The final European stop of the year in Assen, The Netherlands was also the site of Wilvo Virus Performance KTM’s first moto win in the MXGP series, as Shaun Simpson charged to an empathic opening moto win in front of the thousands of fans who overlooked the action from the grandstands.
Chaos ensued at the start of the MXGP qualifying race, as Simpson found himself on the ground after running into Max Nagl’s fallen bike. Although Simpson remounted in second to last on a track that is notoriously tough to pass on, he charged through the field at a phenomenal pace that only Tony Cairoli could match. Setting the fastest times of the race at points, Simpson eventually claimed ninth.
Although the Scot only rounded turn one in eighth in the first Sunday moto, he wasted no time blasting past all in front to take the lead by the time he hit turn four. He was never really challenged from that point on, as he posted lap times that his competitors struggled to match and negotiated the tricky terrain in a calculated manner. When the chequered flag finally flew, Simpson claimed his first MXGP moto win of the season and the first ever for Wilvo Virus Performance KTM.
The second MXGP moto was difficult for Simpson from the beginning, as Paulin hit the deck in turn one, collecting Simpson at the same time. After re-joining at the back he blasted through the field and was up to 14th after just one and a half laps, but suddenly disaster struck as he lost the front end in the rhythm section before the finish jump and hit the deck hard. Another rider landed on his bike, twisting the front end in the process and he was forced to nurse his bike back to the pits for some quick modifications.
After re-joining the race almost a lap down and dead last by a very long way Simpson again showed great speed and consistently set faster times than the leaders while cutting through the field to eventually finish 16th. That left him sixth overall on the day and also helped him move into 10th in the championship standings.
“There were far too many positives to take from this weekend to get bummed out about the last result or overall,” said Simpson. “I was the fastest guy in the races this weekend and managed to show it in the first one. I showed the speed was there in the second race. Had I not crashed for the second or third time and not gone into the pits, I still could have had a shot at the podium or even the win. It is just a testament to the testing we have done recently and the suspension we have now.”
Adam Sterry rocketed out of the gate in the MX2 qualifying race, which was held beneath sunny skies, and rounded turn one in second. A hectic first lap saw him drop to fifth, but he then held that position for the next couple of laps. Multiple battles ensued as the race progressed, which caused Sterry to both gain and lose positions, but he eventually held onto sixth to earn a respectable gate pick for the following day.
Heavy rain caused track conditions to change drastically ahead of the first MX2 encounter, but Sterry was not to be deterred. He showed tenacity while working his way forward from fourth and eventually took the lead on lap six, before building an advantage that was as high as 10 seconds at one point.
A small crash saw him drop to second but he soon looked back in control as set his sights on chasing down new leader, Covington, but a second heavier crash with just six minutes left on the clock, unfortunately, cost him dear as he was forced to retire and look ahead to gaining some redemption in moto two.
It wasn’t the same great start in the second MX2 moto for Sterry but he still ended lap one comfortably inside of the top 10. On a track that was arguably the toughest of the season, he constantly moved around the leaderboard as he lost positions to those around him and then made progress again. Sterry ran as high as eighth at one point but was forced to withdraw from the race late on, after another hard fall.
“Well, today was a big kick in the teeth,” said Sterry. “The race win was there for the taking in moto one, but it’s motocross and things like that happen. In the second moto, I had a crash and the bike wouldn’t start. It was a tough day, as it could have been so good. We showed great speed, but it just wasn’t meant to be.”
Team Manager, Steve Turner, commented: “What an eventful weekend! Both Adam and Shaun showed everyone how fast they can be, especially Shaun who was by far the quickest guy on the track. With a bit more luck we could have taken the first two race wins and I’m sure if Shaun hadn’t crashed for a second time in race two he would have won the overall.
“It was great to see Adam running at the front and looking like he belonged there and watching Shaun in race one blitz through the first two wave sections and then to go from eighth to first when every other rider was rolling every whoop because of the horrible conditions was just awesome to watch. Getting that first ever GP moto win was just reward for all the team’s hard work over the last few years.”