Motocross loves a bit of nostalgia and with the FIM Motocross World Championship returning to Maggiora for the first time this century for the Grand Prix of Italy there was always going to be danger of anti-climax. Happily the meeting ticked many boxes. It completed a hat-trick of atmospheric, well supported and exciting fixtures with the enthusiasm and presence of the fans in Brazil and France with Maggiora ensuring that although bike sales continue to struggle and the orientation of the sport has been slowly plodding through limbo, Grand Prix still draws the crowds and grows a spectator base.
What else was there? Great weather, local success (Alex Lupino making the podium in MX2, Kiara Fontanesi continuing her iron grip on Women’s motocross), a grandstand finale (a typical Cairoli chase) and apparently not too much congestion around the small local lanes that really shouldn’t be able to handle an event of this magnitude. Hosting the Motocross of Nations in 2016 will need a logistic review of epic proportions.
Paulin was able to outlast Cairoli to secure the overall in Italy.
Monster Energy photo
For the two friends Paolo Schneider and Stefano Avandero, racers and fans themselves who took it upon themselves to buy, expand and restore Maggiora, this Grand Prix was pure vindication. It was more a case of “renovate it…and they will come.” Round ninth of seventeen drew the largest crowd I’ve seen in Italy since the Nations at Franciacorta in 2009 and only a percentage of it was down to the Cairoli-Philippaerts effect (the latter lives only a few miles away). One of the most encouraging aspects of the weekend was the vibe produced by the whole show on display and the conviction that Maggiora could well create a similar level of enthusiasm and response on a repeat basis. In this current era where race promotion and organisation is a delicate and risky business for all parties involved it was affirming to see and believe that a top-level motorsport event can overly exceed expectations.
For Italians the sight of Red Bull KTM’s Cairoli chopping seconds and yards to the back of Kawasaki’s Gautier Paulin to set up a feverish conclusion to the second MX1 moto will live in the memory. Paulin had led from the outset and Cairoli – having uncharacteristically tumbled twice in the first moto, tweaking his left knee and handing the opening race to a rapid Rockstar Suzuki’s Clement Desalle – was riding on the urges of the crowd. The desperation to do well was seen through a tight move on Xavier Boog for third position that caused the Frenchman to fall and then the chase of Ken de Dycker who offered little resistance in the way a decent supporting teammate would do. The volume increased as Cairoli danced across the undulations – precious little of the hard-pack layout involved any flat ground – and placed Paulin under unbearable pressure. The winner of the Bulgarian and Portuguese Grand Prix’s made one bobble starting the penultimate lap but did an excellent job of holding the rough and rutted inside line. Only after a stone smashed Cairoli’s hand on the final circulation (curiously he was one of few that did not use hand-guards) did the champion ease his pursuit and Paulin had the third defeat of his rival in 2013. At the point that Cairoli surrendered he had already ensured his 100 percent podium record would remain intact and that was mainly due to the fact that Desalle, recovering from a bad start to fourth, suffered an electrical problem on the factory Suzuki, and DNF’d for the first time since 2010. The Belgian ripped at the kill-switch cable in an attempt to try and reignite the RM-Z four laps from the flag but the problem lay deeper within. Cairoli had to accept his worst position of the year in third with de Dycker acknowledging his debt to Italy as round four at Arco di Trento was the site of his last trophy.
Cairoli had his worst finish of the season (3rd) at his home race.
Ray Archer photo
“When the public out there is like that, then motocross is such fun,” said Paulin. “I think we put on a good show. Antonio is like a Lion and I know I have to keep pushing until the last second when he is behind me. I knew he would come back and I was trying so hard when he was on my wheel. I had good lines and was riding fast so I knew all I had to do was not make a mistake. I didn’t need to look at the pit-board because I could hear Antonio was coming. I really love to race when the public is like this…there are almost no words to describe what it is like.”
Cairoli will undergo a scan today (Monday) to see what damage he has done to a ligament in the knee he needed reconstructing in 2008; the only year he suffered a significant injury since entering the GP scene in 2003. The Sicilian leads Paulin by 51 points (a full GP) in the standings with Desalle now even further back. “I’m not looking at the championship because anything can happen in motocross,” commented Paulin on the bigger picture. “In one second you can lose your front wheel and you are injured. I’m in it for the win every weekend. I know that Antonio is some points in front but I am just enjoying my riding right now.”
