Yamaha Factory Racing Yamalube’s Romain Febvre had to show real grit as he raced his way to third overall and his seventh consecutive podium finish (the highest tally of any rider this season) at a temperate Kegums for the Grand Prix of Latvia and the 12th outing of 18 in the 2015 MXGP FIM Motocross World Championship.
Team-mate and also on the YZ450FM, Jeremy Van Horebeek, was seventh overall in front of 23,000 spectators.
After two Grands Prix across hard-pack the loose terrain and sandy texture of the Kegums soil was a welcome change and heavy showers on Saturday night and through Sunday morning helped create a rough, bumpy and technical course.
The hard areas of the track still caught out many for grip. On a drier Saturday afternoon Febvre chased Gautier Paulin closely to finish second in the qualification heat and earn the same pick in the gate for Sunday. Van Horebeek could not make the best of starts and also had a small crash to finish seventh; unfortunately for the Belgian it would set a trend for Sunday.
Sunday dawned wet and cool and Kegums was a different prospect. The layout dried quickly but only narrowed the principal racing lines. Febvre tangled with Tommy Searle at the beginning of the first moto and went down.
The championship leader then had to embark on a race-long fight back through the pack and his progress was fantastic. He reached eighth position after the 30 minutes and two laps distance. Van Horebeek had Steven Frossard for company for most of the sprint but comfortably kept the French Motocross of Nations winner at bay to make sure of fifth place.
Belated sunshine had arrived by the time of the second motos but the stiff breeze kept a moody sky blowing across the venue. In the next launch Febvre was superb and seized the lead on the second corner to open a seven second margin towards his seventh moto win from the last seven Grands Prix (he is now the most successful MXGP racer this term).
Van Horebeek was again frustrated out of the sandy gate and while straining for ground and positions in the top 10 suffered a fall that dropped him to 13th. #89 rode hard to recover to ninth.
The MXGP classification in Latvia means that Febvre has increased his cushion behind possession of the red plate to 41 points with trips to Czech Republic, Belgium, Italy, Holland, Mexico and the USA still to go. Van Horebeek is eighth and closing on Shaun Simpson in seventh spot.
DP19 Racing Yamaha’s David Philippaerts could only take 15th place overall after encountering a recurring problem with his exhaust silencers that restricted the performance of the YZ450F and permitted no better than a 17-16. The former world champion is 12th in the MXGP table.
With back-to-back events in the bag Yamaha’s MXGP athletes will now be able to take a week to recover and prepare for the sand with three races in August set to take place at Lommel, Mantova and Assen. First up is the slick, hard surface of Loket for the Grand Prix of Czech Republic on July 25-26.
“I was maybe second or third on the straight but going into the turn somebody hit me and some of us crashed together,” said Romain Febvre. “I lost some time restarting the bike and when I was looking at the pack going over one of the jumps I could see that they were really far!
“I knew it would be difficult to come back but I managed it to eighth. I was really happy with my riding – but not with the result – and I knew with a good start in the second moto I had the speed to lead and made it happen.”
Jeremy Van Horebeek commented: “I have the speed to be in the top three, easily, but if you don’t get the start then you need to take risks on the first laps. I rode good today – except for that small crash in the second moto – but I always have to come through from the back.
“Like I said, my pace is good, but something is not clicking at the moment. I’m feeling good and fit. We’ll work hard and make some changes.”