The MXGP contingent, including the Wilvo Virus Performance KTM team, travelled across to Southern California this week, ahead of the MXGP finale that was set to take place at Glen Helen. Shaun Simpson had his sights set on finishing top 10 in the MXGP standings and managed it with relative ease, despite the stacked field that consisted of many high-profile wildcards.
Simpson stringed together some consistent times in the practice sessions, so entered the MXGP qualifying heat with the 17th gate pick. Once the gates dropped he stayed in that range, as he ended lap one in 16th, and then engaged in a brief tussle with Tony Cairoli after a couple of laps. A handful of battles followed but Simpson managed to secure 16th in the blistering heat and set himself up well for the following day.
After starting just outside of the top 15 again in the first moto on Sunday, Simpson was left with some work to do. He wasted no time, however, and gained two positions almost immediately, before chipping away and constantly closing on the riders that benefited from better starts. He showed some true grit and determination as he ran down and passed Tonus and then set about closing on Bobryshev. He posted consistently fast lap times but just failed to make the pass, crossing the line just 0.8 of a second behind the Russian for 12th place.
Another mediocre start left Simpson facing an uphill climb in the second and final MXGP moto of the season, but his tenacity was again rewarded. #24 was quick to make progress and started picking off a rider each lap around the halfway point until he eventually cracked the top 10, but he was not finished there. As many riders wilted in the intense California heat Simpson just kept pushing and pushing and after moving up to ninth with three laps to go he set about chasing down Bobryshev in a repeat of the first race. Once again he closed in but the outcome was the same albeit on this occasion the deficit was a mere 0.3 of a second. His 12 – 9 scorecard was enough to give him 10th overall and more importantly 10th in the final MXGP standings.
“I really enjoyed it and it was good to have two solid motos to finish the championship and tie-up 10th in the series after such an up-and-down season,” said Simpson. “I’m really happy to be honest. We have some work to do on my speed and my starts – for sure – and how quickly I get into the rhythm of the race but I really showed myself, my team and everyone how my fitness is ‘there’ and how I keep plugging-on and I’m a strong ol’ dude.”
Team Manager, Steve Turner, commented: “I was mightily impressed with Shaun today. He was off the pace in qualifying but we talked about attacking earlier in the races and he did just that, turning two average starts into two good results. There’s certainly nothing wrong with his fitness, he was so strong at the end of both races on what were killer conditions.”