Race Report: MXGP of The Netherlands

Race Report: MXGP of The Netherlands

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If motorsport’s tendency to throw up the unexpected was due for the FIM Motocross World Championship then the Grand Prix of the Netherlands at Valkenswaard would have been on many MXGP fans radar. Red Bull KTM came into the sixth round of eighteen (likely to be seventeen after Youthstream President Giuseppe Luongo announced on Saturday evening that the “tba” slotted for the cancelled GP of Ukraine is now “99 percent” to remain unfulfilled) as dominators of the dark Dutch sand. Jeffrey Herlings had owned the MX2 class here every year since his debut term as a fifteen-year-old in 2010—it was actually the first of his career victories—and Tony Cairoli was also looking at extension of a four season winning streak at the Eurocircuit.

Both World Champions eased to pole positions on Saturday and with the confirmation that the Grand Prix of Belgium will be heading back to the sand of Lommel for the next half a decade, starting this August, the proficiency of the their rivals in the sand is an issue that needs urgent addressing; particularly with a decent proportion of the works elite thumbing over set-up issues through the 48 hours of this event.  

There was a curiously calm atmosphere on Saturday when Herlings was on the track. The Dutch fans are not renowned for their outpourings of passionate support—and their GP riders have admitted as much—but it was almost as if the champion’s skill and superiority is now so routine that it is par for the course. The delectability of his sand riding is becoming lost in the statistics and the now-staunch inevitability that surrounds a Dutch Grand Prix. Herlings has won the last six (12 motos straight) GPs to be staged in his country and faced zero threat in hiking those numbers to seven and fourteen yesterday. On the subject of number 84 he still hasn’t been beaten in any Grand Prix going back to the final round of the 2012 season in Germany, has notched three doubles and five triumphs this year and has yet to drop out of the top two in the ten motos he has contested. Quite staggering really.

Jeffrey Herlings rolled to another 1-1 performance at Valkenswaard.  Photo: MXGP
Jeffrey Herlings rolled to another 1-1 performance at Valkenswaard.  Photo: MXGP

Indeed Herlings is more “number than man” at the moment; it is the rest of the battered MX2 field that are the prisoners to his capabilities as records loom on the horizon. The nineteen-year-old will be a KTM rider in 2015 and admitted that a deadline has not been set on his decision over MXGP (350 or 450) or another year of MX2 for next season. In Holland the sideshow was provided by Husqvarna’s Romain Febvre, Herlings’ teammate Jordi Tixier (excellent to mug his countryman on the last lap of Moto1 but crashed twice in Moto2) and the CLS Monster Energy Kawasaki duo of Arnaud Tonus and Dylan Ferrandis. Tonus was careless in the first moto but strong again in the second. Febvre took the Husky crew’s second podium since their Pierer Group chapter began, but his last lap demotion by first Tixier and then Tonus in both sprints took a little of the champagne’s sweet taste away.

Valkenswaard was bright and receptive on Sunday. Last year the paddock shivered in temperatures just above freezing but this time had an edge-of-summer climate and the track weathered the hefty presence of Women’s, EMX125 and EMX150 classes as the support show. The best crowd attendance of the season entered the facility as the northern Europeans lapped up the sunshine.

The fans almost tasted that unpredictability of motocross with the MXGP class. Cairoli was leading and coasting early in the first moto when a heavy landing broke the first of four spokes and eventually the bearings of his front wheel. He managed to stay ahead of Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Gautier Paulin and the ever-consistent Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jeremy Van Horebeek in a combination of brilliance (popping the front wheel up in the sand whenever possible) and risk that had his team leaning out of the pit lane and issuing calming gestures for what seemed like most of the moto. In the final three laps the wheel disintegrated further and while Paulin saw the sporting gods issue some payback for his harsh mechanical DNF in Italy, Cairoli himself was lucky to reach the finish line in third place.

