GP Report: MXGP of Portugal

GP Report MXGP of Portugal

July 3, 2017 11:45am

It wasn't sand and there were a few less degrees on the mercury scale but the Grand Prix of Portugal—the first since 2013—was almost just as demanding as the sapping event in Ottobiano, Italy, the previous week as the slick, loose top soil of Agueda threw a plethora of bumps and knuckles at the MXGP pack for what was the 12 test of 19 in 2017.

Not to be found wanting or lagging was eight-time world champion and current tour de force in the premier class, Red Bull KTM’s Antonio Cairoli, who extended his duel with brand mate Jeffrey Herlings from Italy to the western tip of Europe and recorded his fifth win of the year, second in a row, and the 82nd of a phenomenal career (just 19 left to topple Stefan Everts’ seemingly untouchable total). It was also his first for KTM on Portuguese turf, meaning since 2009. The 31-year-old Sicilian shared moto wins with Herlings who was in a better physical state than Ottobiano, but still complained of a headache and the lingering effects of his heatstroke from Italy. Cairoli escaped with the second outing to claim the top step of the box after Herlings had gained revenge for the sandy schooling the previous Sunday by stalking and swooping past his older rival in race one.

The top three (Jasikonis, left; Cairoli, center; and Herlings, right) catch a ride to the podium after the race.
The top three (Jasikonis, left; Cairoli, center; and Herlings, right) catch a ride to the podium after the race. KTM Images

There was little to separate the KTMs on the day and Herlings seemed a calmer and more analytical performer in Portugal on a track that threw up some extremes: big jumps, big speed, big bumps. He sliced a margin of seven seconds down to four at one point in the closing stages of the second moto, but Cairoli rallied for two laps and inflated the cushion. The upshot of Herlings’ fifth podium from the last six Grands Prix means he has pushed to within five points of Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Clement Desalle and second place in the MXGP table.

The Belgian was involved in a juicy contest of block passes and close-calls with Monster Energy Yamaha’s Romain Febvre in the first moto; Febvre showing more signs of a return to the pomp of 2015 and 2016 with his second fourth position on the bounce and edges nearer to a first trophy of 2017 after issues with confidence and comfort with his race set-up. Desalle was undone at the start of the second race when he could not avoid the tumbling Jose Butron. He still rode well to recover back to 10th place on a layout that had one predominant fast line and required energy, invention, and often some cheek to exploit areas for overtaking.

MXGP’s propensity to provide unpredictable scenes and results based largely on starts was highlighted again with Rockstar Energy IceOne Husqvarna duo Gautier Paulin and Max Anstie fading a little into the background (Max Nagl shining brighter in fifth overall and the German’s plans for 2018 are still unknown) and Tim Gajser continued his path back to fitness and form. Returning Belgians Kevin Strijbos, back on the Suzuki after recovering from an elbow problem, and Jeremy Van Horebeek, steering the Yamaha after a broken finger had healed, were frustrated to suffer setbacks: Strijbos tweaking his back and JVH unfit and unsure enough to duck out of the second moto.

Strijbos was able to watch teammate Arminas Jasikonis hammer a career milestone into the red Agueda dust. The 20- year-old rookie became the first Lithuanian to make a Grand Prix top three in the modern era. The confidence boost of briefly circulating with Cairoli and Herlings at Ottobiano seemed to pay off here and combined with effective starts Jasikonis produced a personal best to sit third overall. His flight to pass Nagl in the second moto was particularly impressive.

Motos were shared in MX2 as well and the same podium trio of Suzuki’s Jeremy Seewer, Red Bull KTM’s Pauls Jonass, and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Thomas Covington walked into the media centre post-race for the formal press conference, and in that order. Seewer and Jonass split the honors which means the gap between the pair stays at 38 points in the latter’s favour, but they are evenly matched and the tension will creep up with the onus falling on who will drop the ball first in the seven races to come. What Seewer lacks compared to Jonass’ never-failing excellent starts with the KTM 250SX-F he makes up for with attacking intent and a certain amount of guile. The Swiss was as aggressive and fearless as he has ever been in the second moto as he gunned a path after the vanishing Jonass and left the strong Latvian in his roost once his work was done.

Seewer's 2-1 moto scores gave him the tiebreaker over Jonass' 1-2 moto scores.
Seewer's 2-1 moto scores gave him the tiebreaker over Jonass' 1-2 moto scores. Suzuki

Seewer has blasted his way through being a student to place 10th, fifth and second in the MX2 class in the last three years and has his sights firmly on the top spot in what is his last attempt at the category and before he ages out (a factory Suzuki MXGP ride already beckons for 2018). If only he could get more from that RM-Z 250 away from the gate. Jonass meanwhile has been consistent and boasts more podium finishes (10) than any other rider in any class; Grands Prix in Lommel and Assen sand will be hand-rubbing prospects for the KTM man so Seewer will have to find some advantage on the hard-pack tests in Loket, Villars, and Uddevalla.

