Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team’s Jeffrey Herlings on Saturday night sealed the 2016 MX2 World Championship after a decisive win in the opening moto at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, USA.
It was the Dutch rider’s third world title and very well deserved after recovering from a series of major injuries in the immediate past seasons.
Herlings went on to take third in race two behind US national champion Cooper Webb, which gave the overall win to Webb. American rookie, Austin Forkner, was overall third. The fastest other KTM rider was Dutch pilot Calvin Vlaanderen who finished fifth with a 5-8 result.
On his way to the title, Herlings won the first 12 rounds on his KTM 250 SX-F, dropping only three possible points with a second place in the opening moto in Italy. He then sat out three rounds (Czech Republic, Lommel in Belgium and Switzerland) to heal a broken collarbone.
He bounced back at the next round at home in Assen for another GP win, and on the start of race one at Charlotte he knew he only had to finish in front of closest rival Jeremy Seewer to take the title. “I am super, super happy, especially after everything we’ve been going through with a broken femur, a dislocated hip, two broken collarbones and almost losing my little finger,” exclaimed Herlings. “It’s number three and hopefully many more to come.”
Asked to comment about racing against leading Americans, he offered: “The two strongest guys from America Webb and Forkner were here. Webb is the national champion and I beat him straight up in the first race and then he beat me in the second. I think the competition is stronger in the US, but we won the championship and that’s what it’s all about.” Speaking about the final round next weekend: “I like the track at Glenn Helen and it should be better than this track. Like always, we will do our best to make it happen.”
Joel Smets, Motocross Sport Director, referring to Herlings’ title win, and his past injury difficulties commented: “You could feel the tension in the whole team in the last two GPs because what has happened in the past, so it’s quite normal that everyone is very emotional when the title in finally in the pocket.”
Herlings’ two MX2 factory team-mates Pauls Jonass and Davy Pootjes are both recovering from injury and were not with the team in the USA. It was a tough two races for the fourth member of Red Bull KTM, Jorge Prado. The 15-year-old Spaniard is new to the MX2 factory lineup but took a podium third last week in Assen. He finished 19th overall with a 17-19 moto result.
“Regarding Jorge, we were all hopeful after Assen but we didn’t expect a podium,” said Smets. “His own goal was to finish top ten. We do have to be realistic because he’s only 15 and we can’t expect miracles. Our boys are all talented and overall we have a good package, and for next weekend in Glenn Helen we expect Jeffrey to do well and Jorge to improve. We hope Tony will be healthy and we know Glenn likes the track. He was the third European there last year.”
The races at the man-made track in Charlotte were difficult for several reasons for the European riders. Qualification was washed out completely on Friday and they only had a free practice and a timed practice to learn the circuit. Added to this, the races were on Saturday night under lights. For riders and teams struggling to adjust to a six-hour time difference, this meant opening motos were run at 23.00 and midnight, and the second motos at 02.00 and 03.10 hours Central European Time.