Herlings remains undefeated, taking a fourth consecutive Grand Prix win in Afyon and remains the only MXGP rider to ever win here. In addition, the bullet also matched Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Antonio Cairoli GP win record, as he secured his 93rd triumph.
The overall victory didn’t come easy for either of the factory KTM riders, as both Herlings and Vialle were challenged by a group of riders who were all hungry for the win, making for some epic races.
The MXGP class delivered some of the most intense racing that we have seen this season so far. The top protagonists of the championship were all within a couple of seconds of one another in both races, with a winner hard to predict.
After making some changes to the bike, Herlings topped the charts in Time Practice to take pole position which set him up nicely for the races. Though as the gate dropped for race one, it was his Red Bull KTM Factory Racing teammate Jorge Prado who clinched the Fox Holeshot ahead of Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team’s Romain Febvre, Herlings and Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jeremy Seewer.
Team HRC’s Tim Gajser started the race in eighth, though made some quick passes as he got up to fourth within a couple of laps.
There was no change in the top four for quite a few laps as Cairoli worked his way through the field. He had Seewer ahead in fifth who eventually crashed out and dropped to 15th.
Prado then crashed big out of the lead and took a while to get going again, re-joining the race quite far behind the rest of the field, which made it tough for the Spaniard to score any points as he finished the race in 21st.
Febvre was then the new race leader, and it was game one for the top three. Herlings and Gajser had a couple of moments as the Slovenian pushed to get around the Dutchman.
SM Action Racing Team’s Alberto Forato was having a great opening race after a strong time practice. The Italian in sixth place, where he eventually finished. It did look like he was going to challenge Standing Construct GasGas Factory Racing’s Pauls Jonass at one point though, which made for some nice racing.
Febvre then looked to stretch out his lead as he set the fastest lap of the race with nine minutes plus two laps to go. And as the race progressed things got more interesting as Febvre, Herlings and Gajser were just within 1.559 seconds of one another.
Cairoli was closing in on the top three at that point too as he was faster than the top three ahead of him. Herlings then put the hammer down on Febvre.
With one lap to go, Herlings was pushing to pass Febvre and was being pushed by Gajser who had Cairoli applying the pressure. Febvre did a good job to defend his position until he made a small mistake and crashed with less than half a lap to go.
Then it was Herlings in the driving seat as Gajser looked to keep close and make a move for the win though got caught out by a hard charging Cairoli who stole second from the Slovenian. Herlings was the race winner.
In race two, it was Prado again with the Fox Holeshot as Herlings followed closely behind in second ahead of Gajser and Jonass, as Cairoli had to fight his way through the pack once again.
Herlings was looking to strike early as Cairoli got around Febvre for fifth and looked to put an attack on Jonass immediately after.
As the race went on, the top three remained close, just as they did in race one, with just 0.959 seconds in between them. Gajser was looking to make a pass on Herlings and make a charge for the win, though made a mistake which allowed Cairoli to close in and join the fight just like before.
At one stage Prado extended the gap to 1.840 seconds but it didn’t take long for Herlings to find his way onto the back of the Spaniard.
While the top four battled for the win, there was also nice action further down the field as Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Glenn Coldenhoff got around JM Honda Racing’s Henry Jacobi for 10th. The German responded soon after, parking the Yamaha rider. Coldenhoff then made a small error and crashed.
Back with the leaders though, Gajser was searching for every opportunity to get past Herlings and on lap six was finally able to do it. Then it was game on for the win. Three laps later, Gajser was the new race leader as the top three were bunched up and within less than a second of each other, which meant that the race was far from over.
Herlings followed in Gajser’s steps to get around Prado but could not keep with the Slovenian.
In the end, the birthday boy, Gajser won the second heat with a 5.947 seconds advantage to Herlings, with Cairoli taking third from his teammate as we were treated to another Cairoli vs Prado battle.