Romain Febvre finished second overall in MX2. Photo: Husqvarna
Romain Febvre finished second overall in MX2. Photo: Husqvarna

Wheel changed for Moto2 and there was no stopping the Sicilian who has repeatedly showed his aptitude in the sand, as those who watched the 2012 Motocross of Nations at Lommel will recall. Devastatingly Paulin’s race and possible title dream was ruined on the first lap after a kicker while railing an outside berm of a 180 corner sent the Frenchman tumbling. A broken right collarbone and left thumb were the results shown in the X-Rays and no estimation yet of how long the rider who was second in the MXGP standings will be joining fellow works racers Max Nagl (four GPs) and Todd Waters (2-3 months) on the sidelines. Rockstar Suzuki duo Kevin Strijbos and Clement Desalle both fussed over the set-up of their RM-Z450s through the Grand Prix and squabbled over the final podium spot with Van Horebeek easing his way to a fifth trophy on the bounce as runner-up. The Yamaha man is defusing pressure and clamour over his impressive form by stating a top three final championship ranking is his ultimate goal—instead of defeating Cairoli which remains or remained the remit of Desalle and Paulin.

The spectators were enthused to see old favourite Marc de Reuver rolling back the years with a top ten finish in the first moto and credit to Joel Roelants with a career-best fifth position after a torrid eighteen months of injury and insecurity. The Belgian, faced without a contract for just his second season in MXGP for 2014, formed his own team—J-Race—with the help of Honda Motor Europe and can hopefully use this positive showing to build into a more encouraging campaign. Also looking to construct will be Red Bull KTM’s Ken De Dycker and CLS’ Tommy Searle, both swelling the depleted MXGP ranks somewhat with their respective returns from wrist injuries. Valkenswaard did appear a step too soon for both however as Searle would not compete on Sunday and De Dycker circulated at the back of the field, clearly off the pace.

Cairoli overcame first moto bike problems to capture the MXGP overall. Photo: MXGP
Cairoli overcame first moto bike problems to capture the MXGP overall. Photo: MXGP

Thomas Covington negotiated his first Grand Prix in the sand and tried his best to 18th overall. The result came as a consequence of chucking himself down the track in the first moto because his performance in the second—after a few bike tweaks—was much improved and saw the teenager inside the top ten. It was his brightest outing since that emphatic race in Losail and since joining the GP trail full-time. It hinted that there is much more to come.

“The sand is definitely something special over here and unlike anything I’ve ever ridden before but I think by the end of the weekend I was starting to get a feel for it,” he said. “I had a big crash on the sixth lap of the first moto and did a front flip over the bars. In the second I re-grouped and had a better start. I was in the top ten for most of the moto but got a bit worn out by how rough the track was and slid back to eleventh.”

“It gets rough so quickly; after three laps you get huge bumps and ruts,” he added. “It is definitely something I need to get used to so I will be putting in the laps in Holland.”

Something new for round seven. Talavera de la Reina lies southwest of Madrid and has not seen Grand Prix action since the 250cc event in 2000 (won by Gordon Crockard). This means that not a single current MXGP or MX2 racer has thrashed the Spanish hills in anger. Perhaps a surprise will be in store … or the KTM double act could roll into their fifth sweep of the classes in seven.

Moto1 winner Gautier Paulin suffered a broken right collarbone and left thumb in Moto2.  Photo: MXGP
Moto1 winner Gautier Paulin suffered a broken right collarbone and left thumb in Moto2.  Photo: MXGP

MXGP Moto1

1. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Kawasaki), 34:53.781;
2. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), +0:09.759;
3. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:18.371;
4. Clement Desalle (BEL, Suzuki), +0:30.792;
5. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda), +0:32.695;
6. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Suzuki), +0:46.964;
7. Tyla Rattray (RSA, Husqvarna), +0:48.846;
8. Joel Roelants (BEL, Honda), +0:50.977;
9. Marc de Reuver (NED, Honda), +1:16.555;
10. Steven Frossard (FRA, Kawasaki), +1:17.789;

