Jeffrey Herlings was at his bullet-like best in front of his home crowd at the Valkenswaard circuit in Netherlands on Sunday delivering a stunning 1-1 overall victory on a track that was gnarly and unforgiving. The Red Bull KTM Factory rider has now won on his home circuit six consecutive times and adds to his overall points lead.
It was a different story for his MXGP team-mate Tony Cairoli who went down hard in his opening moto and retired with a damaged bike. He finished 11th in the second moto after experiencing some problems with his wrist, but he holds onto third in the overall points.
Herlings, a Red Bull athlete, rode a near faultless first race, and while he had to concede the holeshot to Alexandr Tonkov he was in front several corners later and had a three-second lead at the end of the first lap.
He then continuously built on his advantage and crossed the line 42-seconds in front. The team’s MX2 rookie Pauls Jonass also had a great start in the opening moto but went down very hard on the gnarly track in the second lap and had to retire.
Herlings did not get away well in his second race and was mid-pack at the first corner. Meanwhile Jonass was up with the leaders and hit the front in lap three.
By then Herlings was in fourth place and took over the lead several laps later. He went on to take another comfortable win by 21 seconds. Jonass stayed in contention for the first 11 laps but then dropped back to finish sixth. Herlings now has a 37-point lead after round five. Jonass, thanks to his good recovery in race two is still third in the points.
Jeffrey Herlings said: “It’s good to have won here again but the sixth time it wasn’t easy. I had a pretty good start in the first moto and stayed out of trouble. But I didn’t have a good start in the second moto. I had a small crash and I had to come back from the middle of the pack. So I made it a little tough for myself. But I worked my way up to front and won, so that was good.”
Pauls Jonass commented: “I got a pretty good start in the first race and I was in third in the second lap. Then I made a mistake, crashed hard and hurt my head a bit. I was ready to go in the second race but I didn’t feel good. I had no power and in the end I struggled to finish the race.”
Difficult race day for Red Bull KTM’s MXGP riders
By contrast it was a difficult day for Red Bull athlete Cairoli, especially after his DNF in the opening moto, as he is a rider who is normally very much at home at this circuit. He finished 11th in the second race to hold onto his third position in the points but was hampered by a problem with his wrist. The Italian’s ability to make a strong comeback is legend in the sport, so he can definitely move on from there.
Top KTM rider in the class was Shaun Simpson in fifth, while Cairoli’s Factory team-mates Ken de Dycker of Belgium finished eighth and Tommy Searle was 11th, a creditable finish by the British rider in only his second GP after a injury break following a crash in Thailand.
Tony Cairoli commented: “I came off on one jump in the first moto and I hit my head a bit, and my wrist, but luckily nothing bad. In the second moto I started well, but after a few laps I got a strange feeling in my hand and for most of the 25 minutes I could only ride with one hand. It was very risky in some places and very difficult. I don’t think it’s anything serious but we are going to check and we have a couple of weeks to rest.”
De Dycker admitted it had been a tough race has he hade been struggling with flu all week. “I had pain everywhere, in my joints and muscles and it was no fun to ride in this condition. I believe I can be ready for Spain and if I have a good start I can have a good race. I am confident.”
Tommy Searle admitted he lacked confidence in the sand: “I knew this week that I wasn’t ready for this race. In the second moto I got a better start and I found some fight in me, and more confidence. So I am leaving this weekend very happy. My goal was to finish both races and get some points. I was with the main group of riders, my times were good and strong so I can leave with my head up.”
Valkenswaard also hosted rounds of EMX125, EMX250 and EMX300 and it was again time for KTM Factory Junior Jorge Prado of Spain to shine in the first category. While the overall 125 victory went to Finland’s Miro Sihvonen with a 2-1 race results, Prado (1-2) was second on equal points and holds the red place as championship leader in only his second time contesting the class.
Jorge Prado said: “I’ve been living in Belgium for three years and I train a lot in the sand. I’m getting a little stronger every time so I can keep my speed in the race, even though that’s still really difficult. I got a good gate pick because I had a fast time in practice and I had good starts. I won the first moto after a really long battle with the second rider. And in the second heat I started first but the second rider caught me. I tried to push a lot in the last lap. He won but I’m really happy.”
Prado’s efforts drew praise from Stefan Everts who runs the KTM Factory Juniors program: “It’s a big surprise that Jorge already has the red plate. He is only 14 and I didn’t expect him to be that fast and that strong. He trained hard in the winter and its already paying off. He is a super talent and very strong with his starts and his holeshots. This kid is very talented. He’s the whole package.”
Prado’s team-mate Conrad Mewes was fifth, saying: “I had a problem with my knee in the first moto, and then again in the second moto. But the riding was still good. Without this problem I think I could have been top three.” Fellow KTM Factory Junior Josiah Natzke of New Zealand was 10th overall, a creditable effort for a rider who is new to Europe and new to sand tracks.
British KTM rider Adam Sterry took a confident 1-1 in the EMX 250s and has a 10-point lead in the championship. KTM factory rider Davy Pootjes salvaged seventh in the EMX 250s after a DNF in the opening moto. “I had a good start in the second moto. I was fifth and came back to third but after 15 minutes I got so much arm pump. I finished sixth but the speed is there and every race is getting better.
Next round: MXGP of Spain May 10, 2015 at Talavera de la Reina