinha was a blend of rough, smooth, fast, slow, flow and stop; and received a thumbs-up from most of the individuals who had to attack it. As Cairoli commented on Saturday “you can never have too many jumps on a track”. David Vuillemin, in his last race before retirement and collecting eighth position in the second moto, concurred “the track was well prepared, with deep ruts and a nice ground; it’s incredible to see how good the track was despite the heavy rain we had during the week. The organizers did a great job and I’m happy to finish my career here, it was nice to be back for an oversea event where the atmosphere is always different.”
So, after a protracted season of controversy mixed with undisputable dominance Marvin Musquin took his sixth win and retained KTM’s MX2 Rider and Manufacturer’s crowns. The Frenchman only needed several laps to zoom past nearest title threat (although token at 22 points adrift entering the race) and works Red Bull KTM teammate Rui Goncalves in Moto 1 to record his tenth win of fifteen on the SX-F. The opening foray was notable for the presence once more of Ken Roczen and the rider who was originally supposed to be teenage sensation of 2009, Valentin Teillet, the KTM racer finally breaching the top three with second position.
The second MX2 moto was the pick of the bunch. Musquin, Roczen and pole-sitter Steven Frossard engaged in a thirty minute chase for the chequered flag. It was a mix of three styles. Musquin elegant, precise and rapier-like, Roczen the embodiment of natural ability on a motorcycle and the gruff but persistent speed of Frossard. With the rainforest-green mountains, lipped by cloud, as a background, and a packed and colourful grandstand throbbing as the trio leapt past the pit-lane table-top the scene was majestic and spine-tingling; motocross at its most inspiring.
Although the teenage German had the vocal adoration of the crowd in his lively efforts to win Musquin was able to triumph, partially thanks to his brilliance and secondly as Roczen lacked just a little experience and nuance in passing the many backmarkers; the Brazilians usually far off the pace when able to stay on two wheels. “This has been a strange season for me and the problems that I would not rather talk about,” Musquin relinquished afterwards, no doubt aware that Honda chipped in a chuck of his numerical total. “I have a great feeling with the KTM and I could win my first GP, then my home GP, in the sand of Lommel and again in Lierop and finally here in Brazil. I think I proved I can win in all sorts of conditions.”
Desalle went 1-2 for his second MX1 win of 2008 and was denied a double set thanks to the holeshot and shock speed at the front by Teka Suzuki’s Steve Ramon; the Belgian digesting a waved flag at the end of forty minutes for the first time since Spain 2008. Desalle controlled Moto 1 comfortably from Nagl and then had to contend with a fiery Josh Coppins for the second part of Moto 2. The Kiwi wanting to end three prosperous years as a works Yamaha rider with a podium appearance but was ultimately denied by the 20 year old.
Humidity hung moisture over the circuit, breathable and permeable, but the real sweat was being flicked away by David Philippaerts. The 2008 world champion was a tangible force on the Yamaha Monster Energy machine and his flight from the far reaches of the top ten to 3rd spot in Moto 1 looked as though it might be enough to secure third place in the championship behind Max Nagl who was consistent in Brazil for his seventh podium. Philippaerts was riding hard again to catch Desalle for third in Moto 2 but a lack of concentration and a looped YZ on the uphill waves section saw him lose time, places and ultimately a top three berth in the series. The 25 year old was barely able to speak afterwards through disappointment.
Desalle showed a distinct lack of PR ability in the post-race press conference in what was his penultimate outing on a CRF450R. Did he feel good for giving Honda a win at this GP? “No, because Honda do not support me much,” he said. “The race was good for me but for the rest I do not care so much.”
In other news World Champion Tony Cairoli had a small crash in Moto 1 to 6th and then was halted by a tumbling Jonathan Barragan (the Spaniard lacking speed, set-up and interest it seemed) in Moto 2 for 9th overall. The Sicilian had undergone knee surgery on his left meniscus only the previous week and had spent the days after his title glory in Lierop on the sofa with crutches to move around. In fact the knee was still in stitches and therefore he admitted that a podium shot in Brazil was unlikely.
Mariana Balbi – the sister of Antonio, familiar perhaps to AMA fans and the top Brazilian rider with 10th position on the Honda – made a small landmark by becoming the first woman to etch points in the MX1 category with her ride to 20th in Moto 2.
American Zach Osborne did not travel to Brazil partially as a decision by his Utag Yamaha.com team. The Turkish GP winner’s lowly standing of 23rd after a campaign decimated by injury ultimately questioned the journey’s significance.
So with Cairoli, Nagl and Desalle and Musquin, Goncalves and Gautier Paulin, filling the podium spots of the 2009 MX1 and MX2 series respectively, a collective of the Grand Prix paddock, including all six of the aforementioned, can now look ahead three weeks to the 63rd Motocross of Nations in Italy.