GP Report: MXGP of Trentino

GP Report MXGP of Trentino

April 17, 2017 10:05am

Antonio Cairoli needed to make a statement and the first of two home Grand Prix events in 2017 was an apt time to do so. The eight-time world champion had successfully converted pre-season pomp into success at the opening round in Qatar, but—for one reason or another—had only made the podium on one other occasion: two weeks ago in Mexico. Around the tight and twisty Pietramurata hard-pack and undoubtedly one of the most picturesque motocross circuits on the 19 round FIM World Motocross Championship calendar thanks to its location in the heart of the Dolomite mountain range and close to Lake Garda, Cairoli unveiled a masterpiece for his 79th career victory and second of 2017.

Round five brought MXGP to familiar European climes and to the squeeze of the Arco di Trento site. The paddock assembled in full display for the first time this season and European fans packed the enclosures with world champion Tim Gajser’s ever expanding army of yellow Slovenian followers making the relatively short trip over the border to accompany a wealth of Italians feeding on Cairoli’s revival after his tough year in 2016.

Pole position and a formulaic first moto in cloudy but warm conditions (only Gajser produced the sole position change in the top five by dropping from second to third due to arm-pump) fell to the rampant Red Bull KTM man, largely thanks to some stunning starting prowess that was very much a hallmark across the class for the Austrians. The common quibble throughout the weekend and for the last half a decade of Grand Prix events at Pietramurata revolved around the difficulty for passing.

Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Thomas Covington—a winner in MX2 in Mexico and fifth overall in Italy after the shackle of a first moto crash—described the challenge. “The track is kinda slippery and you just slide into the main line everywhere. If you try something else then it is too slow; you just have to run something up the inside and hope. It is hard to make a clean pass out there! To me this is a typical old-school European hard-pack track.”

Cairoli subverted the notion of the majority of his peers in a second moto that was nothing short of stunning. The 31-year-old instigated an almost audible groan across the entire site when he was one of several riders boxed in and dumped on the floor of the impossibly tight first-turn S section. The lack of passing among the leaders in the first moto and the fact that lap-times were so tight—1.5 seconds splitting the top 11 in timed practice and the calibre of rider such as Jeffrey Herlings, Glenn Coldenhoff, Shaun Simpson, Kevin Strijbos, and Max Nagl were all struggling to find the top 10—meant Cairoli’s chances nose-dived in an instant. What followed was a 29 minute and two lap showcase of mastery and bravery with a dash of inspiration and a hint of desperation. The way Cairoli used the 90-degree lefthander at the top of the step-up to block pass his way past at least five riders on five different laps showed a superiority that is increasingly rare in an MXGP pool that deepens every year. It was reminiscent of Stefan Everts’ cheeky passing spot on the steep drop at Namur, Belgium, (a track virtually notorious for overtaking) in 2005 that drew the Yamaha man to an unexpected but wholly typical win.

Cairoli passed the solid Evgeny Bobryshev for second position on the last lap and Pietramurata lost it as fans rushed the start straight for the kind of celebration normally witnessed at the Motocross of Nations with an emphasis split for Cairoli and a large faction for Gajser but a general feeling that everybody had observed something special.

“I think this is one of my best races, best GPs ever. One of the most emotional,” Cairoli articulated afterwards. “When you crash on the first corner and you are hoping to win the GP … most people know it is almost impossible—even myself. When I crashed I was like ‘BEEP!’ but slowly found the place to pass and could think about being on the box. I gave everything in the last 10 minutes.

“There was pretty much the only one to block-pass while being safe,” he added. “It was the only one I found and it worked. It is difficult at this track and at the beginning of the race with the slower riders going left and right but afterwards it was fun and I’m happy the fans also liked it.”

Much has been made of Cairoli’s age and the fact he is battling rivals often a decade younger and that he also finished second in an injury-disturbed 2016 season he frequently dubs as the “worst of my career”. There is plenty to indicate #222 is motivated and capable and the Trentino Grand Prix was an excellent stage for this lead actor. “[Performances] like this mean you are fit and motivated,” he explained. “Last year I was giving up in some races and I wouldn't have done that in the past; it was difficult mentally because I couldn't express myself like I want. I obviously feel better so I’m really happy.”

Cairoli gathered headlines again and created some powerful memories once more—and boy did the KTM crew celebrate their achievements in the post-race aftermath of elation and well-wishing—but in the bigger picture Gajser deserves credit for also turning around a lacklustre first moto to claim the flag in the second and minimise the championship damage to just two points over his older peer. Gajser also had a copious following on the spectator banks and delivered at the location where he scored his very first GP win only two seasons previously.

