Gautier Paulin of the Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team leads the FIM MXGP Motocross Championship after victory in the opening round of the series at the Losail International Raceway in Qatar.
The 23-year-old pilot advanced from an initial fourth place to take second place in the opening moto after seven laps, but an uncharacteristic error three laps from the close allowed another rider to sneak past.
After taking the lead on the opening lap of race two, the Frenchman led every lap of the race and, with KRT team-mate Steven Frossard holding a solid second place, there was never any doubt that Paulin would end the day as overall GP winner and take the red plate of the series leader to the next round in Thailand next weekend.
“The goal this season is to get good results at every GP,” says Gautier Paulin. “The entire team has worked a lot this winter to achieve this, and to start the season with a win at the first GP is a great reward for all of us.
“We will have the red plate next weekend in Thailand, even if the most important thing will be to have it at the last GP. But it’s already good for the team spirit that we are leading the championship. My second start was better than the first one; I nearly got the holeshot and then led every lap of the race without any mistakes.”
Frossard had started outside the top six in the first moto, but after a determined ride he had advanced to fourth place by the chequered flag. The ebullient 26-year-old pilot quickly joined Paulin at the front in race two and the KRT team-mates dominated to the chequered flag – Frossard even leading for a few corners.
Although he missed the podium by a slender two points, Frossard is just five points behind series leader Paulin in the standings to emphasise that the Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team has two genuine title candidates for the MXGP world title.
“It was a good weekend for me,” said Steven Frossard. “The first start was not so good but I recovered to fourth and was happy with this result. In the second race Gautier and I both had a good start and we led the race after I had passed Bobryshev and Cairoli on the first lap. I rode smoother in the second moto, but that’s normal as I had many injuries during the last two seasons and didn’t do many races so I need to get used to racing regularly again.”
The 18-year-old American teenager Thomas Covington will contest the first four rounds of the MX2 world series for the team as preparation for the outdoor national motocross series in his homeland; he made an impressive debut on the world stage to hold second place for 11 laps in the second moto before crossing the finishing line third.
Thomas Covington: “It’s been a crazy weekend, in the first heat I couldn’t do many laps as I had a technical problem with the bike. But the team did an amazing job to solve the problem and I can’t thank enough the team to give me this opportunity to do some races in Europe. The track was awesome for the second race, I got a good start and had fun fighting for the podium.”