Race Report: MXGP of Belgium

Race Report: MXGP of Belgium

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Tony Cairoli drew closer to an eighth FIM Motocross World Championship with his ninth victory of 2014 and sixth double at the Belgian Grand Prix last weekend. The Sicilian commented on the relevance of accruing seventy-two career triumphs in the country of Stefan Everts, but more vitally his utter supremacy at Lommel means he has an 81-point gap over Jeremy Van Horebeek with just 100 left to win, and is arriving to the threshold of an unparalleled sixth crown in the premier class on the bounce. 

Europe’s last taste of Grand Prix this year drew the series into the sand—not just any typical Benelux terrain, but the notorious lumps of Lommel. A course that freaked Team USA at the 2012 Motocross of Nations and hadn’t entertained the FIM World Championship since 2011 (the greenery of Bastogne in the French-speaking side of the country held Belgian GP duties for the past two seasons). Despite the thousands of laps done by the world championship fraternity at Lommel, the spotlight of a Grand Prix still creates tough conditions. The presence of the final rounds of European 125, 150, 250, and 300 series meant the course was being battered and creating a different Lommel landscape. “It is not really the Lommel we are used to seeing,” said Cairoli on Saturday. “There are more classes, and the bumps are different. It is still rough and difficult, but the rhythm and flowing is hard because there are strange bumps before the corners. 

The sand favors the specialists and led to the warming sight of former Grand Prix favorite Marc de Reuver rolling back his 31 years to finish sixth overall. For Cairoli it was a happy hunting ground with wins in 2010, ’11, and the Nations to look back on. Despite a brief challenge from Rockstar Suzuki’s Kevin Strijbos for four laps in the first moto (the Belgian would struggle with flow through the races and finish fifth overall) and some light pressure from the (again) impressive Hitachi Construction Machinery KTM’s Shaun Simpson in the second, the Red Bull KTM star was largely home free. 

Tony Cairoli is nearing another world championship. Photo: Ray Archer
Tony Cairoli is nearing another world championship. Photo: Ray Archer

Simpson surprisingly defeated Cairoli the last time that MXGP ventured into the sand, when the Scot took a shoestring effort to first place in the last MX1 round of 2013. The 26-year-old, who is fifth in the championship standings, on the edge of a British Championship next week, and has been curiously snubbed by the works teams for 2015, was one of just three riders to bust-out the quad jump through the rhythm section that had spectators whooping in support; more through appreciation of the audacity of the move…that was first tried by Monster Energy Kawasaki Gautier Paulin. Simpson and Paulin almost disputed second position in the first moto, run in sweltering conditions but the British rider was better and faster than the Frenchman in the second outing.

The quad made for good viewing but was not a pleasant experience for all. The winner of the Czech Grand Prix seven days previously, Yamaha’s Van Horebeek, came to Lommel with his profile at an all-time high. Paulin and Simpson on this particular section in the first moto relegated the Belgian to fourth place, and when he attempted the quad instead of the triple to fight back, he cased the landing so hard that he smashed his face on the bars and sustained a cut above his left eye that eventually required stitches. JVH lost blood, momentum, and confidence, and to his credit toughed-out a second moto to practically guarantee his status as 2014 runner-up thanks to a 90-point gap over Strijbos.

Joining Cairoli and Simpson on the podium was the hefty frame of Ken De Dycker. The last time the Belgian forged a memorable performance at Lommel he decided to strip to his underwear on the podium as he chucked his riding gear into the crowd. No such chance on this occasion, as the amazing thunderstorm that battered the circuit in the last five minutes of the second moto swiftly cleared the public enclosures and spectators sought shelter and riders started to cruise through the mess fighting for vision. It was in this climatic melee that De Dycker risked all by plowing after Simpson and taking second place in the race for the runner-up step on the rostrum. Cairoli said afterwards that he felt the moto should have been stopped, as visibility was so poor. The light had begun to change as the clouds rolled across. “At one point it was dangerous because it was dark on one side of the circuit and light on the other, and you couldn't see a rut,” Strijbos revealed. “You just had to pick one and hope. When it started to rain you could see the lines a bit better, but at one point it was pouring like hell!" 

