Gusting winds and heavy down pours of rain made the sand of Valkenswaard an extreme challenge, both mentally and physically for the 2016 MXGP of Europe.
But while it broke bikes and hearts in equal measure, a legend of the sport came roaring back but the young guns were ultimately victorious in Valkenswaard.
The European fans who braved the weather were treated to the best racing in the 2016 world championship, so far, with Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Romain Febvre and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jeffrey Herlings taking the top step of the podium.
The first ever grand prix to take place in Valkenswaard was back in 1991. Back then the track used to be much softer and wavier, everything you would expect from a ‘sand’ circuit.
Fast forward to 2016 and the historic track has packed down, which makes for massive braking bumps and sharp acceleration bumps while still maintaining wave section like corners.
Horrendous down pours of rain throughout the weekend saturated the sand, which softened it up slightly but nevertheless the terrain remained brutal.
The defending MXGP world champion, Romain Febvre proved exactly why he is the holder of the crown when he won the MXGP of Europe with an epic race win in the final moto of the day where he caught and passed the eight-time world champion Tony Cairoli. “I couldn’t find my rhythm in the first race,” Febvre explained. “I crashed and I couldn’t find my lines. I was really disappointed and angry so before the second race I was hungry, I wanted to win.”
Despite a few errors in the first race, Febvre went 3-1 for the grand prix overall and now leads the MXGP championship by 13 points over Honda Gariboldi’s impressive rookie Tim Gajser.
After a slow start to the season Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Max Nagl went back to the drawing board during the two-week break.
He did his homework and turned it in this weekend where he passed with flying colours. The German took his first Qualifying Race win of the season yesterday, which was a good sign he had turned his ship around, and turned it into a second place finish here at the MXGP of Europe, to stand on the podium for the first time since May last year.
Gajser was nothing short of impressive this weekend. In moto one, he had everyone wide-eyed as he gave the cream of MXGP a riding lesson around a track he hasn’t had a lot of success at, while his undoing was in race two where he had the grand prix victory in the palm of his hand for more than half of the race but appeared to be at war with his bike which he confirmed in the post race interview: “It kept stopping, I stalled it twice but it actually wasn’t my fault,” said the MX2 world champion. “I haven’t been back to the paddock to know what the problem is yet, but anyway I am happy to be back on the podium, especially in the sand because it’s not actually my favourite dirt.”
There was a race within a race in the final moto of the day as Cairoli went head-to-head with the defending champ Febvre, and on the final lap it was the champ who conquered and took the moto win. In the first race, the Italian rode a steady moto for seventh which paired with his second in the final moto left him in fourth overall.
Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jeremy Van Horebeek was on the pace at times but like everyone else, made a few mistakes out on the pitiless circuit of Valkenswaard which dropped him off the podium and down to fifth.
As for the native Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Glenn Coldenhoff, he ground out his laps today while carrying a few niggling injuries which he picked up at the Thai GP when he threw it away big time in the waves.
Fresh from his double victory at Lyng for the opening round of the British motocross championship, Tommy Searle had high hopes as the GP series returned to Europe. Those hopes were justified when he posted the third fastest time during the timed practice session.
But after a rider hit Searle from behind the Monster Energy DRT Kawasaki pilot only qualified in 15th.
Searle twice had to fight his way through the pack, taking eighth in the first race and a similar result looked on for the Brit but he ran out of fuel before he could take the chequered flag.
Second place in qualification for Shaun Simpson promised good things for the Wilvo Virus Performance KTM pilot.
But a fall while running in the top five on the opening lap of the first race meant he had to charge through the pack with a damaged clutch to finish 10th.
Two early falls in the second race after another promising start left #24 with another battle on his hands and the Scot finished ninth for eighth overall.
