Rockstar Energy IceOne Husqvarna’s Max Nagl celebrated a fresh new contract with the factory team by emerging triumphant in MXGP’s latest “Tim Gajser’s Duel With…” to win the thirteenth round of eighteen in the 2016 contest and tread the top step of the Grand Prix podium for the first time this year. The German—cheered by hefty sections of a packed attendance at the Loket circuit and deep in the west of the Czech Republic (close to the border with Nagl’s homeland)—went 1-1 after admitting that the works crew took a “risky” decision to turn the FC450 around in terms of settings during the three-week summer break. The hiatus proved useful for some like Nagl and recuperating World Champion Romain Febvre, who was third overall at Loket with a 3-3 in his first MXGP appearance since suffering a concussion in Great Britain last month, but it was a stretch too long for riders injured in domestic meetings like Red Bull KTM’s Jeffrey Herlings.
On Saturday Nagl underwhelmed at the old-school Loket layout—narrow, off-camber turns, less-than-frugal line choice and passing opportunities, hard-pack and stony–with fourteenth place in the Qualification Heat. The result hid his potential out of the gate in Sunday’s races, in which the 28-year-old was as prolific as Gajser. But the Slovenian MXGP points leader was again as rock-like as elements of the Czech terrain.
Nagl was faultless in the first moto and especially under late pressure from Gajser. “You can take a good start from anywhere in this gate,” he reflected. “I saw that Tim was behind me so I concentrated on keeping a high pace and not letting it drop at any time and it worked quite well even if I was a bit tired after the first race…but okay.” A first chequered flag since Argentina (Round 4) almost didn't convert into overall success. Gajser was stronger in a wet second moto and seemed to be set for his eighth win of 2016 when he slipped too deep into the left camber on the run up to the start straight and hit the ground. Nagl again had the initiative and Gajser rallied hard to get him back, but looked edgy and wisely backed off on the last circulation.
“When Tim crashed I gave everything to get that victory because it was the first one of the year,” offered Nagl. “I’m so happy for the team, myself and all the sponsors that we did it.”
“The track was really bumpy and sketchy and the rain made it even more so,” Gajser mused. “The track did not let you make a single mistake and you had to respect it; maybe I was pushing a bit too much and mistakes were my problem. I learned something new.”
After Gajser battled with Romain Febvre, Evgeny Bobryshev and Tony Cairoli this season, Nagl was another challenge for him, and almost another scalp to nail on the wall. The HRC man has a cushion of 109 points and to the tune of two Grands Prix with just five to go. The nineteen-year-old has also sprayed champagne at every single one of the thirteen rounds in his maiden term in the premier class.
Behind Febvre riders like Clement Desalle, Jeremy Van Horebeek and further afield Bobryshev, Gautier Paulin and Tommy Searle rued their lack of starting prowess for better designs on the top three. Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jordi Tixier looked strong and his sixth overall was a bright spot for the other MXGP rookie.
Cairoli was back on his trusted 350SX-F after a comparison test with the 2017 models (tweaked with factory settings) prior to Loket allowed the Sicilian to declare the base of the machine with which he clinched five consecutive titles was good enough again to tackle MXGP. Cairoli was another that couldn't fire away from the line at a circuit that he has rarely enjoyed success and of which he has publicly declared his dislike in the past. Cairoli was seventh in the final Czech listing and the real test of the renewed alliance with the 350 will come in the Lommel sand and on new turf in Switzerland in the next two weeks.
The MX2 class entered unchartered waters. Herlings was out, and from the standard group of remaining riders, only three athletes aside from him boasted Grand Prix winning experience. The Dutchman sat out Loket after complications with his fractured right collarbone and with a vast lead of over three rounds in the championship points table. Herlings had won all twelve fixtures this season (meaning his absence ruined the chance of a remarkable perfect record for overalls) but also smoothed the waves for somebody else to sail to the top step.
The bravest adventurer was Monster Kawasaki’s Dylan Ferrandis, who celebrated victory for the first time since Argentina last year and for only the second time in his career. The Frenchman ran away with the first moto after KTM’s Paul Jonass had a heavy dismount from the daunting step-down opposite the pitlane (the Latvian was hospitalised with a slight concussion and a broken nose but otherwise seemed to be okay after initial checks). Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Max Anstie cut a figure of line experimentation and inventiveness and his proficiency carried him all the way to second place in the first outing and to Ferrandis’ rear wheel in the second. A slip from the habitually poor-starting Brit allowed the Kawasaki man to enjoy his 1-1. Anstie was passed by the excellent Jeremy Seewer (an eighth podium and favourable second in the championship over Jonas) and had to follow the Swiss onto the box.
Yamaha’s Alex Tonkov was nursing a sore back and thus missed the trip to the popular site and fellow Russian Vsevolod Brylyakov was also absent with a broken bone in his left ankle.
Thomas Covington was an encouraging fourth in the second moto after battling from mid-pack in the first. Cause for British encouragement came through the speed of Adam Sterry (veering hot and cold in his first GP season) and Conrad Mewse as both youngsters figured among the leaders. Yamaha’s Benoit Paturel was steady in fourth.
MXGP arrived at Loket in the wake of the three-week break and is now on a hurry up for the rest of the season. The second of three events in a row dips into the hellish sand of Lommel for the Grand Prix of Belgium next week; a terrain that could not be more a contrast to the pebbly Loket soil.
FIM World Motocross Championship
Round 13 - MXGP of Czech Republic - Loket
|5.||Jeremy Van Horebeek||18-16||Yam|
|MXGP Series Standings|
|6.||Jeremy Van Horebeek||385pts||Yam|
|MX2 Series Standings|
|14.||Brent Van doninck||142pts||Yam|
|20.||Ivano Larranaga Olano||80pts||KTM|