Kawasaki swept the board in the last major warm-up race before the opening round of the FIM World Motocross Championships as Gautier Paulin and Arnaud Tonus won every race at Montevarchi in Italy.
Paulin and Steven Frossard of the Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team had only entered at the last minute after the race they initially intended to contest for their season debut in France had been cancelled due to flooding, but the duo soon confirmed that their preparation had been optimal as the two green machines sprinted to the head of the pack.
The elegant Paulin controlled the race to the finish with Frossard eventually finishing third as he slackened his pace in the closing laps to avoid the constant roost of stones.
The French duo again moved quickly to the front in the Elite final, the climax to the day’s racing with the best riders from both MX1 and MX2 classes, and there were no mistakes this time as they dominated to the chequered flag with Paulin again the winner ahead of Frossard in second.
“It was great to be here with all the team, racing for the first time since November,” says Gautier Paulin. “I inevitably had some arm pump as this was my first race for so long, and I rode carefully all day as there were some deep ruts and it could have been dangerous. But I still won both races; I had a good feeling and that’s a great way to start the season, even if we know that nobody is riding at 100% so early in the season.”
Steven Frossard commented: “It’s just an Italian championship, but it was great to be back racing at the front of the pack. I didn’t get the holeshot and the stones here were a problem if you were chasing somebody! I’m happy with my podiums; I had a good rhythm and didn’t get tired. It’s my first race for a while, but next weekend I will do another international race in France and then we’ll go to Qatar.”
The event was also the first outing of the year for Tommy Searle of Team CLS Kawasaki Monster Energy, The Brit used the race to test alternative bike settings and spent both races playing catch-up from moderate starts; he advanced from outside the top ten and only narrowly failed to catch the rider in fourth place in the MX1 moto, but a mishap in the early laps of the Elite final restricted him to 16th place despite advancing ten places in the closing laps.
“We just came here to try some settings and parts,” said Tommy Searle. “I started training later than usual due to some injuries but after this race we know which direction to go and that was the goal. I know where I am at the moment, I know where we’ll go and we just need some minor changes to be ready.”
Earlier in the day Arnaud Tonus had led home a 1-2 for Team CLS Kawasaki Monster Energy in the MX2 race with a clear-cut victory ahead of Dylan Ferrandis, the French teenager who was making his race debut for the team. Whilst the Swiss rider dominated from the front, leading all the way, Ferrandis showed great verve to move from an initial seventh place to snatch second place within 15 minutes and hold it to the finish.
The MX2 riders were at a distinct power disadvantage against the MX1 machines in the Elite race, but all three members of the CLS squad showed great tenacity. Ferrandis was first rider of an MX2 machine to finish in eighth place, one ahead of Alessandro Lupino, who had to be content with seventh place earlier in the day in the MX2 race. Completing the first lap 19th after a crash Tonus battled relentlessly to cross the line eleventh, fourth best MX2 rider, despite stalling the engine at one stage.
“I had two positive races in the Italian series; it’s great to get some holeshots and be winning again,” said Arnaud Tonus. “In the Elite race I crashed twice and then stalled the engine, but I had a good ride and that was the goal before the first GP. I feel ready for the season; I have a good feeling with the bike and then feel comfortable for the season.”
Dylan Ferrandis said: ” It’s my first race this season and as often I had arm pump in the first race; my start was not so good but I came back second and that was OK. I had a good start in the super final and felt comfortable racing the 450s for the first four laps but then I lost some of my rhythm and had to surrender a few positions. But I was still the first MX2 rider to finish. That’s great for the team; I know that all the mechanics worked hard and this is also a reward for them.”
“I was not happy with my riding in the MX2 race, I never rode relaxed and that was also the problem in the previous rounds of the series,” said Alessandro Lupino. “I felt more comfortable in the Elite race and fought back past several 450s on my way from from fifteenth to finish eighth, second MX2 rider behind Ferrandis.”