MXGP Race 1 Top Ten: 1. Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda), 34:41.033; 2. Maximilian Nagl (GER, Husqvarna), +0:05.431; 3. Romain Febvre (FRA, Yamaha), +0:33.443; 4. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda), +0:46.976; 5. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), +0:51.297; 6. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Suzuki), +0:52.205; 7. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:52.378; 8. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), +1:00.386; 9. Clement Desalle (BEL, Kawasaki), +1:10.664; 10. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), +1:14.769.
MXGP Race 2 Top Ten: 1. Romain Febvre (FRA, Yamaha), 34:55.696; 2. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:05.156; 3. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), +0:12.437; 4. Maximilian Nagl (GER, Husqvarna), +0:14.500; 5. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Suzuki), +0:17.253; 6. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda), +0:25.165; 7. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), +0:27.558; 8. Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda), +0:39.187; 9. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), +0:53.250; 10. Christophe Charlier (FRA, Husqvarna), +1:10.348.
MXGP Overall Top Ten: 1. Romain Febvre (FRA, YAM), 45 points; 2. Maximilian Nagl (GER, HUS), 40 p.; 3. Tim Gajser (SLO, HON), 38 p.; 4. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 36 p.; 5. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, YAM), 36 p.; 6. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, HON), 33 p.; 7. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, SUZ), 31 p.; 8. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), 23 p.; 9. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), 22 p.; 10. Tanel Leok (EST, KTM), 19 p.
MXGP Championship Top Ten: 1. Romain Febvre (FRA, YAM), 137 points; 2. Tim Gajser (SLO, HON), 124 p.; 3. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, HON), 107 p.; 4. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, YAM), 104 p.; 5. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 100 p.; 6. Maximilian Nagl (GER, HUS), 84 p.; 7. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), 80 p.; 8. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, SUZ), 79 p.; 9. Tommy Searle (GBR, KAW), 63 p.; 10. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), 55 p.
MXGP Manufacturer: 1. Yamaha, 137 points; 2. Honda, 126 p.; 3. KTM, 107 p.; 4. Husqvarna, 95 p.; 5. Suzuki, 91 p.; 6. Kawasaki, 63 p
There is nothing like winning in front of your home crowd. Ask any rider and they will tell you it is one of the most hair-raising feelings in the world.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jeffrey Herlings took his first ever grand prix victory here in 2010 at the tender age of 15.
Since then Herlings has won every grand prix here in Valkenswaard, a track he has cut so many laps on it may as well be in his backyard.
Today, at the MXGP of Europe, ‘The Bullet’ hit yet another career milestone as he used his one of a kind sand riding finesse to claim his 50th grand prix victory in front of his nation.
On his achievement Herlings said: “To win 50 grands prix is something special, it’s like your first then 10, then 50, then 100.”
Finishing second to Herlings in the sand is almost as good as a win for the riders in MX2. With that in mind, his team-mate Pauls Jonass had a brilliant day at the office as he charged hard and banked two consistent second place finishes for a convincing second overall.
“I felt confident this weekend,” said Jonass. “I struggled a bit with suspension settings yesterday and in the first race too, but we changed some things and it was much better.”
Team Suzuki World MX2’s Jeremy Seewer is by no means a sand specialist but after landing on the podium, it’s safe to say the Swiss rider is working hard.
As the saying goes ‘you only get out what you put in’ and today Seewer was able to reap the rewards of hard work.
The Suzuki star was super pumped during the press conference, saying: “I have been on the podium a few times now but for me this one is an emotional one. To do it in the sand as a Swiss rider was something really important to me especially after last year I was not so good here and even in years before I couldn’t even qualify in the sand in the European Championship on an 85cc.
“I have worked really hard and it’s starting to be alright now.”
Kemea Yamaha Official MX Team’s Brent Van doninck was absolutely hauling yesterday but was forced out of the race with a mechanical failure.
Because the Belgian did not finish the Qualifying Race he had last pick of the start gate, which meant he was already at a disadvantage. Despite the work-out, Van doninck rode like a machine today and barged his way from the back of the pack for a jaw dropping 5-4 finish for fourth overall.