Ken De Dycker was back in form at his final GP of the season. He will miss the final rounds to undergo wrist surgery.  Photo: Ray Archer
Ken De Dycker was back in form at his final GP of the season. He will miss the final rounds to undergo wrist surgery.  Photo: Ray Archer

De Dycker has a strange connection to Lommel. He is a previous winner in the sand, but it was also at this circuit where a joyride went wrong in the winter and a badly broken wrist practically ruined 2014 and almost ended his tenure at Red Bull KTM. The tall Belgian confessed that he had hopes of a “top five or six” at Lommel, but the softer terrain was easier on the plate in his hand that causes the rider to lose sensation after a short phase of each moto. De Dycker believed his 450SX-F saddle next to Cairoli was safe, but a series of lackluster displays and results have caused the Austrians to think again. Lommel was timely for the 30-year-old and could ensure a third term with the champions. Confirmation of his employment or unemployment should arrive this week, but regardless De Dycker has already admitted that he will miss the last two Grands Prix to go under the knife and get the troublesome plate removed.

Jeffrey Herlings was present in Belgium and trying not to look too much at the sand during what he knew would have been a chance to confirm a third MX2 title riding with an arm tied behind his back. CLS Monster Kawasaki’s Dylan Ferrandis tipped off the KX250F in the Saturday qualification heat and re-injured his right shoulder, needing some medical attention before the motos on Sunday. It meant extra emphasis landed on Herlings’ teammate Jordi Tixier and the Frenchman responded with a second moto win and a dissection of Herlings’ mammoth series lead to just 57 points (again 100 on the table). The Red Bull KTM rider mentioned that he would dislike winning a championship in such circumstances, but the predicament is creating a tense finale to the campaign, causing more anguish to Herlings, who is praying he will be able to steer the 250SX-F before the Mexican Grand Prix and do enough to bank some points. 

The looming MX2 title picture only partially distracted from what was an overdue and quite sensational success by Bike it Yamaha Cosworth’s Max Anstie in Lommel. The Brit’s credentials in the sand are highly regarded where technique and condition equals speed. Anstie has coped with family bereavement and an intense development program on the late-arriving 2014 YZ250F over the past six months that have meant a season of freak technical hitches and wavering confidence. The British team must surely be one of the hardest working in the paddock, and it has been necessary to give Anstie a bike that is reliable and consistent enough to match his potential. There were nervy times on Sunday; the 21-year-old had to restart his machine when the five-second board was about to the lift in the first moto and a stuck-throttle caused a crash while he was second to Tixier in the next outing. Anstie lasted the races (going 1-2) and made the difference for his first win in four years (and four teams) of GP participation as well as providing a glimpse that the Yamaha’s new YZ can offer the same performance in the FIM series as it is in the AMA 250 division. 

Jordi Tixier is quickly approaching Jeffrey Herlings' MX2 points lead.  Photo: Ray Archer
Jordi Tixier is quickly approaching Jeffrey Herlings' MX2 points lead.  Photo: Ray Archer

“My hand slipped off the bar and I was stressing,” Anstie said of his second moto fall. “All I could think was ‘it’s done; we’ve going home,’ but then suddenly we were racing again. I don't think I took a breath the whole moto.”

Simpson’s podium was the first for the UK this year, and Anstie’s spoils the first for Britain since 2012 in MX2, but the Brits were also prevalent in other ways. Steven Clarke sealed the European EMX250 championship in thrilling fashion by moving up positions to tie in points with Brian Bogers in the standings and earn the title by virtue of moto wins. The 24-year-old (who cannot find a route into MX2 due to the 23 age rule) had led the category since the second round. Albie Wilkes won Honda’s second-ever European 150 Championship and now has a place with the J-Tech Squad for EMX250 racing in 2015. Other European competitions were tied up in Belgium with Samuele Bernardini becoming the first ever 300cc number one, and Brian Hsu grasped the EMX125 two-stroke plaque for Suzuki after winning the 85cc World Championship last summer.

Back in MX2 new factory Yamaha MXGP recruit Romain Febvre (the deal was done on Saturday allegedly) took up his customary fourth position while Tim Gajser showed some inexperience in the sand compared to some of his rivals, and a poor qualification slot was also a handicap.

The cancellation – thankfully – of the Ukraine Grand Prix for the middle of August throws Grand Prix in an extended summer break until the final back-to-back outings in South America (Brazil and Mexico) for the first two weekends of September.