MXGP Moto2

1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 35:21.488;
2. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Suzuki), +0:10.683;
3. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), +0:20.504;
4. Clement Desalle (BEL, Suzuki), +0:29.708;
5. Joel Roelants (BEL, Honda), +0:39.061;
6. Steven Frossard (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:40.778;
7. Tyla Rattray (RSA, Husqvarna), +0:43.793;
8. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), +0:48.536;
9. Xavier Boog (FRA, Honda), +1:13.651;
10. Matiss Karro (LAT, KTM), +1:16.979;

MXGP Overall

1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 45 points;
2. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, YAM), 42 p.;
3. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, SUZ), 37 p.;
4. Clement Desalle (BEL, SUZ), 36 p.;
5. Joel Roelants (BEL, HON), 29 p.;
6. Tyla Rattray (RSA, HUS), 28 p.;
7. Steven Frossard (FRA, KAW), 26 p.;
8. Gautier Paulin (FRA, KAW), 25 p.;
9. Tanel Leok (EST, TM), 20 p.;
10. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, HON), 19 p.;

MXGP standings after 6 of 18 rounds

1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 267 points;
2. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, YAM), 236 p.;
3. Clement Desalle (BEL, SUZ), 230 p.;
4. Gautier Paulin (FRA, KAW), 205 p.;
5. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, SUZ), 182 p.;
6. Maximilian Nagl (GER, HON), 166 p.;
7. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, HON), 114 p.;
8. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), 113 p.;
9. Joel Roelants (BEL, HON), 112 p.;
10. Xavier Boog (FRA, HON), 108 p.;

 

MX2 Moto1

1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 34:15.867;
2. Jordi Tixier (FRA, KTM), +1:07.713;
3. Romain Febvre (FRA, Husqvarna), +1:09.289;
4. Valentin Guillod (SUI, KTM), +1:22.228;
5. Aleksandr Tonkov (RUS, Husqvarna), +1:29.254;
6. Max Anstie (GBR, Yamaha), +1:30.486;
7. Julien Lieber (BEL, Suzuki), +1:39.265;
8. Dylan Ferrandis (FRA, Kawasaki), +1:43.269;
9. Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda), +1:46.792;
10. Jose Butron (ESP, KTM), +1:48.963;

MX2 Moto2

1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 34:41.469;
2. Arnaud Tonus (SUI, Kawasaki), +0:45.837;
3. Romain Febvre (FRA, Husqvarna), +0:46.825;
4. Dylan Ferrandis (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:47.909;
5. Jordi Tixier (FRA, KTM), +1:08.651;
6. Jose Butron (ESP, KTM), +1:12.233;
7. Valentin Guillod (SUI, KTM), +1:12.785;
8. Aleksandr Tonkov (RUS, Husqvarna), +1:15.787;
9. Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda), +1:22.671;
10. Julien Lieber (BEL, Suzuki), +1:28.894;

MX2 Overall

1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 50 points;
2. Romain Febvre (FRA, HUS), 40 p.;
3. Jordi Tixier (FRA, KTM), 38 p.;
4. Valentin Guillod (SUI, KTM), 32 p.;
5. Arnaud Tonus (SUI, KAW), 31 p.;
6. Dylan Ferrandis (FRA, KAW), 31 p.;
7. Aleksandr Tonkov (RUS, HUS), 29 p.;
8. Jose Butron (ESP, KTM), 26 p.;
9. Julien Lieber (BEL, SUZ), 25 p.;
10. Tim Gajser (SLO, HON), 24 p.;

MX2 standings after 6 of 18 rounds

1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 244 points;
2. Arnaud Tonus (SUI, KAW), 229 p.;
3. Romain Febvre (FRA, HUS), 198 p.;
4. Dylan Ferrandis (FRA, KAW), 185 p.;
5. Jordi Tixier (FRA, KTM), 185 p.;
6. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, SUZ), 176 p.;
7. Aleksandr Tonkov (RUS, HUS), 159 p.;
8. Tim Gajser (SLO, HON), 145 p.;
9. Valentin Guillod (SUI, KTM), 139 p.;
10. Jose Butron (ESP, KTM), 131 p.;

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