Monster Energy Yamaha battled through hot and challenging conditions for the MX1 Grand Prix of Italy at Maggiora and Billy Mackenzie managed a 15th position overall on his wild-card appearance at the venue surrounded by 38,000 fans.
With all of its history and character Maggiora was the perfect setting to unveil the 2014 YZ range alongside the 1999 500cc World Championship winning YZ400F ridden by Andrea Bartolini. The Monster Energy Yamaha squad drew the covers off the YZ450F for its first European showing only hours after tackling the bumpy and difficult racetrack alongside.
Billy Mackenzie flew in from Australia where the Aussie series is currently going through a summer break, to substitute for Steven Frossard in a one race appearance. The Scot has Grand Prix winning experience in both MX1 and MX2 and although he had precious little time to adapt to the YZ450FM and also had to re-familiarise with the Grand Prix format was nevertheless a relevant force on the MX1 stage.
He made decent starts in the two motos and was hovering around the top five. The demands of the class he last graced in 2009 caught up with him and he rode to 16th in the first race. Later in the day two falls on the opening lap ruined any chance of a top ten finish and he finished 14th.
“Basically all I want to say is that I did not treat this race as a comeback or an appearance with something to prove. I was just really happy to be offered the chance to ride the factory Yamaha, which is something I looked up to my whole career watching Stefan [Everts] win titles,” said Mackenzie.
“It was cool to ride Maggiora and the fans were crazy. The team were really great and did everything I asked of them. I changed way too many parts and got a bit confused trying to find a set-up that I wanted but that was entirely my fault.
Mackenzie added: “It is amazing to see how quickly and efficiently the Rinaldi crew work from the inside and it is obvious to see why the Dack and Rinaldi teams work so closely in a tight knit unit. I’m really happy to have experienced today and I’ll carry on racing in Australia as long as I’m competitive. I’m really enjoying it over there. I feel that my speed at that level is faster than what I showed today and I’m a bit embarrassed with the first moto. I tried my hardest in the second and did my best to put it up there but I crashed twice on the first lap and there was no coming back from that.”
Joel Roelants weathered a difficult day where he struggled to find his rhythm and confidence around the tricky curves and ruts. The Belgian was 16th in the second moto after withdrawing from the first. The FIM Motocross World Championship now pauses for a week before starting a three weekend trek across northeast Europe with the Grand Prix of Sweden at Uddevalla preceding trips to Latvia and Finland.
Roelants said: “Nothing much to say about today. We tried to many things to help me feel better on the track. It is hard to put my finger on what is happening because if I push too much out there I don’t stay on two wheels. We are going to do a whole lot of testing now and I hope we will be better in Sweden.”