The 2017 FIAT Professional MXGP of France got underway today in Ernée. On the challenging and hilly French circuit it was Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team’s Clement Desalle and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Pauls Jonass who won Saturday’s Qualifying Races.

It was a busy day in Ernée as Race 1 of the FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship round 3 and the European Championships EMX250 and EMX125 Presented by FMF Racing were taking place. The Women’s race was a dramatic one with several lead changes and battles abound MXFonta Racing’s Kiara Fontanesi had the lead with but fell on the uphill straight and lost it to Nancy Van de Ven with a lap and a half remaining. With one lap to go and Van de Ven in the lead Team 114’s Livia Lancelot charged to the front, passed Van de Ven and won race 1 in epic fashion in front of the roaring home crowd.

In EMX125 Presented by FMF Racing Race 1 Kevin Horgmo won 9.2 seconds in front of the battle for second between Scotty Verhaeghe and Gianluca Facchetti where they finished in that order. In EMX250 class many riders struggled and made mistakes but the top 3 spots went to Mathys Boisrame, Jago Geerts and Pierre Goupillon.

The weekend couldn’t have started better for Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team’s Clement Desalle as he had a good start in qualifying race, not the Holeshot but into the lead on the second corner. Desalle led every lap and won his first qualifying race of the season. Desalle is now focused on tomorrow and will hope to repeat his performance from today. The Belgian in the press conference said: “It is a good feeling to be here again, even if the main races will be tomorrow, it’s very important to start on pole to be on the top. Today I had a good start and then a good feeling of the bike during the whole race. I’m really looking forward for tomorrow”.

In front of a monstrous Saturday crowd Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Romain Febvre gave his supportive French fans a show. Febvre grabbed the Holeshot but he lost the lead immediately to Desalle and then he fell into fourth. The #461 Yamaha rider fought his way back to second place closing on Desalle every lap but was unable to get close enough. Febvre later in the press conference said: “I had a very good start but then I made some mistakes and then Clement passed me. Since the MXGP of Germany I started to feel good and I think things are working now. The home GP is always a special moment especially here that I have good memories from the 2015 FIM Monster Energy MXoN. The track is exactly the same as in 2015 and it’s very well prepared”

The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing riders of Jeffrey Herlings and Antonio Cairoli battled throughout most of the race with neither rider wanting to back down. At first it was Cairoli who was ahead but Herlings found his way by the 8-time champion who was in 6th on lap 4 and unable to take the position back. Herlings continued his charge forward finishing 3rd while Cairoli remained 6th until the checkered flag.

The other Red Bull KTM Factory Racing 450 rider, Glenn Coldenhoff, also had a strong qualification result. Coldenhoff was in second the first 2 laps before being passed by Febvre, the Dutch rider then stayed in 3rd until the very last lap when he was passed by his KTM team mate, Herlings.

Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Max Nagl had one of his best races this season running 4th for 9 of the 13 laps. Nagl finished fifth and with his good gate pick a top five overall is well within reach for the German.

Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Gautier Paulin starts qualifying in 5th but ended of dropping to 8th. The Frenchman is in a fairly good starting position for Sunday at his home GP and he will try to find the winning form he had only a few short weeks ago.

MXGP Qualifying Race Top Ten: 1. Clement Desalle (BEL, Kawasaki), 25:28.566; 2. Romain Febvre (FRA, Yamaha), +0:08.913; 3. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), +0:30.734; 4. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), +0:32.203; 5. Maximilian Nagl (GER, Husqvarna), +0:33.160; 6. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:33.650; 7. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Husqvarna), +0:48.072; 8. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), +1:04.199; 9. Jose Butron (ESP, KTM), +1:05.731; 10. Alessandro Lupino (ITA, Honda), +1:06.436.

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Pauls Jonass controlled MX2’s Qualifying race once again today. Jonass didn’t get his usual Holeshot but he moved into the lead quickly and led every time the field crossing the finish line. Jonass seems to be focused and feeling good heading into Sunday. In the press conference Jonass said: “I had a really good start, I didn’t get the Holeshot actually but after the second corner I was leading already and this helped a lot because the track has many lines and it’s good to get a good start and pick your own lines the first laps. In those first laps I was able to get a pretty good gap and then just cruise to the finish.”

The Kemea Yamaha Official MX Team rider Benoit Paturel is now showing the competitiveness many expected earlier in the season. Paturel didn’t have the best of starts but he managed to pass several riders on the first lap and put in the fastest lap time of the race. Running third the first 6 laps Benoit tried to make a pass for second and made a mistake causing him to lose ground. Paturel eventually managed his way to second where he was 11.4 seconds behind Jonass. By the checkered flag the roaring support of the home fans pushed him to close the gap to 2.1 seconds. Paturel in a post race interview said: “I had a really bad start but I passed many riders on the first lap which was good and after I came to the back of Lieber, made a mistake, then came back again. I was close to Jonass at the end of the race. It’s really good to ride in front of the French fans. I really think that tomorrow I will have a good battle with Seewer, Jonass, and Lieber.”

After narrowly avoiding a downed rider on the first jump LRT KTM’s Julien Lieber came into the second corner in 5th position and moved into second by the completion of the opening lap. Lieber had pressure from Paturel early in the race and unable to fend the frenchman off he settled into third giving him a good gate pick for both races tomorrow.

The other Kemea Yamaha Official MX Team rider, Brent Van doninck was top five on lap one and made a pass for fourth stick on the 2nd lap. Van Doninck had a relatively uneventful race with a decent cushion between himself and anyone else until the later stage where he finished 2.1 seconds behind Lieber.

Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Thomas Kjer Olsen had to work his way through the field after passing many riders on the opening lap, he crossed the finish for the first time in 8th. Continuing his charge forward he passed other 3 riders by lap 4 but he wasn’t able to catch the #172 of Van doninck who was 24.6 seconds ahead at the finish. Olsen’s result goes to show the importance of a good start in the competitive class of MX2.

The rider who grabbed the holeshot was Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jorge Prado. Prado’s holeshot lasted only a few meters though before he slid out on the lip of the first jump and then also fell a couple more times before finishing 27th. Though the track got the best of Prado today tomorrow’s racing remains his focus.

MX2 Qualifying Race Top Ten: 1. Pauls Jonass (LAT, KTM), 24:15.271; 2. Benoit Paturel (FRA, Yamaha), +0:02.187; 3. Julien Lieber (BEL, KTM), +0:18.437; 4. Brent Van doninck (BEL, Yamaha), +0:20.602; 5. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, Husqvarna), +0:45.230; 6. Alvin Östlund (SWE, Yamaha), +0:49.583; 7. Thomas Covington (USA, Husqvarna), +0:50.816; 8. Darian Sanayei (USA, Kawasaki), +0:54.086; 9. David Herbreteau (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:56.841; 10. Conrad Mewse (GBR, Husqvarna), +0:57.592.