Trentino is probably the most picturesque venue on the calendar, the huge grey cliffs of the Dolomite mountains providing the backdrop with the hilly track snaking around the valley below.
It’s a hard-pack track but not like the old ‘blue-groove’ Italian tracks from the ‘80s, by the time it’s disked and watered it looked quite loamy at the start of practice. There’s a lot of gravel-sized stones in the soil, so I’d be using the biggest hand guards and chest protector available if I was racing.
The EMX125s had their second outing after their debut at the Baltic like Valkenswaard and the women’s championship kicked off with Brits represented in both classes.
MXGP – Brits having a tough time of it
I saw Shaun Simpson standing in the Wilvo awning with eyes looking puffy. “I’ve had a rough week, some sort of flu bug,” he explained. “Rachel had it worse but I felt pretty ill. I was in bed at nine o’clock, I actually feel a lot better today.”
You know it would take more than the flu to keep the tough Scot down and even though it’s not the best preparation for an MXGP race he still posted 10th fastest in timed practice, quickest of the Brits with Anstie 15th and Irwin 23rd. Tommy Searle remains on the injured list.
In the qualifying race Irwin tangled with another rider in turn two and ended up on the floor. Restarting in last place, he put on a charge, which I think was one of his best rides this season, passing Max Anstie as he moved up to 22nd place.
To put that in context, Tim Gajser went down in turn one and restarted with Irwin, and the two-time world champion only managed a few more passes. Simpson had a steady ride in 12th but told me later that he had changed his strategy and was trying to waste less energy in qualifying. “There’s no point in busting a gut to get another place in qualifying when realistically it makes no difference here if you’re sixth or 16th gate pick,” he said.
Max Anstie is still suffering from Redsand injuries
Race 1 started without Max Anstie. On his Instagram page he posted a short video on Saturday saying he’d had a week in England after his Redsand crash and felt okay, but his qualifying race looked below par. On medical advice, he will miss this weekend and next weekend in Portugal and hopes to return in Russia. He hit his head at Redsand and obviously his injuries were worse than he thought.
Simpson had a decent start around 12th along with Irwin just behind. The first lap melee cost Irwin as he got bumped in turn five, losing his balance and a handful of places.
As the race settled down it became a procession to be honest, Simpson managed to get to 10th but was too far behind Lieber in ninth to be a threat and Irwin rode hard, passing a stricken Paturel for 21st on the last lap.
Race 2 saw another mid-pack start for Irwin, but Simpson was at the back. Lieber had turned across him causing a pile-up. He started to make his way forward, but it was a difficult job and as he got into the low 20s the riders were spread out.
By lap 11 he was on Irwin’s tail, both benefitting from Jasikonis crashing out but as Herlings came by to lap them Simpson lost out to Butron who used the opportunity to slip by.
Irwin bobbled on his own, apparently trying to get out of Cairoli’s way under blue flags and lost out to Butron and Simpson but Simpson then crashed on the last lap handing 20th place and the final point to Irwin.
Injury scare for Shaun Simpson
Simpson said afterwards: “I hit Lieber on the start and went down, and by the time I caught up to Irwin and that group I just got stuck in their pace. I tried getting Butron for the last point, but he was going left, and I was going right.
“I thought I’d dislocated my shoulder, but I had an x-ray and it’s not broken. I need to get a big flap of skin sewn back up, but I’ll sort that when we get home.”
MX2 – Adam Sterry impresses
“The track was mint in free practice but now it’s rock hard,” was Conrad Mewse’ assessment after timed practice where he secured seventh fastest time. “The ruts are solid and its quite square edged underneath.”
His championship rival Ben Watson (they were tied for fifth spot after Redsand) was fourth quickest with Adam Sterry 13th.
The qualifying race saw the three Brits near the front, Mewse in third, Watson fifth and Sterry seventh.
Mewse was losing time in the turn coming onto the pit straight and lost places there to Covington and then Watson a few laps later.
They would end up with Watson fourth, Mewse fifth and Sterry seventh.
Interestingly their best laps were almost identical: Watson 1.51:243, Mewse 1.51:244 and Sterry 1.51:777. Watson’s Instagram simply said: “Happy with my Saturday in Italy p-4 to the gate.”
Race 1 on Sunday saw the Brits mired in the pack. Sterry best placed in 12th, Mewse 18th and Watson 26th. Sterry had a great line at the back of the track, railing an outside berm that sling-shot him into the rollers. He passed a couple of riders there and made time even if he didn’t overtake.
At mid-race, he was in ninth but with a gap behind and in front. Unfortunately, Brylyakov managed to close the gap and got by on the penultimate lap.
Watson was on a charge up to 16th before a crash dropped him a few places. He regrouped and charged again, on to Sterry’s tail at the flag for 11th. It was the best ride of the race, particularly because it wasn’t an easy track to pass on.
Mewse had a nightmare, never making any ground and losing out to Rubini near the end, a rider who he would usually beat easily. 20th place was not what he hoped for.
A long talk in the race truck between motos seemed to do the trick.
A good start in Race 2 in seventh put him in contention. He battled with Jonass, benefitted from Jacobi and Vlaanderen clashing and ended up fourth.
Watson was on the charge again, moving up to seventh but more importantly leap-frogging Mewse in the championship to sit fourth, with Mewse fifth.
Sterry would crash out on Lap 11 due to some poor marshalling. A rider crashed on a blind downhill and his stricken bike collected three others including Sterry. None were seriously hurt but that was the only bit of good luck.
Watson said afterwards that he was “gutted” but “very happy” with his riding.
