The first round of the 2016 MXGP World Championship finally kicked off yesterday in the Qatari heat. The Losail circuit provided a playground for an eager bunch of riders to show off how much work they’ve put in over the off-season. The qualifying races were our first chance to see who had truly put in the work over the winter.
In the MX2 class it was quite clearly Jeffrey Herlings and Dylan Ferrandis who were reaping the rewards of a gruelling training period. The pair were on another level in comparison to the rest of the field.
Herlings led the race from start to finish but Ferrandis kept the Factory KTM pilot honest through the entirety of the moto, even putting on a late charge for the leading position. Pauls Jonass rounded out the podium putting Ferrandis in a Factory KTM sandwich.
It was a mixed bag for the British riders in the MX2 class. Max Anstie had a fairly quiet race, coming home in ninth position. After a relatively poor start Ben Watson was able to make moves effectively – he managed to bring home his Hitachi Husqvarna in 14th.
After initially not planning or even expecting to be able to race here in Qatar, Ben Watson was pleased with his qualifying race performance. “It’s only the first round and I’m just trying to get back into the swing of racing again,” Watson told us. “I’m just happy to be here to be honest. Obviously the bike is new to me and I’m trying to get used to that. I was happy with how the qualifying race went, I didn’t have a very good start as my lap time from practice earlier today wasn’t great so I was over to the right a bit.
“I got 14th in the qualifying race so I’ll have a better gate pick for tomorrow and hopefully that’ll help me get a better start.”
The third man in our British MX2 trio failed to even line up for the qualifying race. Sadly, Adam Sterry suffered a broken wrist in the timed practice session after coming up short on the new double towards the end of the lap.
The precarious jump has already claimed several victims so far this weekend and she still has plenty more time to add to that tally. Sterry’s team boss, Steve Turner was obviously somewhat dejected after the injury. “Adam will be out for a little while, he came up short on the big double and he’s broken his wrist,” confirmed Turner. “Apparently it’s a clean break and I think they are just going to reset it.
“It looks like he doesn’t need an operation at this stage. But we’re going to get a second opinion on that just to be sure. It’s a real disappointment for the team and obviously for Adam, but that’s motocross I’m afraid. Hopefully it won’t be too long before Adam is back racing.”
However it wasn’t all bad for the Wilvo Virus performance KTM team as Shaun Simpson posted a solid eighth place finish in the MXGP class qualifying race. “The main goal for today was to come away with a decent gate pick for tomorrow and we’ve done that,” said Britain’s #1. “I went 9-9-8 today, so eighth in the qualifying race and ninth in both practices. By no means was it fire starting, but it was a nice and consistent way to start things off. That’s what I was looking for today, there’s a lot of people getting sketchy out there and we’ve seen a few unnecessary injuries already.
“One of those was my team-mate Adam [Sterry], which is unfortunate for him and the team, but these things happen and it is motocross. For myself I think I just need to keep cracking on the way I am, I think I have the speed although I rode a little tight.
“I started outside the top 12 and came right up behind Cairoli and battled with him for fifth or sixth. Had I managed to stick with him or even pass him I might’ve been able to keep that rhythm going. But not being able to get around him knocked me off my rhythm and I rode tight after that.
“I made a pretty big mistake two laps from the end which allowed Paulin and Nagl to pass me, that was a shame, but apart from that it was all positives.
“Two top sixes tomorrow would be really nice. That would be good to get us off to a consistent start and get us some nice points in the bag. One thing is for sure, you won’t be able to win the championship here.”
At the front of the MXGP field Team HRC’s Evgeny Bobryshev ran away with the proceedings whilst the rest of the pack squabbled amongst themselves. Eventually the two reigning champions emerged as the guys that would be filling the final two podium spots.
Tim Gajser proved that he is a rookie to be reckoned with as he successfully held off furious advances from the MXGP world champion Romain Febvre. The Slovenian even manged to close Bobryshev’s once substantial lead as the laps counted down.
Febvre eventually settled for third place after displaying his signature aggressive style for the first half of the race. Tony Cairoli managed a solid fourth place despite his injuries suffered coming into the season. TC222’s Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team-mate, Glen Coldenhoff looked at home right away on his new machine as he followed his new team-mate across the line.
Meanwhile Clement Desalle really struggled around the Losail circuit with his injuries preventing him from displaying his true potential. The quiet Belgian eventually pulled out of the qualifying race.
We’ve now had a good look at both the riders and the circuit heading into today’s points-paying races.
In MX2, Herlings and Ferrandis are most definitely the men to watch, however the picture is less clear in the MXGP class. Although DBR considers Gajser may be the danger man in Qatar, don’t count out Febvre, he’s not had the best of pre-season prep but he’s the champion for a reason.
We’ll just have to wait and see. Once thing is for sure – the track will play a big part in the overall outcome of the weekend. The fast paced nature of the circuit makes passing difficult, additionally the double that took out Sterry and the huge quad at the end of the lap may also shake things up once the racing gets underway.