In terms of the podium, it was Herlings with the overall victory ahead of Gajser and Cairoli. Tim Gajser continues to lead the championship with a 28-point advantage over Romain Febvre and Antonio Cairoli. Meanwhile Jeffrey Herlings moves up to fourth in the standings, just 34 points off the series leader.
Jeffrey Herlings: “I started the day strong with pole position and it was important to be on the inside in the start. First race was really good, I was actually equal with Jorge, but halfway down the straight he got me. Then I was chasing Romain and Jorge and then at one point Jorge had a big crash, I got up to second and I was actually second all race, I couldn’t really attack because I had Tim on my back, so I had to defend my line but at the same time I wanted to attack Romain because I had more speed than him. I was just following long and managed to be second until the last lap and obviously Romain made a mistake, and I got the win handed to me. It was a bit of a gift. Second race, I was a bit late on the gate but again I had Jorge next to me so he kept the other boys a little bit away. I had Tim on the back of me again and he was pushing hard, so again I had to defend and attack at the same time. Then Tim basically got us both within two laps. I made a pass on Jorge pretty quick, but Tim had a three second gap and he was fast, I can’t deny it. I did not want to take a risk, so I took the second place and knew I was going to take the GP win. It’s been a great day and great two races, looking forward to Sardinia. I think the track will suit me a bit better. I want to thank Red Bull KTM for the great bike they gave me.”
“I can’t make any big mistake anymore. I would like to be 34 points in front instead of 34 points behind but Tim is in the hot seat, but I went from fifth to fourth in the championship and I am just a few points behind Tony and Romain so that’s good. But Second place doesn’t count, there’s only one place and that’s first. We had 9 races so 9 to go. I missed three races but it’s like this right now and I have to make the best out of the situation.”
Tim Gajser: “I was quite happy but a bit disappointed with the first race as Tony passed me with just a couple of corners till the end. But anyway, speed was good, starts were okay. Of course, we have to work on it. It is really important to be in front especially now when we are really close together. The championship is really close between the top five but overall I am quite happy and looking forward to going to Sardinia. I like this track as well.
I mean it is still a long season, of course it is nice to be in front, but like Jeffrey said, nine to go… We are still halfway through the championship and everything is still open. I will give it everything I can. I think it’s really enjoyable to have nice races and battles. We have five guys that are always starting in front or starting from the back and battling to the top. So yeah, I think it is a good championship. Hopefully it’s going to go this way all season long.”
Antonio Cairoli: "I was also riding okay last GP but I lost some points and I also could have been hurt. Today I felt already better in the time practice which I am struggling a lot to get a fast lap lately. I also made a mistake with the start all the time. A little bit too wide, so today I had good races but not so good starts. Coming from the back, I lost a lot of energy in the first race but I am happy overall, the speed is there and the fitness as well. I just need to figure out a little bit that part of the race, the start. To try to stay in front like a do normally, apart from the last races. Second race, I did not have a good start again. First lap, there was some traffic and sketchy moments to pass some riders… I arrived at the back of Jorge and I struggled to pass him, so the guys in front pulled away. In the end, we pushed again and came closer. But then Jeffrey was just looking for the overall and just riding the last laps easy. I am happy overall to be on the podium but of course the condition was good so I wanted more but could not get it. Let’s hope we can have a better result in Sardinia. I like Sardinia a lot and it’s going to be a hot race. I think it’s a nice event."
MXGP of Afyon MXGP Overall Results
In MX2, all eyes were on the battle between Vialle and Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Maxime Renaux as the pair went at it in both races.
In the opening heat, it was Vialle with the Fox Holeshot ahead of F&H Kawasaki Racing’s Mathys Boisrame, Renaux, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Mattia Guadagnini and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Jed Beaton.
Renaux was not wasting time as he was already up in second and looking to keep Vialle close. Meanwhile Boisrame was coming under pressure from Beaton who was keen to get around the Frenchman.
Vialle and Renaux kept things close for a few laps as Renaux started to push, setting fastest laps of the race. And there was nothing Vialle could do as by the end of lap three, Renaux was the new race leader.
