The Grand Prix of the Netherlands and round 16 of 18 in MXGP at Assen will live long in the memory for Romain Febvre and Yamaha Factory Racing Yamalube.
Second position overall meant an 11th consecutive podium and confirmed the 23-year-old Frenchman’s first MXGP FIM Motocross World Championship and the first for Yamaha since 2009 in the premier class.
A huge amount of work and sand had been poured into the renowned road racing facility in less than a week to construct a short, narrow and extremely rough layout. The hard base of the track meant it was difficult to judge at times.
On Saturday it was Jeremy Van Horebeek who was on the gas. The Belgian was quick through Free Practice and even a heavy crash in Timed Practice could not shake his rhythm or confidence.
He drilled his YZ450FM to second place in the Qualification Heat and was set for Sunday’s two 30-minute and two-lap motos. Febvre rued a bad start in the sprint but was happy with his riding and speed to pull through to fourth.
The big day dawned sunny and warm and with 37,000 spectators (weekend figure) finding a spot in the enormous grandstand that lines the western section of the course and lining almost all one side of the motocross layout.
In the first race neither Febvre nor Van Horebeek could head the field around the opening corner. Febvre went on the attack but found a large ‘obstacle’ in the form of home favourite Glenn Coldenhoff. Both riders overtook Max Nagl but Febvre could not relegate the Dutchman and crossed the line in fifth with title rival Gautier Paulin finishing second. Van Horebeek had a tougher time coming through the pack and eventually worked from eleventh on the first lap to finish seventh.
Febvre had to finish in front of Paulin to finish the series with two rounds to spare in the second moto. A much better start into second position and then a chase to catch breakaway leader Evgeny Bobryshev saw #461 at the front and in control. Paulin was buried in the top 10 and could only come through to fourth. Febvre started celebrations after crossing the line for his 12th chequered flag by virtue of his new gap in the standings of 102 points with just 100 left to win in 2015.
“I started slowly on Saturday and showed good speed in qualifying already,” said Romain Febvre. “I knew with some good starts I could be on the podium again and that was the goal. I knew also if I finished in front of [Gautier] Paulin then the championship would be done. It didn’t happen in the first moto but my start was a lot better in the second and I could pass everybody to win…and the 2015 world championship! I cannot thank everybody enough. The team did such a good job and gave me a chance last winter…I’m so happy.”
Jeremy was pushing eventual overall winner Shaun Simpson for third place at one stage but two small falls dropped him down to another seventh position where he finished the day in the overall standing.
“First of all I’m happy for this team, Jeremy Van Horebeek said. “We’ve had success for two years; with me last year and now Romain. This season was bad for me but it doesn’t matter. Everybody has it at some stage. Today was so-so. In the first moto I was not good at all and the second was better. I was fighting with Shaun for third and I felt smooth on the bike but then the berm washed away around the back of the track and I slid away. I picked up the bike and lost energy trying to find my rhythm, I then went down again. I was seventh and catching Nagl and Paulin but didn’t have any more to give. On tracks like this it was hard with my back injury and the pain in the muscles but that is not an excuse. I’m just happy for this team. It is a wonderful day for them.”
With the MXGP competition for the #1 plate now over Febvre can ease through the remaining Grands Prix this year. Van Horebeek is seventh and 20 points behind Max Nagl. DP19 Yamaha Racing’s David Philippaerts attempted to compete in Holland but was still not fully fit after his left arm injury, aggravated last weekend at Mantova.
MXGP now has two more stops and will fly over the Atlantic to tackle the hard-pack of Leon in Mexico and then the loamy hills of Glen Helen in California to bring the 18 rounds of the 2015 campaign to a close.
Yamaha Motor Europe MX Manager, Erik Eggens commented: “A fantastic feeling! Romain rode like a champion today and to be champion in a rookie year is very special. It is great for him, the team and Yamaha that things are going so well and this is only possible if everybody is working together how they should. Romain improved during the year and stayed very strong. The team improved the package and the bike in combination with the rider development was continual and there were no DNFs and no problems. There was reliability and stability within the team and the season has been just so great.”