Red Bull KTM’s Jorge Prado has had to live with hype since the age of 11 and when Spanish motocross fans were anxious for this prodigious talent to mature. Only four years and two junior European and World titles later and the Galician has stepped up to the highest level in remarkable fashion with a debut Grand Prix podium finish at Assen last weekend.
Prado – in his first year on 250cc four-stroke machinery and already an EMX250 European Championship podiumee – was slated to make his Grand Prix bow at Lommel in Belgium last month but an injured shoulder prior to the meeting meant that he did not get past the practice and qualification sessions on Saturday. Drafted into the factory team once more for the Dutch round (Pauls Jonass and Davy Pootjes were sidelined) the teenager – on a multi-year deal with KTM – seized his opportunity and went 12-2, led seven laps of the second moto, competed with Assen winner and champion-elect Jeffrey Herlings, took Pole Position and walked the third step of the MX2 podium with the 250SX-F.
The Belgium-resident earned his trophy after levelling on points with Max Anstie and by virtue of his superior second race classification. Prado’s achievement cannot be understated. Neither Ken Roczen (seventh at Agueda for the 2009 Grand Prix of Portugal) not Jeffrey Herlings (fourth at Sevlievo for the Grand Prix of Bulgaria in 2010) managed the feat on their maiden outings at the same age; although Roczen did win by his fifth appearance and Herlings by his fourth in MX2.
“I trained a lot after Lommel so I was feeling good here coming to Assen, I took the holeshot and I really cannot believe I won my very first qualification race,” Prado said on Saturday. The same electric pace in the qualification heat (where a shadowing Herlings eventually pulled out with a broken engine) was nullified by the rain-hit opening race on Sunday at Assen. “The first moto was a big struggle but I didn’t crash, which was a good thing,” he reflected. “The track was flat in the second moto and this was good for me. I’m a technical rider but I’m not strong enough to make a 35-minute moto full-gas on a heavy track so it was better that it was flat and faster.”
Two holeshots were formidable assets for the skinny and slight teenager (Herlings claimed he was at a 20-kilo disadvantage) and he made it count in the second race. A few close moments with the Dutchman disputing the lead had Herlings shaking his head at one point. “The track was pretty small – only one line, which I took – and I understood it was difficult to pass. I did what I could,” Prado added.
The debutant eventually evaded Anstie and went on to set a career milestone. “I didn’t expect a podium so I am really happy,” he beamed afterwards. “I was going for a top 10 and for me that was already good enough. I still can’t believe it.”
Prado will contest the final two MX2 Grands Prix in the USA in the coming week and is slated for a full term in 2017 before eying a possible move to the United States with the Troy Lee Designs crew and to chase his Supercross dream.