Riding strongly after a personal best in Mexico and enjoying the starts needed to be among the protagonists, Wilvo Yamaha’s Arnaud Tonus made the third step of the podium. The Swiss kept Cairoli in a higher gear in the first moto with an impressive and smooth run to second place. Even from Saturday’s opening laps it was clear that Trentino would again be a singular type of motocross where the start paid dividends and only rider error could shake up a race order; for this Tonus’ application and fast-learning deserves credit. The other noteworthy result amongst the bunch was a fourth for Jeffrey Herlings, the Dutchman finally nailing a launch out of the gate and visibly sucking in the cleaner air at the front of the pack as opposed to the suffocation of roost mid-pack and lower down. The MX2 world champion admits his home Grand Prix at Valkenswaard and in the sand this coming weekend is very much a crucial gauge for how he can fare on the 450 this season. He has dominated the event there for the last seven years in MX2.

The rest of KTM’s joviality was provided in MX2 with teammates Pauls Jonass and Jorge Prado sharing holeshots, wins, billing, and almost track space in another 1-2, 2-1 duel that this time fell in favour of the emotional and fresh-faced 16-year-old. Still in school, Prado is really blossoming in just his second year riding a 250 and has a start technique and feeling for the bike that is almost unbeatable. He is stylishly raw. By surviving some skirmishes with backmarkers and a closing Jonass in a final tense five minutes of the second moto Prado became not only the first Spaniard to win in the MX2 class but also the first from his country to own a GP victory since Jonathan Barragan in 2009—making him only the second ever in the FIM World Motocross Championship.

Jonass (left) and Prado (right) on the podium.
Jonass (left) and Prado (right) on the podium. KTM Images

Jonass is still the only rider with more than one win this year but was satisfied to regain the red plate from Suzuki’s Jeremy Seewer who was mostly undone by a ninth place finish in the first moto. Covington, who had been thoroughly demoralised by the rough Italian hard-pack in previous years, carried the form and edge of a recent winner and was sprightly all day, was another ruing a poor early result due to a tumble and dropping from seventh to 11th. The American was resolute at the second attempt and flew to third despite a controversial moment with privateer Julien Lieber that also involved teammate Thomas Kjer Olsen and left the Belgian seething that he’d been “taken out by two Husqvarnas”. Lieber remounted quickly to snare his third podium spot of the campaign and remains an outside hoverer in the early title chase—and was yet another KTM/Austrian-motorcycle mounted rider in a busy top five.

Kiara Fontanesi triumphed through two unpredictable WMX motos and Simone Furlotti aced the opening chapter of the European EMX250 Championship as Pietramurata filled to capacity and then some in terms of logistics. MXGP will be able to count on another busy and vibrant event with the Grand Prix of Europe at Valkenswaard and just south of Eindhoven this coming weekend for round six.

The start of the first WMX moto. Fontanesi would go 1-2 on the weekend for the overall.
The start of the first WMX moto. Fontanesi would go 1-2 on the weekend for the overall. MXGP

MXGP Overall Results

Overall Finish Rider Race 1 Race 2 Bike
1st Tony Cairoli 1st 2nd KTM
2nd Tim Gajser 3rd 1st Honda
3rd Arnaud Tonus 2nd 7th Yamaha
4th Evgeny Bobryshev 7th 3rd Honda
5th Gautier Paulin 4th 6th Husqvarna
6th Clement Desalle 5th 5th Kawasaki
7th Jeremy Van Horebeek 6th 8th Yamaha
8th Jeffrey Herlings 14th 4th KTM
9th Max Nagl 11th 9th Husqvarna
10th Arminas Jasikonis 12th 11th Suzuki
11th Shaun Simpson 10th 14th Yamaha
12th Jose Butron 13th 12th KTM
13th Romain Febvre 8th 17th Yamaha
14th Glenn Coldenhoff 17th 10th KTM
15th Kevin Strijbos 9th 26th Suzuki
16th Alessandro Lupino 18th 13th Honda
17th Tanel Leok 16th 18th Husqvarna
18th Maxime Desprey 20th 15th Kawasaki
19th Damon Graulus 19th 16th Honda
20th Rui Goncalves 15th 20th Husqvarna