Meanwhile Van doninck’s team-mate Benoit Paturel turned some solid laps for fifth overall while the kid representing the Dutch youth, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Davy Pootjes killed it in race one with his impressive sixth place finish but crashed in the second moto, which meant he would only wrap up his home grand prix in 10th.
The GP of Europe proved to be a tough weekend for Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Max Anstie.
A heavy crash in his qualifying race robbed him of a strong important qualifying result.
Anstie worked hard to overcome a bad start and raced to an eventual 19th position in moto one. Fighting from the back of the pack he went on to place 22nd in moto two.
The ever upbeat Anstie said: “Things didn’t go to plan for us in Valkenswaard but we’ll just try to put the pieces of the puzzle together to get back stronger in the following round.”
Ben Watson went 8-16 for 12th overall. Could have been better for the talented young British pilot but crash while running in 10th meant it wasn’t to be.
The Brit pilots need to remain positive as the series heads to South America for rounds four and five.
MX2 Race 1 Top Ten: 1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 35:12.127; 2. Pauls Jonass (LAT, KTM), +0:50.896; 3. Petar Petrov (BUL, Kawasaki), +1:07.168; 4. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, Suzuki), +1:23.048; 5. Brent Van doninck (BEL, Yamaha), +1:26.054; 6. Davy Pootjes (NED, KTM), +1:35.470; 7. Benoit Paturel (FRA, Yamaha), +1:46.678; 8. Ben Watson (GBR, Husqvarna), +2:07.789; 9. Alvin Östlund (SWE, Yamaha), +2:10.450; 10. Aleksandr Tonkov (RUS, Yamaha), -1 lap(s)
MX2 Race 2 Top Ten: 1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 35:17.872; 2. Pauls Jonass (LAT, KTM), +1:19.911; 3. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, Suzuki), +1:25.404; 4. Brent Van doninck (BEL, Yamaha), +1:29.679; 5. Calvin Vlaanderen (NED, KTM), +1:31.724; 6. Benoit Paturel (FRA, Yamaha), +1:35.487; 7. Michele Cervellin (ITA, Honda), +1:54.833; 8. Samuele Bernardini (ITA, TM), +1:59.315; 9. Vsevolod Brylyakov (RUS, Kawasaki), +2:03.230; 10. Alvin Östlund (SWE, Yamaha), +2:12.493.
MX2 Overall Top Ten: 1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 50 points; 2. Pauls Jonass (LAT, KTM), 44 p.; 3. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, SUZ), 38 p.; 4. Brent Van doninck (BEL, YAM), 34 p.; 5. Benoit Paturel (FRA, YAM), 29 p.; 6. Alvin Östlund (SWE, YAM), 23 p.; 7. Michele Cervellin (ITA, HON), 21 p.; 8. Vsevolod Brylyakov (RUS, KAW), 21 p.; 9. Aleksandr Tonkov (RUS, YAM), 21 p.; 10. Davy Pootjes (NED, KTM), 21 p.
MX2 Championship Top Ten: 1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 150 points; 2. Pauls Jonass (LAT, KTM), 112 p.; 3. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, SUZ), 112 p.; 4. Aleksandr Tonkov (RUS, YAM), 91 p.; 5. Brent Van doninck (BEL, YAM), 78 p.; 6. Petar Petrov (BUL, KAW), 76 p.; 7. Benoit Paturel (FRA, YAM), 75 p.; 8. Samuele Bernardini (ITA, TM), 60 p.; 9. Alvin Östlund (SWE, YAM), 60 p.; 10. Vsevolod Brylyakov (RUS, KAW), 59 p
MX2 Manufacturer: 1. KTM, 150 points; 2. Suzuki, 112 p.; 3. Yamaha, 108 p.; 4. Kawasaki, 103 p.; 5. Husqvarna, 74 p.; 6. TM, 60 p.; 7. Honda, 57 p.