The big question was whether Renaux would escape Vialle or whether it would be a race to the flag. We soon got the answer as Renaux continued to set fast laps one after another, escaping the grip that Vialle had on him.
Guadagnini then joined the fight between Boisrame and Beaton for third. Beaton went down a couple of laps later and re-joined in seventh position but then continued to drop down the order as he struggled with arm pump.
Guadagnini then go himself into third as he finally got past Boisrame, who then went backwards. Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jago Geerts and Bike it MTX Kawasaki’s Wilson Todd were just two riders who went through on the F&H rider, who eventually finished the race in 13th.
Renaux then pretty much dominated the race, going almost two seconds a lap faster than Vialle on one occasion. By the end he won the race 17.288 seconds ahead of Vialle and Guadagnini who was third.
In race two, it was Vialle once again with the Fox Holeshot as Renaux followed closely behind. Benistant got a good jump out of the gate too and so did De Wolf and Guadagnini.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Rene Hofer was also there in the mix as he worked to get around Benistant for third place. Though he had De Wolf, Guadagnini and Beaton breathing down his neck as well which made things difficult.
Meanwhile the two leaders, Vialle and Renaux traded fast laps as the gap stayed under two seconds.
We were treated to a battle of the teammates between De Wolf and Beaton, as Beaton struggled to get around his younger colleague. By lap nine he was finally able to get the job done. Hofer and Beaton then started to close in on Benistant, with Beaton stealing Hofer’s spot in the meanwhile.
The lead then began to slip away from Renaux as Vialle edged out by 5.036 seconds, as Beaton got around Benistant for third, making up for a tough first race.
In the end, it was Vialle who was victorious with Renaux forced to settle for second and Beaton securing a top three finish. With Vialle going 2-1 in the races, this handed him the advantage for the overall win, with Renaux second overall and Guadagnini managing a top three finish.
Tom Vialle: “I didn’t have a good flow in the first race. I had a pretty good start, and the first two laps were okay. In sector four I had some bad lines there and that’s where Maxime passed me. After fifteen minutes I felt really tired. I don’t know what happened, but I had no energy, and I had a good gap to the guy in third so I just finished the race how I could and saved some energy. In race two, I gave everything I could to try to win and it was good. In terms of the title, Maxime is far in front, and it is pretty much done let’s say but I still want to come back, so this is my goal. I will try to win as much as I can. It was difficult but I am happy to win both GPs here in Turkey and I feel really good so let’s move forward to the next races.”
Maxime Renaux: “Today was really good and I was happy with my pace. Pole position in the morning was what I wanted because it’s really important to be on the inside of the start here. First race I was really happy that I could get a strong rhythm and find a place to pass Tom. I passed him and pulled the gap which was good. Actually, I didn’t give everything I had because I felt that Tom was slowing down and saving energy, so I could do the same. In the second race I started well again and could apply the pressure onto Tom and was getting closer, but I had a little problem with my goggles, I got hit by a rock and the lens popped out from the bottom, that’s not an excuse because Tom was really fast and didn’t make any mistakes so I had no opportunity to pass. I am happy with second place and it’s good points for the championship. I’m happy Tom is back because I want to win with everybody here. I think there will be some nice battles until the end of the season.”
Mattia Guadagnini: “This morning I felt really good, I was second in time practice, and it was important to take a good start. I had two pretty good starts but just didn’t get the flow and also in the second race I was trying to pass some riders, but I got passed too, so I just couldn’t get the rhythm. The first race was good, but I didn’t have the pace of the two ahead of me, they were really fast. In race two I tried to push until the end, and I could pass some riders. I passed Rene on the final lap, but he got me back and then I crashed. I am happy to be on the podium and it’s good for the championship to battle at the front, I just know I could do better and be back fighting for the win. The championship is still long, and I want to do my best every race. Of course, I’ve lost some points, but we will try to push hard and do well good in Sardinia where we did winter preparation and it’s a track, I like so it will be good.”