MX2 Overall Results

Overall Finish Rider Race 1 Race 2 Bike
1st Jorge Prado 2nd 1st KTM
2nd Pauls Jonass 1st 2nd KTM
3rd Julien Lieber 3rd 5th KTM
4th Thomas Kjer Olsen 5th 6th Husqvarna
5th Thomas Covington 11th 3rd Husqvarna
6th Jeremy Seewer 9th 4th Suzuki
7th Vsevolod Brylyakov 4th 10th Kawasaki
8th Brent Van doninck 12th 9th Yamaha
9th Brian Bogers 19th 7th KTM
10th Conrad Mewse 10th 16th Husqvarna
11th Michele Cervellin 6th 23rd Honda
12th Anton Gole 14th 14th Husqvarna
13th Calvin Vlaanderen 7th 36th KTM
14th Samuele Bernardini 22nd 8th TM
15th Brian Hsu 8th 22nd Husqvarna
16th Hunter Lawrence 35th 11th Suzuki
17th Ben Watson 17th 15th KTM
18th Ivo Monticelli 36th 12th KTM
19th Benoit Paturel 34th 13th Yamaha
20th Darian Sanayei 16th 18th Kawasaki

WMX Overall Results

Overall Finish Rider Race 1 Race 2 Bike
1st Kiara Fontanesi 1st 2nd Yamaha
2nd Courtney Duncan 2nd 3rd Yamaha
3rd Livia Lancelot 5th 1st Kawasaki
4th Nancy Van De Ven 3rd 4th Yamaha
5th Larissa Papenmeier 4th 6th Suzuki
6th Amandine Verstappen 6th 7th KTM
7th Stephanie Laier 8th 11th KTM
8th Virginie Germond 13th 8th Yamaha
9th Joanna Miller 12th 10th KTM
10th Francesca Nocera 18th 5th Suzuki

EMX 250 Overall Results

Overall Finish Rider Race 1 Race 2 Bike
1st Simone Furlotti 1st 3rd Yamaha
2nd Morgan Lesiardo 5th 1st KTM
3rd Miro Sihvonen 4th 2nd KTM
4th Karlis Sabulis 2nd 5th Yamaha
5th Nick Kouwenber 10th 9th Yamaha
6th Alberto Forato 3rd 29th Honda
7th Ruben Fernandez 39th 4th Kawasaki
8th Filippo Zonta 11th 13th Honda
9th Ken Bengtson 8th 18th Yamaha
10th Jere Haavisto 28th 6th KTM

MXGP Championship Standings

STanding Rider Points
1st Tim Gajser 201
2nd Antonio Cairoli 183
3rd Clement Desalle 151
4th Evengy Bobryshev 145
5th Gautier Paulin 145
6th Jeremy Van Horebeek 144
7th Romain Febvre 106
8th Arnaud Tonus 101
9th Max Nagl 95
10th Kevin Strijbos 90
11th Shaun Simpson 88
12th Jeffrey Herlings 84
13th Glenn Coldenhoff 77
14th Max Anstie 69
15th Arminas Jasikonis 56
16th Jose Butron 49
17th Rui Goncalves 42
18th Tanel Leok 37
19th Jordi Tixier 36
20th Alessandro Lupino 24

MX2 Championship Standings

Standing Rider Points
1st Pauls Jonass 192
2nd Jeremy Seewer 183
3rd Julien Lieber 175
4th Thomas Kjer Olsen 158
5th Benoit Paturel 147
6th Brent Van doninck 123
7th Jorge Prado 117
8th Thomas Covington 113
9th Vsevolod Brylyakov 110
10th Michele Cervellin 99
11th Samuele Berandini 93
12th Brian Bogers 76
13th Darian Sanayei  74
14th Adam Sterry 72
15th Calvin Vlaanderen 70
16th Hunter Lawrence 61
17th Ben Watson 49
18th Iker Larranago Olano 43
19th Davy Pootjes 42
20th Anton Gole 38

WMX Championship Standings

Standing Rider Points
1st Courtney Duncan 83
2nd Kiara Fontanesi 77
3rd Liva Lancelot 67
4th Nancy Van De Ven 63
5th Larissa Papenmeier 63
6th Nicky van Wordragen 59
7th Amandine Verstappen 56
8th Shana van der Vlist 50
9th Francesca Nocera 41
10th Virginie Germond 40

EMX 250 Championship Standings

Standing Rider Points
1st Simone Furlotti 45
2nd Morgan Lesiardo 41
3rd Miro Sihvonen 40
4th Karlis Sabulis 38
5th Nick Kouwenber 23
6th Alberto Forato 20
7th Ruben Fernandez 18
8th Filippo Zonta 18
9th Ken Bengtson 16
10th Jere Haavisto 15