Following a hectic string of flyaway events, the Wilvo Virus Performance KTM team competed in the second European GP of the year this past weekend. MXGP entered the sandy venue of Kegums for the GP of Latvia for round six, being the first of three consecutive fixtures.
The start at Kegums massively favours the inside, which tends to leave those towards the middle at a disadvantage. Shaun Simpson used all the power available to him in the MXGP qualifying heat to round turn one inside of the top five, despite having the 10th pick of the gate, and battled it out with the frontrunners in the early laps. It was a battle of wits throughout the 25 minutes, with lap times in the top eight so close.
Simpson settled into a comfortable seventh after a couple of laps, but former world champion Ben Townley managed to squeeze past him before the end, putting Simmo back to eighth at the finish. That would still leave him with an improved gate pick for the following day.
Simpson was keen to repeat his good start from the qualifying race in the first moto on Sunday, but his chances were scuppered when he flinched before the gate dropped and hit it. That left him with a mountain to climb on a track that wasn’t exactly the easiest to pass on. Before he could even think about making passes he had to catch up to the pack ahead, which was a task that was made even more difficult following a fall on lap two. He was facing quite a deficit.
Eventually he was picking off the riders in the lower half of the field with ease, until he reached 14th with a move on the final lap. Seven valuable points were added to his total, as 14th is where he finished, but he was unsurprisingly looking for so much more.
Simpson avoided making the same mistake again at the second gate drop and as he rounded turn one the Scot was on the cusp of the top six. With the leading riders again separated by very little, there was an abundance of battles in the lower half of the top 10. Simpson spent the duration of this one chasing a spot in the top six and eventually made two passes in the space of a lap to move into a comfortable sixth.
However, a clutch issue cost him as he dropped back a spot in the closing stages and was forced to settle for seventh.
Although the weekend was a turbulent one, the 21 points gained saw him move up a spot in the championship. Simpson now sits seventh and is 56 back of the rider in sixth heading into next week’s German GP.
“I had quite a good feeling on the bike yesterday and we changed a few bits and bobs to try and get me to feel a bit more comfortable come the heat race,” Simpson said. “I rode reasonably solid in the heat race yesterday, but the races were pretty tough today.
“I didn’t really get off to a great start in the first one after hitting the gate and then going down on the second lap, so that was a really tough challenge to come through the pack. Getting 14th in the first one didn’t look good and it didn’t feel good, but it was a reasonable ride from where I did come back from.
“We changed a few things on the set-up for the second race and felt a lot better. I didn’t get out to a great start, just steady away, but then I started coming forward and fitness was really coming into play. With three laps to go we had a little issue with the clutch, as did a lot of other guys today. It is something to look at, but the changes we made worked well and we managed to finish the weekend on a bit of a high.”
Steve Turner commented: “It was a bit of an up and down day, but at least we finished on somewhat of a high.
“The first race was a bit of a disaster, with him running into the gate first and then crashing on lap two. He struggled for speed a little bit, but he stayed strong until the end when his lap times were pretty good which enabled him to salvage 14th. We made a few changes for the second race and he was much, much better, but he was hard on the clutch and burnt it out in the last few laps, which is why he lost a position to Bobryshev at the end. He still moved up a place in the championship, above Strijbos, so we are pretty happy.”