It is very likely that round six of the FIM Motocross World Championship in Valkenswaard, the Netherlands, will be flooded by a tsunami of Dutch fans dressed in orange ready to cheer on their sand master Jeffrey Herlings.
But first let’s look at the MXGP class… The odds were up against the reigning world champ Tony Cairoli in Bulgaria, yet it was Italian pilot who prevailed and further extended his MXGP points lead. While we have come to expect the unexpected this season, it raises the question is there anyone who can stop or even slow down the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider as heads straight for FIM motocross world title number eight?
Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team’s Gautier Paulin is probably the most likely to stop Cairoli from claiming a new world title. The stylish Frenchman has proved he’s got the pace and the ability, but so far has been burdened by bad luck.
Like the Dutch, Belgian’s are also amazing in the sand and they aren’t shy in saying they dig a good sand race. Having grown up in the sand and given his huge amount of progress this year, it could finally be Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jeremy Van Horebeek’s time to shine.
Meanwhile Rockstar Energy Suzuki’s duo of Belgians Clement Desalle and Kevin Strijbos, who have done their fair share of laps in the sand, are consistent top three threats. Belgian fans will be betting on Strijbos for a podium this weekend after his fourth here last year, which was then followed up by a second overall in the sand of Lierop later that season.
It will be a bitter sweet round of MXGP for Team HRC as they come in confident in Bobby’s (Evgeny Bobryshev) ability to put Honda on the box, especially after his third place here in Valkenswaard last year. Meanwhile on the same note, the team will be guttered to miss their biggest championship threat Max Nagl who had surgery on his wrist late last week after being a victim of a freak accident at a training track in Holland.
Also falling victim to the same wreck as Nagl, Red Bull IceOne Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Todd Waters wound up with two broken bones in his leg which required immediate surgery, plus a fractured hip and a broken collarbone.
It is said the friendly Australian will have to sit out eight weeks but has opted to remain in Europe and attend all the rounds of MXGP as a spectator, “It’s good to stay here and go to the races, at least then I can see the tracks, see how they cut up so I know if I ever have to race there, I can say yeah! I know this track, I have been here before”.
On a happier note, CLS Kawasaki Monster Energy’s Tommy Searle, who was knocking on the door of the top five at the opening round of MXGP in Qatar but was quickly sidelined at the following round in Thailand after an enormous crash over a massive jump broke his wrist, will make his return this weekend.
Dressed in orange, not only for his country but also for his team, motocross royalty Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jeffrey Herlings will be the one to watch, again! The skills of the 19-year-old Dutch sensation on a sand track have never been doubted, he has proved time and time again he is one of the best sand riders to ever walk the planet. Can someone make him sweat on home turf, or should we say sand?
Red plate holder CLS Kawasaki Monster Energy’s Arnaud Tonus has gone on the record to say he is going into this weekend believing he can win, which is great news for the fans and also the best attitude to have as a racer.
Although winning against Herlings in the sand may have been touted as impossible, if we have learnt anything this season, it is that nothing is impossible.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jordi Tixier finally turned things around in Bulgaria when he took home two thirds for third overall. Now with his first podium finish of the season under his belt, and with the confidence of second here last year, it will be interesting to see what Frenchman can do.
BikeIT Yamaha Cosworth’s Max Anstie has made some bold statements this year in saying “I realised I could win when I was about 10 years old and I raced Jeffrey [Herlings] in the sand. I know I’m the fastest. There’s no one that can do the things I can do.” There could be some exciting racing this weekend with the animosity between Anstie and Herlings going way back to their 85cc days.
Meanwhile young guns CLS Kawasaki Monster Energy’s Dylan Ferrandis and Wilvo Nestaan Husqvarna Factory Racing’s duo of Aleksandr Tonkov and Romain Febvre can also be surprise contenders this weekend. Ferrandis was hauling in the sand of Lierop last year, when he took second overall behind the king of sand.
Kemea Yamaha Racing’s Petar Petrov will also be coming in hot. The Bulgarian rode amazing in front of his home crowd two weeks ago, battling in both races from the back of the pack to come home with an outstanding sixth overall. After spending the last 10 years living in Belgium, the Bulgarian has definitely honed his sand skills and could have a shot at his first ever podium finish this weekend.
While MX2 championship threat, Rockstar Energy Suzuki World’s Glenn Coldenhoff took a devastating blow this week when a crash while training tore the ligaments off his knee. The Dutchman went immediately to a specialist who later confirmed he needed immediate surgery. “I am so disappointed. I had maximum points in the Dutch championship and was third in the MX2 World Championship with Valkenswaard next. It would have been a good season, but now I have to focus on coming back from this.”
Also tackling the sand of Valkenswaard this weekend, the women of the FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship will be lining up for their third round this year with HM Plant KTM UK’s Natalie Kane running the red plate as championship points leader for the first time in her career.
Meanwhile Red Bull KTM Racing’s Davy Pootjes will lead the European Championship EMX125 into round three this weekend, where the Dutch youngster will go for his third consecutive overall this year in front of his home crowd, while the smaller EMX150 class will also be taking to the track to compete for round one of the European Championship EMX150 on CRF150’s kindly set up and supplied by Honda.
MXGP Valkenswaard Timetable
SATURDAY: EMX150 Free/Timed Practice 08:00; EMX125 Group 1 Free/Timed Practice 08:35; EMX125 Group 2 Free/Timed Practice 09:10; WMX Free Practice 09:45; MX2 Free Practice 10:15; MXGP Free Practice 10:45; WMX Time Practice 11:15; EMX125 Last chance qualifying race 12:20; EMX150 Race 1 13:20; MX2 Time practice 14:00; MXGP Time practice 14:35; WMX Race 1 15:20; MX2 Qualifying race 16:10; MXGP Qualifying race 17:00; EMX125 Race 1 17:40.
SUNDAY: WMX Warm-up 08:20; EMX150 Warm-up 08:40; EMX125 Warm-up 09:00; MX2 Warm-up 09:15; MXGP Warm-up 09:40; WMX Race 2 10:30; EMX150 Race 2 11:15; EMX125 Race 2 12:00; MX2 Race 1 13:15; MXGP Race 1 14:15; MX2 Race 2 16:10; MXGP Race 2 17:10.