Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jeffrey Herlings made an impressive return to the MX2 track on Sunday in the opening round of the Italian International Motocross Championship at Alghero in Sardinia, a series that serves as a warm-up to the MXGP World Championship.
The Dutch rider took a dominant victory in the MX2 class then went on to finish fourth in the combined Elite Class, the only MX2 rider in the top 12 finishers.
In his MX2 race he crossed the line an impressive one minute 20 second ahead of second placed Michele Cervellin.
Beset by injuries in the past two seasons that prevented him defending his two MX2 world titles, Herlings has been working hard on his preparation and rehabilitation.
A confident Herlings said it had definitely been a good weekend. “It was disappointing over the past two years because of the injuries so now we are just trying to get back what belongs to us and that’s the championship.
“We’ve had some good preparation and I’m looking forward to Qatar [the opening round of the 2016 world championship] and some more preparation. The bike is doing good, we’ve had two good weeks of testing with the team and everything is looking really positive.”
Speaking about his race day Herlings said the track at Alghero suited him well, even though it wasn’t the deep sand that is his usual natural habitat. “I enjoyed the track a lot but it wasn’t so easy with the 250 because there was only one line and it was difficult to pass. But the practice was good.”
Herlings races next week at the Be Wiser Hawkstone International, another one of his favourite venues and where he has many British fans.
Sunday was not so lucky for Herlings’ new MX2 factory team-mate, Dutch rider Davy Pootjes who is starting his first full season in MX2.
An overnight stomach upset resulted in him being drained of energy on race day. Then he had some small technical problems in his opening moto and also experienced problems with his goggles in the opening laps of his second moto.
Pootjes, who turned 18 this week, admitted it had been a tough day but was still able to take some positives away from his race day. “I know I’m fast and I know I’m fit and we had a very good off season’s preparation. I’m looking forward to racing next weekend at Hawkstone Park. I like the track very much and we’ll see how that goes.”
Pauls Jonass, the third member of the MX2 factory lineup did not race in Italy as he is recovering from a crash in pre-season preparation, Jonass was the runner up in the MX2 class last season.
Glenn Coldenhoff made his racing debut with the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team in the MX1 class but his weekend also did not go exactly according to plan: “It was a tough day,” he commented. “We have had some really good weeks of preparation and I thought I was ready for this race. We expected some good results but it didn’t happen.
“I got a good start in the first moto. I was first going into the first corner but then Gajser passed me. I didn’t manage to find my rhythm and I got arm pump and its not so easy to ride the 450 with arm pump so I dropped way back and finished seventh.
“We made some changes to the suspension for the second moto and this was a big improvement. Also my riding was better. In the end I didn’t get the results we expected but I definitely felt good in the second moto. I’ll take the positives away with me and I’m looking forward to the next races. I feel comfortable with the team and the people around me and that’s always important.”
As Dirt Bike Rider reported first last week, the factory team’s leading MX1 (MXGP) rider, multi-world champion Tony Cairoli was unable to race in the opening round at home in Italy after damaging several ribs in a practice crash last week.
Doctors advised Cairoli to take a 10 day break to heal the injury and be fit for the beginning of the MXGP season.
Round One (of three) at Alghero, Sardinia
- Jeffrey Herlings (NED), KTM, 29 minutes 25.557
- Michele Cervellin (NED), Honda, 30:45.138
- Max Anstie (GBR), Husqvarna, 30:45.543
- Karel Kutsar (EST), KTM, 31:08.070
- Alvin Ostlund (SWE), Yamaha, 31:19.937
MX2 Championship points after round one
- Herlings 120
- Cervellin 100
- Anstie 80
- Kutsar 65
- Romain Febvre (FRA), Yamaha, 30 minutes 03.572
- Jeremy van Horebeek (BEL), Yamaha, 30:11.632
- Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS), Honda, 30:13.589
- Max Nagl (GER), Husqvarna, 30:29.728
- Gautier Paulin (FRA), Honda, 30:41.613
- Tanel Leok (EST), KTM, 30:52.654
- Glenn Coldenhoff (NLD), KTM, 30:55.509
MX1 Championship points after round one
- Febvre 120
- Van Horebeek 100
- Bobryshev 80
- Nagl 65
- Paulin 60
- Coldenhoff 50
Elite Race (MX1+MX2)
- Bobryshev 29:33. 442
- Febvre 29:34.934
- Van Horebeek 30:08.292
- Herlings (MX2) 30:09.640
- Butron 30:27.635