Max Anstie won his first MX2 overall on the season Sunday.  Photo: MXGP
Max Anstie won his first MX2 overall on the season Sunday.  Photo: MXGP

MXGP Moto One

1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 34:22.254;
2. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:03.902;
3. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), +0:04.930;
4. Ken de Dycker (BEL, KTM), +0:16.506;
5. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Suzuki), +0:21.324;
6. Maximilian Nagl (GER, Honda), +0:26.489;
7. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), +0:45.874;
8. Tyla Rattray (RSA, Husqvarna), +0:47.105;
9. Dean Ferris (AUS, Husqvarna), +0:48.268;
10. Marc de Reuver (NED, Honda), +1:06.632;

MXGP Moto Two

1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 34:46.942;
2. Ken de Dycker (BEL, KTM), +0:08.481;
3. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), +0:19.123;
4. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:25.772;
5. Marc de Reuver (NED, Honda), +0:32.921;
6. Steven Frossard (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:35.867;
7. Dean Ferris (AUS, Husqvarna), +0:40.127;
8. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Suzuki), +0:46.294;
9. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), +1:01.185;
10. Tyla Rattray (RSA, Husqvarna), +1:08.384;

MXGP Overall result

1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 50 points;
2. Ken de Dycker (BEL, KTM), 40 p.;
3. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), 40 p.;
4. Gautier Paulin (FRA, KAW), 40 p.;
5. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, SUZ), 29 p.;
6. Marc de Reuver (NED, HON), 27 p.;
7. Dean Ferris (AUS, HUS), 26 p.;
8. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, YAM), 26 p.;
9. Tyla Rattray (RSA, HUS), 24 p.;
10. Steven Frossard (FRA, KAW), 23 p.;

MXGP World Championship classification after Fifteen of Seventeen rounds

1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 669 points;
2. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, YAM), 588 p.;
3. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, SUZ), 498 p.;
4. Clement Desalle (BEL, SUZ), 484 p.;
5. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), 365 p.;
6. Steven Frossard (FRA, KAW), 356 p.;
7. Maximilian Nagl (GER, HON), 307 p.;
8. Gautier Paulin (FRA, KAW), 275 p.;
9. Davide Guarneri (ITA, TM), 245 p.;
10. David Philippaerts (ITA, YAM), 234 p.;

MX2 Moto One 

1. Max Anstie (GBR, Yamaha), 34:00.529;
2. Dylan Ferrandis (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:16.077;
3. Jordi Tixier (FRA, KTM), +0:17.169;
4. Romain Febvre (FRA, Husqvarna), +0:31.690;
5. Pauls Jonass (LAT, KTM), +0:54.482;
6. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, Suzuki), +0:56.421;
7. Aleksandr Tonkov (RUS, Husqvarna), +1:01.447;
8. Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda), +1:06.292;
9. Valentin Guillod (SUI, KTM), +1:15.713;
10. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, Suzuki), +1:20.785;
 

MX2 Moto Two

1. Jordi Tixier (FRA, KTM), 35:28.225;
2. Max Anstie (GBR, Yamaha), +0:12.447;
3. Dylan Ferrandis (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:20.711;
4. Romain Febvre (FRA, Husqvarna), +0:28.187;
5. Jose Butron (ESP, KTM), +0:40.276;
6. Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda), +0:47.124;
7. Aleksandr Tonkov (RUS, Husqvarna), +0:50.563;
8. Valentin Guillod (SUI, KTM), +1:12.744;
9. Petar Petrov (BUL, Yamaha), +1:20.275;
10. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, Suzuki), +1:22.513;
 

MX2 Overall result

1. Max Anstie (GBR, YAM), 47 points;
2. Jordi Tixier (FRA, KTM), 45 p.;
3. Dylan Ferrandis (FRA, KAW), 42 p.;
4. Romain Febvre (FRA, HUS), 36 p.;
5. Tim Gajser (SLO, HON), 28 p.;
6. Aleksandr Tonkov (RUS, HUS), 28 p.;
7. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, SUZ), 26 p.;
8. Valentin Guillod (SUI, KTM), 25 p.;
9. Pauls Jonass (LAT, KTM), 25 p.;
10. Petar Petrov (BUL, YAM), 22 p.;
 

MX2 World Championship classification after Fifteen of Seventeen rounds

1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 594 points;
2. Jordi Tixier (FRA, KTM), 537 p.;
3. Romain Febvre (FRA, HUS), 489 p.;
4. Dylan Ferrandis (FRA, KAW), 467 p.;
5. Tim Gajser (SLO, HON), 448 p.;
6. Arnaud Tonus (SUI, KAW), 389 p.;
7. Valentin Guillod (SUI, KTM), 379 p.;
8. Aleksandr Tonkov (RUS, HUS), 363 p.;
9. Jose Butron (ESP, KTM), 337 p.;
10. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, SUZ), 301 p.;

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