We have officially hit the home stretch of the 2014 FIM Motocross World Championship with the 17th and final round already in motion. Offering one of the best track layouts on the calendar, the track here in León was built from ground up especially to host this event.
Embodying a variety of spectacular obstacles such as man made elevated rollers, stair jumps, triples, doubles, table tops, on and off camber corners, all formed out of a mixed compound of dirt which varies from deep boggy soil to hard packed clay, Team HRC’s Max Nagl and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jordi Tixier took the last two pole positions of the season.
Can anybody stop Team HRC’s Max Nagl? If there was such a thing as rounding out a good season, which was only hindered by an unavoidable injury, perfectly, Max ‘the motocross machine’ is doing it. From the last four starts in MXGP, the number 12 Honda has dominated each and every moto with the addition of yet another awe-inspiring victory in the qualifying race here in Leon.
Chasing Nagl around turn one, the newly crowned 2014 MXGP World Champion, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Antonio Cairoli led three more of the MXGP race favorites, Rockstar Energy Suzuki World’s Kevin Strijbos, Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team’s Gautier Paulin and the 2014 MXGP vice World Champion Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jeremy Van Horebeek.
For the most part of the race, the four chasing Nagl looked content in their positions and with their speed. But with a few laps to go, Strijbos’ right hand started getting restless as he turned up the heat and reeled Cairoli in. As the enthusiastic public, seated in the spectacular grand stands surrounding the backside of the circuit, braced themselves for a late race duel Cairoli quickly responded to the challenge and kept Strijbos at bay.
Unchallenged, Nagl took his second qualifying heat win of the season while Cairoli held Strijbos off for second. Paulin took home an undisputed fourth with Van Horebeek who is still nursing a severely swollen ankle, rounding out the top five. Van Horebeek later said, “my ankle is actually better than I expected. If I was fit, this is a track I would like and be battling for the win, but now I want to protect my ankle, I will just ride my laps at my own pace. I don’t want to take any risk, I just want to keep my fitness for MXoN”.
MXGP Qualifying Race top ten: 1. Maximilian Nagl (GER, Honda), 23:50.792; 2. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:05.280; 3. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Suzuki), +0:08.464; 4. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:27.834; 5. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), +0:34.518; 6. Davide Guarneri (ITA, TM), +0:36.612; 7. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), +0:40.175; 8. Steven Frossard (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:43.057; 9. Milko Potisek (FRA, Yamaha), +0:44.807; 10. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), +0:46.236.
Despite being a privateer team, Standing Construct KTM clearly have some lethal KTM’s in their weaponry with Valentin Guillod snatching up another holeshot to take their team tally to ten for the year. With Guillod guarding the inside line into turn two, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jordi Tixier found a good amount of grip around the outside and wound his throttle open to take over the lead.
Tixier was out to remind everyone he is in full contention for the MX2 world title, putting his head down to take a convincing qualifying heat victory. Meanwhile Guillod found himself up against the other two Flying Frenchmen CLS Kawasaki Monster Energy’s Dylan Ferrandis and Wilvo Nestaan Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Romain Febvre.
While Ferrandis started right up front and like Tixier laid his tires into a grippy outside line to take over second, Febvre didn’t get off to the best of starts. Radiating confidence after his impressive achievements at MXGP of Goias last weekend, Febvre wasted no time in dicing through the field to take advantage of Guillod’s bobble through the waves for third.
Febvre charged hard after Ferrandis, but couldn’t make enough of a difference on the surprisingly packed down surface. Guillod managed to hold on for fourth while the surprise performance of the heat was CLS Kawasaki Monster Energy’s Thomas Covington who smashed his personal best qualifying result out of the park coming home in fifth place.
As for the defending MX2 world champion and MX2 championship points’ leader, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jeffrey Herlings, he started the qualifying heat race and completed two laps before pulling off of the track. While it was a commonly known fact the Dutch sensation had this tactic in mind before the gates had even dropped, it has been rumored he has experienced a bit of pain in his femur and had gone to hospital to have an x-ray for re-assurance. Since then, we have spoken to the media representitve from KTM who has said Jeffrey has been cleared and should be on the gate tomorrow.
MX2 Qualifying Race top ten: 1. Jordi Tixier (FRA, KTM), 24:02.540; 2. Dylan Ferrandis (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:02.052; 3. Romain Febvre (FRA, Husqvarna), +0:06.423; 4. Valentin Guillod (SUI, KTM), +0:09.972; 5. Thomas Covington (USA, Kawasaki), +0:21.289; 6. Arnaud Tonus (SUI, Kawasaki), +0:25.691; 7. Aleksandr Tonkov (RUS, Husqvarna), +0:27.114; 8. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, Suzuki), +0:27.315; 9. Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda), +0:28.376; 10. Julien Lieber (BEL, KTM), +0:30.028.