Racer X Race Report:  MXGP of France

Racer X Race Report: MXGP of France

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Anybody who was in the crowd or happened to see images of the 2005 or 2011 Motocross of Nations know that the French are a passionate lot for their dirt bikes. Four years after a Grand Prix last visited the steep amphitheatre of Ernee the eighth round of the FIM Motocross World Championship again rolled into one of the more spectacular and appropriate venues on the calendar but with also one of the most polemic racing layouts.

After a frustrating day of practice and qualification that saw the old-school, narrow course limit any passing opportunities, expectations were surprisingly subverted for the motos on Sunday as some of the best racing of the year took place and the results were also a little unpredictable.

The headlines? Red Bull KTM’s Tony Cairoli and Kawasaki Racing Team's Gautier Paulin are slowly turning the 2013 MX1 title chase into a two-horse affair and the Frenchman increased his fan club capacity even further with a first moto victory over the Sicilian that produced one of the loudest cheers from the packed-out spectator zones that I’ve heard in thirteen years of Grand Prix reporting. Cairoli ruined the party however and escaped for the overall in moto-two and rubber-stamped his fifth win of the season, one week before arguably one of the biggest and most important Grands Prix of his career with the return to Maggiora. In MX2 Red Bull KTM’s Jeffrey Herlings looked like a boxer as he removed his helmet after winning another moto double, his seventh of the season, and in the wake of another big Saturday crash that sent the banged and bruised-up Dutchman tumbling down the big descent. Fast Frenchies followed in his wheel tracks with first trophies of 2013 for Rockstar Bud Racing’s Dylan Ferrandis and Monster Energy Yamaha’s Christophe Charlier.

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Cairoli extended his points lead with a win in France.
Ray Archer / KTM Images

There was plenty of consternation on Saturday afternoon among the riders. The track was restrictive and sketchy and the stony limitations of Ernee came flooding back to the memory banks of the few racers that had competed here in a GP here in 2009 and then before in 2006. With rain predicted at some point in the weekend the track had perhaps understandably not been ripped very deep, and the absurd decision to heavily water before the MX2 Qualification Heat (it was getting quite dusty by that point under the sunshine) created an even slicker and more treacherous terrain. It was clear that the moto rankings would in part be decided within seconds of the old cranky gate hitting the floor; which it didn’t quite do for the first MX2 moto on Sunday. Ernee would bring the people, create the atmosphere that makes this sport special and eventually involve a surface on Sunday that provided some lines but also hazardous take-offs and plenty of kickers. Cairoli was moved to say on Saturday that Grand Prix should not be running on one-line affairs like Ernee and his voice was not alone.

This depth of feeling was slightly reduced after Sunday but there were still people carrying a small limp away from this eighth GP of seventeen and quite a few more who were thankful that Ernee had not caught them out. Paulin, carried on that wave and emotion that only a home Grand Prix and a banking of 20,000 people can provide, attacked the soil regardless of any possible recriminations. His pursuit of Cairoli was electric and when he took the lead in the latter third of the moto the stage was set; it was almost unusual to see the champion caught and demoted. Cairoli countered but was left waving his fist angrily when he was baulked by Matiss Karro with three laps to go. ‘222’ never gave up and 1.5 seconds split the pair at the finish but the race was over when Cairoli could not force his way through around the downhill hairpin. Little touches, such as rounding off a triple into a double and bouncing of the side banking to carry more speed into the next banked turn was a joy to watch.

When Paulin was held up by the crashing Max Nagl at the start of the second moto and Cairoli had his holeshot then the Grand Prix was effectively decided. The Kawasaki man came back to fourth but the KTM was firmly on cruise by that point. Distant in third and then second place later on was Rockstar Suzuki’s Clement Desalle. The Belgian was exasperated with the track and what he perceived to be a poor performance and qualification in ninth place on Saturday so was somewhat tempered by his podium in third spot even though he was not quick enough to show for victory.

