The ‘antipasti’ was pretty good for the Italian fans who lounged in the Lombardian sun at Mantova for the first day of action at round two of the FIM World Championship. Yamaha Monster Energy MX Team’s David Philippaerts gave the works 2010 YZ450FM its first pole position on the international stage and was chased by Red Bull KTM’s Tony Cairoli for a native 1-2.
The loose soil/sand was as much a protagonist as the riders themselves. The circuit was immaculate and the colours and presentation glimmered in the hazy sunshine, as only a motorsport event can in this passionate nation. While the glamour was evident in the surroundings, the racing surface turned into a beast. The presence of the Veterans (first round of five in the World Cup) and the kids (opener of seven in the new 125cc two-stroke European Championship) meant the terrain was battered from sunrise to sunset. The cruel bumps and ominous ruts on the take-offs of the many jumps churned and chopped the course and offered a degree of difficulty with each passing session.
Philippaerts took advantage of a mistake by Cairoli and a sizzling pace that soon fizzled out by the latter’s teammate Max Nagl to earn a confident first pole. Cairoli eased off in the final three laps, safe that second place was secured, and later claimed he was concerned over the danger that the track–abuse was presenting. Victims included Seb Pourcel (first corner), Ken De Dycker (down twice), Clement Desalle and Jimmy Albertson. A more serious fall was had by sometime-AMA SX-runner Greg Aranda, who lost consciousness and hurt his neck on the first lap.
The youngest ever MX2 pole position holder was celebrated in Mantova as Red Bull KTM’s Jeffrey Herlings -- the new and deservedly hyped hope for Holland -- set the fastest time in pre-qualification and then holeshotted and aced the Heat ahead of his teammate, world champion and last week's Bulgaria GP winner Marvin Musquin. Ken Roczen (Teka Suzuki Europe World MX2) was third after crashing but had some wonderful lines and ideas to pass the CLS Kawasaki’s of Steven Frossard and Jeremy Van Horebeek. ("It is pretty hard to pass out there, but if you have a good eye, you can always find something," he said with a grin.)
Fellow 15-year-old Herlings assuredly batted away any sense of expectation by insisting the pressure is firmly ‘off’ in the KTM camp, despite the obvious signs of another golden talent and imminent new GP victor. The Dutch teenager may well be aware that Roczen made a sensational impact in 2009 by finishing 7th overall in his first GP (something Herlings beat with 4th in Bulgaria), and then taking 4th overall in Spain while fighting for the second moto spoils. Roczen needed five GPs to take his maiden win. Herlings could usurp these achievements in one swoop tomorrow. “I do not want to put pressure on myself in only my second GP, but to have pole position here is important to me,” he said. “In the back of my mind it would be a dream to make the podium tomorrow.”
“I am really happy with what we are doing so far,” he added. “The first GP was really hectic and I was pretty nervous. I did not expect to be in the lead so quickly and it was a bit of a shock. To finish 6th and 4th in my first GP was really amazing. I know a little bit about what I have to do. I feel at home on this track; it gets rough like it is at home in Holland.”
For the USA’s Grand Prix finest it was a topsy-turvy day. Jimmy Albertson seemed far more comfortable with the six-day distance in the wake of his wobbly world championship debut and was unlucky in the Heat after a slip at the start caused him to restart in the rear of the pack. The Californian was able to charge and gain positions before another small ‘off’ (eventually crossing the line with 17th) but encouragingly set lap-times that that placed him among the top eight fastest on a surface that was tricky to judge and often even perilous to attack. Zach Osborne was a pace setter when the sand was smooth at the beginning of the day, but his luck was out in the heat when he tangled with another rider and damaged his brake. The 20-year-old was still able to take 8th and will have options tomorrow.
MX1 Qualification Heat
1. David Philippaerts (ITA, Yamaha), 25:44.800;
2. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:01.321;
3. Maximilian Nagl (GER, KTM), +0:10.077;
4. Tanel Leok (EST, Honda), +0:22.800;
5. Clement Desalle (BEL, Suzuki), +0:26.731;
6. Steve Ramon (BEL, Suzuki), +0:27.409;
7. Jonathan Barragan (ESP, Kawasaki), +0:40.390;
8. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Suzuki), +0:44.190;
9. Anthony Boissiere (FRA, TM), +0:47.236;
10. Davide Guarneri (ITA, Honda), +0:51.753;
11. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda), +0:54.029;
12. Xavier Boog (FRA, Kawasaki), +1:04.917;
13. Cedric Soubeyras (FRA, KTM), +1:09.158;
14. Tom Söderström (SWE, Yamaha), +1:12.176;
15. Marc de Reuver (NED, Suzuki), +1:19.041;
16. Manuel Monni (ITA, Yamaha), +1:22.273;
17. Jimmy Albertson (USA, Honda), +1:23.791;
18. Sebastien Pourcel (FRA, Kawasaki), +1:24.457;
19. Ken de Dycker (BEL, Yamaha), +1:27.865;
20. Shannon Terreblanche (RSA, Kawasaki), +1:29.765;