Portugal saw Covington again effective and the American set off from pole position for the second weekend in a row. He commented on the relentless rippling nature of the track and was relegated by Jonass in the first moto but is riding like the outside title contender many inside the sport believed he was capable of before the season began. Three podiums now for Covington marks a personal highest to date and he lies just 52 points away from the top five in the championship standings. His teammate Thomas Kjer Olsen was back on form after the slight stomach complaint he endured after a Saturday crash in Italy and Brian Bogers’ wavering season showed possibilities of righting itself for the Team Netherlands podiumee at Maggiora last year.

Covington currently sits sixth in points.
Covington currently sits sixth in points. Husqvarna Images

Noteworthy was AMA racer and Venezuelan Anthony Rodriguez who clearly benefitted from more time on the Honda since Ottobiano and was eighth overall.

MXGP sweated through eight days that must rank as the most exhausting stint of the long campaign so far for the Grand Prix elite. Thankfully a break of a fortnight will allow the limbs to ease and energy to be replenished before the slippery hard-pack of Loket and the Grand Prix of Czech Republic in mid-July brings the temperatures up once more.


Overall Results

MX1

OVERALL FINISH RIDER RACE 1 POINTS RACE 2 POINTS BIKE
1st Antonio Cairoli 22 25 KTM
2nd Jeffrey Herlings 25 22 KTM
3rd Arminas Jasikonis 20 20 SUZ
4th Romain Febvre 16 18 YAM
5th Max Nagl 18 16 HUS
6th Tim Gajser 13 15 HON
7th Arnaud Tonus 12 14 YAM
8th Clement Desalle 15 11 KAW
9th Max Anstie 11 13 HUS
10th Evgeny Bobryshev 10 12 HON
11th Glenn Coldenhoff 14 7 KTM
12th Gautier Paulin 9 10 HUS
13th Tanel Leok 8 9 HUS
14th Alessandro Lupino 7 8 HON
15th Maxime Desprey 4 6 KAW
16th Jose Butron 5 4 KTM
17th Rui Goncalves 3 5 HUS
18th Jeremy van Horebeek 6 0 YAM
19th Ken de Dycker 0 3 HON
20th Lukas Neurauter 1 2 KTM

MX2

OVERALL FINISH RIDER RACE 1 POINTS RACE 2 POINTS BIKE
1st Jeremy Seewer 22 25 SUZ
2nd Pauls Jonass 25 22 KTM
3rd Thomas Covington 20 20 HUS
4th Thomas Kjer Olson 18 16 HUS
5th Benoit Paturel 15 18 YAM
6th Brian Bogers 14 15 KTM
7th Brent Van doninck 12 14 YAM
8th Anthony Rodriguez 11 13 HON
9th David Herbreteau 9 11 KAW
10th Iker Larranaga Olano 10 10 HUS
11th Michele Cervellin 6 12 HON
12th Alvin Östlund 7 9 YAM
13th Henry Jacobi 8 8 HUS
14th Julien Lieber 16 0 KTM
15th Ben Watson 13 0 KTM
16th Lars van Berkel 2 7 KTM
17th Bas Vaessen 5 3 SUZ
18th Anton Gole 0 6 TM
19th Conrad Mewse 4 2 HUS
20th Nathan Renkens 0 5 KTM

EMX 250

OVERALL FINISH RIDER RACE 1 POINTS RACE 2 POINTS BIKE
1st Tristan Charboneau 25 25 KAW
2nd Simone Furlotti 22 22 YAM
3rd Marshal Weltin 20 20 KAW
4th Mathys Boisrame 18 18 HON
5th Ruben Fernandez 12 16 KAW
6th Alberto Forato 13 15 HON
7th Jago Geerts 14 14 KTM
8th Pierre Goupillon 15 13 KTM
9th Mike Stender 10 8 SUZ
10th Morgan Lesiardo 8 9 KAW

Championship Standings

MXGP 

STANDING RIDER POINTS
1st Antonio Cairoli 478
2nd Clement Desalle 387
3rd Gautier Paulin 383
4th Jeffrey Herlings 382
5th Tim Gajser 310
6th Romain Febvre 309
7th Max Nagl 289
8th Evgeny Bobryshev 267
9th Jeremy Van Horebeek 267
10th Arnaud Tonus 253

MX2 

STANDING RIDER POINTS
1st Pauls Jonass 501
2nd Jeremy Seewer 463
3rd Thomas Kjer Olsen 377
4th Benoit Paturel 363
5th Julien Lieber 355
6th Thomas Covington 303
7th Brian Bogers 241
8th Jorge Prado 233
9th Brent Van donink 221
10th Hunter Lawrence 199

EMX 250

STANDING RIDER POINTS
1st Simone Furlotti 235
2nd Morgan Lesiardo 227
3rd Alberto Forato 180
4th Jago Geerts 171
5th Ruben Fernandez 162
6th Ken Bengtson 152
7th Marshal Weltin 143
8th Miro Sihvonen 126
9th Mathys Boisrame 124
10th Tristan Charboneau 114