Glenn Coldenhoff put the RM-Z250 back into the top three on his debut in yellow and black colours and across the many jumps of the spectacular and floodlight track of Losail in Qatar on Saturday.
The three-man Rockstar Energy Suzuki Europe attack on the MX2 division of the FIM Motocross World Championship started in fine form as the factory-backed RM-Z250 runners relished getting back into action for the first Grand Prix of 18 this season.
A modest trackside attendance entered the gates, but this novel launch to the Grand Prix trail that will visit 15 other countries, offered a different kind of racing event for what was just the second edition of the Qatari meeting. The course offered the same demands as 2013 ¬- rough, slippery and with plenty of jumps and ruts to contend with.
Coldenhoff set a mean pace in Friday’s qualification heat to secure a decent fourth position and then used his choice in the gate to blast into the leading group early in the first 30 minute and two-lap moto. He battled with Jose Butron and Dylan Ferrandis and was only just beaten by Jeffrey Herlings to second position; his top-three finish representing the first for the team since the Grand Prix of Netherlands in April last year.
In contention for the podium Coldenhoff was desperately unlucky to lose his rear brake shortly into the second moto. It affected the Dutchman’s chances of setting rapid lap-times and he could do no better than 12th by the finish for seventh overall. In short, a debut with promise but without luck.
“It didn’t happen tonight,” said Glenn Coldenhoff. “A bad start in both motos. I came back quite well and my riding was good; the speed was there. I just got passed by Jeffrey on the last lap but in the beginning I was struggling to overtake Butron and also Ferrandis. I was quicker than those guys but it was hard to make a move. In the second moto I didn’t have a rear brake after 10 minutes and that was it.”
Julien Lieber was a welcome sight back in Grand Prix action since the early stages of 2013 when he had to withdraw at the Bulgarian round and lose the majority of the season due to a knee injury.
The young Belgian was running as high as fourth in the first moto until he crashed and had to pit to rectify his clutch controls. More mistakes in the second moto led to a card of 18-13 for 16th overall.
“The first race, well, the first laps, were pretty good,” said Julien Lieber. “I was fourth but then Ferrandis was making some mistakes in front of me and he crashed also. I went down shortly afterwards and I lost a lot of time re-starting because the bike was on a slope and I had to go in the pits as the clutch lever was bent downwards.
“In the second race the start was not so good. My speed was OK but then I lost the flow and positions also. Another crash later on. There were some things to be happy about.”
Losail was Jeremy Seewer’s first Grand Prix as a full-time rider in the MX2 contest. The Swiss had enjoyed several promising wild-card appearances in 2012 and also 2013 but the 19 year old is embarking on his maiden term at the highest level and since turning Pro at the end of the summer. Seewer was eying the top 10 after a pleasing level of speed on Friday but a succession of incidents, errors and rookie adversity wrecked his results. Finishes of 14-18 delivered a final placing of 17th on the night.
Jeremy Seewer commented: “After yesterday I was sure that my speed was good enough for the top 10. I was not focussed on the result or setting myself an expectation but instead having fun on the track. My speed was good in the first moto even if my start wasn’t. I was 10th but then after three laps I crashed into Gajser; it was a racing incident. I was at the back and came through to 14th and had one small crash. I had good pace but too many mistakes!
“In the second moto it was almost the same. I struggled on the first lap and from then it didn’t go so well. I got some dust in my eyes and crashed again. Everything went wrong and I’m not so happy with 18th. I have to put everything together now. I know I can make the top ten.”
Si Racha will again be the location for the second-ever Grand Prix of Thailand next week which means a short few days of travelling and relocation for the Rockstar Energy Suzuki Europe before they again find a start gate.