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Paulin finished second overall in his home coutry of France.
Monster Energy photo

The first MX1 moto had several juicy pockets of action. KTM and Kawasaki also duelled for fourth place with Ken De Dycker throwing a ludicrously obvious block-pass on countryman Jeremy van Horebeek and the distance then varied between the Belgians. The quickly-improving MX1 rookie van Horebeek had the last laugh as he overtook De Dycker with the chequered flag close and De Dycker needing to remove his goggles. Behind them, embroiled in a titanic tussle for seventh, was Honda’s Max Nagl and CLS Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Tommy Searle in the type of close-call, position-swapping fare that most race fans dream about. It felt like the 35 minute and 2 lap moto passed in just 10 through watching those two and also charting the dispute for the lead (with the public reminding us how close Paulin was drawing to Cairoli). It is the second time in two races that Searle’s determination has provided a big part of the show. When the Brit –- in his maiden MX1 term -- can show this mettle at the front of the field then anybody tuning into MX1 will be the richer for it.

In MX2 Herlings was barely able to complete a lap in warm-up after his accident caused a painful leg, ankle and ass. Some pills and good starts later and he had converted into the pain in the butt for his rivals with his 100 percent Grand Prix record still intact. There was little challenge for the champion but Nestaan KTM’s Jake Nicholls had a go at leading the second moto while Dylan Ferrandis kept the wounded Herlings honest and sharp in the first moto. Ferrandis was clearly operating with a higher level of confidence after winning the latest round of the French Championship the week before (the series mixes 250 and 450 machinery for the third ‘international’ heat) and again his starts were a key factor. Jordi Tixier crashed while seizing the lead in the second race and Charlier did well while carrying a groin strain. Australian Dean Ferris suffered an engine problem in the first moto and even though he enjoyed the holeshot for moto-two made a few mistakes to end up sixth. Credit to Honda’s Alex Tonkov for some eye-catching speed.

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Herlings is still perfect in 2013 after his win in France.
Ray Archer / KTM Images

Romain Febvre, the surprise podium sensation from the first two meetings in Qatar and Thailand, returned for his home event after recovering from a broken right leg that had kept him out of action since round three. More bad luck awaited the impressive rookie as one of Ernee’s rocks smashed his face on Saturday and gave the youngster breathing problems, unfortunately leading to a DNS. Jimmy Decotis again had his eyes opened to some of the track diversity of the championship and the CLS rider didn’t have a happy day with 20th in the first moto and 31st in the second after crashing and getting caught up in the fencing, putting him more than a lap down before he was able to retrieve the KX250F.

To prove that the privateer spirit is still alive in a facet of Grand Prix racing European EMX250 championship leader Valentin Guillod went two-for-two at Ernee and heads GPs’ busy and competitive feeder series. The Swiss operates out of his own van after receiving backing from KTM Switzerland and help from former GP winner Yves Demaria and has so far gone unbeaten in Portugal and France with another six rounds ahead.

Off the track and the teams and factories started to meet ahead of crunch talks about the future direction of Grand Prix for 2014 and beyond. While it looks like any notion of reducing the 450cc capacity for MX1 will be a (unsurprising) no-go, the race format is expected to alter with a second moto carrying more points and importance for the overall result and the status of MX2 will survive although it would be interesting if the 23 age rule can be removed after a planned revision in Italy and Geneva over the next ten days.

In southern Europe the new owners of the enlarged and renovated Maggiora circuit north of Milan are ready for their high profile reintroduction to the top-flight as Grand Prix prepares for another big crowd and significant chapter of the 2013 story.

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Frenchman Christophe Charlier finished third overall in MX2.
Monster Energy photo

MX1 Moto1

1. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Kawasaki), 39:21.019;
2. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:01.453;
3. Clement Desalle (BEL, Suzuki), +0:23.523;
4. Jeremy van Horebeek (BEL, Kawasaki), +0:43.389;
5. Ken de Dycker (BEL, KTM), +0:49.635;
6. David Philippaerts (ITA, Honda), +0:50.808;
7. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), +0:53.198;
8. Maximilian Nagl (GER, Honda), +0:55.094;
9. Davide Guarneri (ITA, KTM), +1:10.101;
10. Rui Goncalves (POR, KTM), +1:12.061;
11. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Suzuki), +1:16.250;

 