“I heard a click and had pain and I remember what it felt like before,” said Cairoli. “I eased off for a few laps just to feel what was going on and in the break it was sore and felt unstable. At the moment there is not much swelling so I hope it will be okay. The fans were crazy out there. I’m doing the best I can to grow motocross in Italy and when you see this it is really nice.”
Highlights from Italy.
MX2 was a familiar hunting ground for Red Bull KTM’s Jeffrey Herlings. The Dutchman was pretty ragged on Saturday, the 250SX-F protesting under acceleration out of practically every corner until it eventually spat the champion onto the ground again and allowed the surprising Gariboldi Honda’s Alex Tonkov to take Russia’s first ever MX2 pole. “We used to battle a lot like that in the 85cc days,” the Honda man said. “It was a bit of a throwback.”
Despite another two holeshots at this team’s home GP on Sunday Tonkov would have no real answer to Herlings who extended his unbeaten run to nine rounds – eight of those 1-1 doubles - and needs another three to equal that of his team manager Stefan Everts (who announced a new three year agreement with KTM at the weekend) record in 2006. Tonkov could not be faulted for his effort, and a valiant attempt to demote Jose Butron to third place in the final metres of the first moto meant that he crashed his bike across the line but didn’t quite make it physically himself; meaning a first career GP top three result became 22nd in the classification and instantly binned a potential overall podium. The unpredictable nature of the podium battles in MX2 means that Ernee hero of last week Dylan Ferrandis was again placed into mid-pack obscurity and it was the turn of different faces at Maggiora. KTM riders Jake Nicholls, Jose Butron (fifth MX2 podium in a career-best term) and Jordi Tixier were flighty but the second position earned by a smooth Alex Lupino raised the roof and gave one of the friendliest riders in the paddock a second trophy of 2013.
It was all Jeffrey Herlings in the MX2 Class.
Ray Archer photo
While Cairoli, Lupino and Fontanesi (now unbeaten in three rounds) lapped up the spectators’ affections there was an outpouring of sympathy for Philippaerts who was the definition of a rider fuelled by energy of his home event. Steering an impossibly cool retro factory Honda livery probably led to over-exertion on Saturday and a hefty crash, which left the former world champion beaten up and a doubt for Sunday. He gave the first moto his best shot – and received almost a big a cheer as Cairoli when he entered the gate – but would painfully pull out of the running.
What of the stars and stripes? Jimmy Decotis’ Grand Prix adventure has come to a quiet end after six rounds of unfaultable effort but little joy or signs of progression. By his own admission Decotis was not able to get dialled-into the Grand Prix scene, tracks and speed through dropping into the CLS team jus two months ago to fill a berth temporarily vacated by the injured Arnaud Tonus. The move to Europe was big enough as it was, never mind suddenly honing speed and learning about new rivals. Decotis deserves credit for stepping outside of a comfort zone and electing to try a career choice that will have done nothing but build character. Michael Leib finally stepped back into the paddock in an active capacity and after a very public showdown over his supposed contractual agreements with two different teams. He ended up on a Gariboldi Honda alongside Tonkov but a fall onto his shoulder in morning warm-up rendered him a non-starter. Jeff Alessi flew in for a crack at the MX1 Class but some brake trouble on Saturday led to an incident that knocked his right elbow and his race outcomes were barely registered.
A quiet weekend now precedes a bedlam of Grand Prix activity with the teams on the road for three weeks and heading across northeast Europe: Sweden, Latvia and Finland will drag the series into the back straight and up to round twelve of seventeen.
Firstly there is a small matter of a meeting in Geneva this week between the FIM, Youthstream and the main brands in the MXGP paddock. While MX1 is expected to be converted to “MXGP” for 2014 (with the 450cc capacity remaining) there was talk in Maggiora – an apt setting for a reminder of some of the ideals of the sport – that the teams will push to retain the existing shape of Grand Prix.
Lupino finished third overall at his home race.