I should think so too. I was very impressed with his aggression and fitness. The work with trainer Jacky Vimond is paying off.
EMX125 – no-one wants to be in the LCQ
There were 80 riders chasing qualification, divided into two groups with the first 18 from each transferring directly to the races, 19th to 38th go into a last-chance race where the top four qualify. It’s always highly competitive, so getting a clean lap is imperative – no-one wants to be in the LCQ!
First on track, the smooth loam can easily lull the riders into a false sense of security as it will be much rougher come race time. In Group 1, 15-year-old Sam Nunn qualified in 16th place but Ike Carter was a 10th of a second off and headed to the LCQ. Group 2 saw 85cc world champion Eddie Wade easily qualify in sixth place, but Dom Lancett was back in 30th so joined Carter in the LCQ.
The LCQ started with both lads near the front but disaster struck Carter on the first lap when he was hit by another rider landing from a jump.
It knocked Carter down and left him with tyre marks up his back and unable to continue.
His GL12 sponsor Bob Buchanan was philosophical after, having seen enough to be happy. “His times in the first three sectors were good enough to qualify easily but he was losing too much time in the last sector,” he said.
Lancett was in a solid fifth place, with the first five wheel to wheel. He moved into fourth and went for another place, but as he dived inside the rider fell into him, taking them both down and he was unable to get back into contention as he faded back to 10th. Dom was upset but his dad was pragmatic. “We’re here to learn, at least we can watch the main races and enjoy it now.”
Race 1 saw Wade get a decent jump, around ninth place on the first lap with Nunn getting a much worse start in about 34th spot.
The dry track was by now hard underneath with some loose gravelly dirt on top, making it a bit sketchy in place. Wade said: “I felt tight, I didn’t know where I should be but once I knew I could run at their pace I could relax.”
He picked off a couple more riders to end up in seventh place. Nunn able to move past a few but not enough to get into the points.
Race 2 on Sunday morning gave the riders a much different set of conditions.
Overnight watering meant the loose dirt now resembled ready-mixed concrete, not the best for a 125.
Wade got a great jump but bogged as he crossed the gate, his advantage lost in a split second.
Nunn too had a bad start and with the conditions, it was a struggle for both boys to make progress.
Finally, the slop got the better of Wade as his bike stopped, the chain clogged up with muck. The team had to remove it and push the bike back. The post-race autopsy diagnosed some grit in the carb, the most likely cause of the start line bog but dad Phil was happy with Eddie’s riding. “He rode mega, better than the first race even though the result doesn’t show it.”
I spoke to Sam Nunn later. He said: “I’m pleased about qualifying and the races but bad starts stopped me from getting points, both races were very hard to pass but I moved forward in both motos and my lap times were good.”
The 125s return in a month in Latvia.
WMX – tough Brits line up to contest with 50 riders
The WMX is a world championship rather than a European championship and is open to 13-year-olds riding a 125, then at 14 and over up to 250cc four-stroke.
With 50 women entered it meant qualifying would be necessary. Natalie Kane is the most experienced British racer in the WMX and it showed as she qualified easily in sixth place. Stacey Fisher was next, in 30th place.
“Happy to qualify but not happy with 30th,” Fisher told me. “I just couldn’t get a lap in. I was faster at the end but most of the girls already had a time and were cruising around, getting in the way.”
Bethany Farmer’s weekend ended with a trip over the bars and a concussion. She cross-rutted going down one of the hills and crashed out, hurting her arm and knocking herself out. Looking rather second-hand afterwards the BWMA champ told me: “I don’t really know what happened. I’ve hurt my neck and my arm. I tore my ACL three weeks ago so its all taped up.” The Portsmouth girl was committed to doing the whole series but will see how the injuries go and may just concentrate on defending her BWMA/AMCA title.
Kathryn Booth’s weekend also ended prematurely. Still nursing the leg she broke at Hawkstone (her left leg was broken when someone rode over it as she was picking her bike up, and now has two screws holding her left Tibia together). With support from JK ifly Yamaha, 16-year-old Booth was hoping for a full championship assault but wasn’t able to find a decent lap and missed qualification.
There was a story behind it though: “I was going to ride a 250 two-stroke. My four-stroke has blown up, but I’d been using it for practice and everyone says I go better on the two-stroke anyway. Last night [Friday evening] we got told I couldn’t ride it, they’re only allowed in EMX races.
“We managed to borrow a spare bike from the team, but it wasn’t set up for me, the suspension was horrible, and it was really stressful. Everything just caught up with me, the bike, my fitness, arm pump and my leg.”
Race 1 was on Saturday afternoon, with the track now drying and even dusty in places.
A terrible start for the two Brits saw Kane in 20th and Fisher back in 33rd. Kane used her experience and methodically picked off a couple of riders each lap to work her way up to eighth place. Fisher made slower progress as she worked her way up to 28th, her 125 two-stroke definitely not making her life easy against the 250Fs.
Sunday morning, Race 2 saw similar results as Kane started around 20th place, moving forward to seventh at the flag. It looks like the same few women at the front with Kane at the front of the next group, so it will be interesting to see if she can bridge that gap and run with them again as the series continues.
Fisher was again in the mid-20s, moving up a couple of places. “I was riding too tentatively because of the wet conditions,” she told me. “The track was actually very good, just a couple of corners where there wasn’t much line choice. I think the four-strokes had a bit of an advantage getting grip but I’m still not riding one!”
What’s next for MXGP?
The MXGP show moves 1,300 miles across Europe this week, to Agueda in Portugal (April 14/15). With support races provided by the WMX and EMX250 riders we’ll bring you a full report from there next week.
Until then, Ciao from Italy.