MX1 Moto2

1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 39:28.802;
2. Clement Desalle (BEL, Suzuki), +0:10.539;
3. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), +0:11.974;
4. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:21.491;
5. Ken de Dycker (BEL, KTM), +0:26.433;
6. Jeremy van Horebeek (BEL, Kawasaki), +0:32.766;
7. Xavier Boog (FRA, KTM), +0:44.837;
8. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Suzuki), +0:53.614;
9. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda), +1:03.414;
10. Davide Guarneri (ITA, KTM), +1:21.781;

 

MX1 Overall

1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 47 points;
2. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Kawasaki), 43 p.;
3. Clement Desalle (BEL, Suzuki), 42 p.;
4. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), 34 p.;
5. Jeremy van Horebeek (BEL, Kawasaki), 33 p.;
6. Ken de Dycker (BEL, KTM), 32 p.;
7. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Suzuki), 23 p.;
8. Davide Guarneri (ITA, KTM), 23 p.;
9. Xavier Boog (FRA, KTM), 21 p.;
10. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda), 21 p.;

 

MX1 World Championship standings after 8 of 17 rounds

1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 377 points;
2. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Kawasaki), 321 p.;
3. Clement Desalle (BEL, Suzuki), 309 p.;
4. Ken de Dycker (BEL, KTM), 277 p.;
5. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Suzuki), 243 p.;
6. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), 239 p.;
7. Maximilian Nagl (GER, Honda), 190 p.;
8. Jeremy van Horebeek (BEL, Kawasaki), 171 p.;
9. Rui Goncalves (POR, KTM), 168 p.;
10. David Philippaerts (ITA, Honda), 145 p.;

 

MX2 Moto1

1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 39:45.493;
2. Dylan Ferrandis (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:02.937;
3. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), +0:07.723;
4. Jordi Tixier (FRA, KTM), +0:15.739;
5. Jose Butron (ESP, KTM), +0:22.737;
6. Jake Nicholls (GBR, KTM), +0:26.455;
7. Max Anstie (GBR, Suzuki), +0:38.353;
8. Alexander Tonkov (RUS, Honda), +0:43.173;
9. Christophe Charlier (FRA, Yamaha), +0:48.472;
10. Petar Petrov (BUL, Yamaha), +0:50.642;

 

MX2 Moto2

1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 39:59.717;
2. Dylan Ferrandis (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:05.696;
3. Christophe Charlier (FRA, Yamaha), +0:07.504;
4. Alexander Tonkov (RUS, Honda), +0:11.672;
5. Jake Nicholls (GBR, KTM), +0:17.524;
6. Dean Ferris (AUS, Yamaha), +0:20.958;
7. Alessandro Lupino (ITA, Kawasaki), +0:21.805;
8. Jose Butron (ESP, KTM), +0:31.110;
9. Jordi Tixier (FRA, KTM), +0:35.715;
10. Jason Clermont (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:39.720;
11. Petar Petrov (BUL, Yamaha), +0:41.239;
12. Maxime Desprey (FRA, Yamaha), +0:45.356;
13. Steven Lenoir (FRA, KTM), +0:47.153;
14. Max Anstie (GBR, Suzuki), +0:49.362;

 

MX2 Overall

1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 50 points;
2. Dylan Ferrandis (FRA, Kawasaki), 44 p.;
3. Christophe Charlier (FRA, Yamaha), 32 p.;
4. Alexander Tonkov (RUS, Honda), 31 p.;
5. Jake Nicholls (GBR, KTM), 31 p.;
6. Jordi Tixier (FRA, KTM), 30 p.;
7. Jose Butron (ESP, KTM), 29 p.;
8. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), 23 p.;
9. Petar Petrov (BUL, Yamaha), 21 p.;
10. Max Anstie (GBR, Suzuki), 21 p.;

 

MX2 World Championship standings after 8 of 17 rounds

1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 397 points;
2. Jordi Tixier (FRA, KTM), 287 p.;
3. Jose Butron (ESP, KTM), 247 p.;
4. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), 237 p.;
5. Christophe Charlier (FRA, Yamaha), 230 p.;
6. Dean Ferris (AUS, Yamaha), 197 p.;
7. Max Anstie (GBR, Suzuki), 193 p.;
8. Jake Nicholls (GBR, KTM), 181 p.;
9. Alessandro Lupino (ITA, Kawasaki), 162 p.;
10. Dylan Ferrandis (FRA, Kawasaki), 149 p.;

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