Monster Energy photo
1. Clement Desalle (BEL, Suzuki), 39:15.768;
2. Ken de Dycker (BEL, KTM), +0:07.677;
3. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:12.885;
4. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:18.838;
5. Jeremy van Horebeek (BEL, Kawasaki), +0:24.491;
6. Maximilian Nagl (GER, Honda), +0:27.572;
7. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Suzuki), +0:54.258;
8. Xavier Boog (FRA, KTM), +0:55.629;
9. Davide Guarneri (ITA, KTM), +1:03.755;
10. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), +1:05.871;
1. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Kawasaki), 40:06.399;
2. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:10.337;
3. Ken de Dycker (BEL, KTM), +0:30.330;
4. Jeremy van Horebeek (BEL, Kawasaki), +0:38.201;
5. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), +0:41.906;
6. Maximilian Nagl (GER, Honda), +0:54.265;
7. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Suzuki), +0:57.269;
8. Davide Guarneri (ITA, KTM), +1:30.183;
9. Xavier Boog (FRA, KTM), +1:31.308;
10. Milko Potisek (FRA, Yamaha), +1:33.087;
1. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Kawasaki), 45 points;
2. Ken de Dycker (BEL, KTM), 42 p.;
3. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 40 p.;
4. Jeremy van Horebeek (BEL, Kawasaki), 34 p.;
5. Maximilian Nagl (GER, Honda), 30 p.;
6. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Suzuki), 28 p.;
7. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), 27 p.;
8. Davide Guarneri (ITA, KTM), 25 p.;
9. Xavier Boog (FRA, KTM), 25 p.;
10. Clement Desalle (BEL, Suzuki), 25 p.;
MX1 FIM Motocross World Championship after 9 of 17 rounds
1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 417 points;
2. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Kawasaki), 366 p.;
3. Clement Desalle (BEL, Suzuki), 334 p.;
4. Ken de Dycker (BEL, KTM), 319 p.;
5. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Suzuki), 271 p.;
6. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), 266 p.;
7. Maximilian Nagl (GER, Honda), 220 p.;
8. Jeremy van Horebeek (BEL, Kawasaki), 205 p.;
9. Rui Goncalves (POR, KTM), 180 p.;
10. David Philippaerts (ITA, Honda), 145 p.;
1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 39:45.247;
2. Jose Butron (ESP, KTM), +0:06.950;
3. Jake Nicholls (GBR, KTM), +0:10.783;
4. Jordi Tixier (FRA, KTM), +0:14.889;
5. Christophe Charlier (FRA, Yamaha), +0:17.447;
6. Alessandro Lupino (ITA, Kawasaki), +0:30.400;
7. Dean Ferris (AUS, Yamaha), +0:35.588;
8. Mel Pocock (GBR, Yamaha), +0:39.139;
9. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), +0:42.273;
10. Petar Petrov (BUL, Yamaha), +0:43.331;
1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 39:21.192;
2. Alessandro Lupino (ITA, Kawasaki), +0:04.411;
3. Alexander Tonkov (RUS, Honda), +0:05.591;
4. Jordi Tixier (FRA, KTM), +0:05.835;
5. Jose Butron (ESP, KTM), +0:11.703;
6. Christophe Charlier (FRA, Yamaha), +0:14.386;
7. Dean Ferris (AUS, Yamaha), +0:34.128;
8. Jake Nicholls (GBR, KTM), +0:39.106;
9. Petar Petrov (BUL, Yamaha), +0:44.669;
10. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), +0:48.224;
1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 50 points;
2. Jose Butron (ESP, KTM), 38 p.;
3. Alessandro Lupino (ITA, Kawasaki), 37 p.;
4. Jordi Tixier (FRA, KTM), 36 p.;
5. Jake Nicholls (GBR, KTM), 33 p.;
6. Christophe Charlier (FRA, Yamaha), 31 p.;
7. Dean Ferris (AUS, Yamaha), 28 p.;
8. Petar Petrov (BUL, Yamaha), 23 p.;
9. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), 23 p.;
10. Alexander Tonkov (RUS, Honda), 20 p.;
MX2 FIM Motocross World Championship after 9 of 17 rounds
1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 447 points;
2. Jordi Tixier (FRA, KTM), 323 p.;
3. Jose Butron (ESP, KTM), 285 p.;
4. Christophe Charlier (FRA, Yamaha), 261 p.;
5. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), 260 p.;
6. Dean Ferris (AUS, Yamaha), 225 p.;
7. Jake Nicholls (GBR, KTM), 214 p.;
8. Max Anstie (GBR, Suzuki), 201 p.;
9. Alessandro Lupino (ITA, Kawasaki), 199 p.;
10. Dylan Ferrandis (FRA, Kawasaki), 159 p.