Round five of the FIM Motocross World Championship kicked off today on the man-made track, which was specifically designed and built to host the MXGP here in Leon, where Honda Gariboldi’s Tim Gajser & Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jeffrey Herlings have the early advantage of pole position heading into race day tomorrow.
Frantic action opened the MXGP Qualifier, which is what we have come to expect from the premier class. Honda Gariboldi’s Tim Gajser got off to a cracking start ahead of Monster Energy DRT Kawasaki’s Tommy Searle, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Max Nagl and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Antonio Cairoli. Nagl bobbled a few turns in and dropped back to seventh, while Team HRC’s Evgeny Bobryshev took advantage of a mistake by Cairoli to move into third on the opening lap.
The tricky dirt out here in Leon, a blend of hard soil and straw, which was imported and blended in order to soften and moisten the track compound, caught a lot of riders out. One of the riders struggling with the soil was the defending champ Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Romain Febvre, who kept missing his marks and was pushed back to seventh by Team Suzuki World MXGP’s Kevin Strijbos and a rebounding Max Nagl.
After running second most of the moto, Tommy Searle soon had his hands full as a massive party of talent in the form of Bobryshev, Cairoli, Nagl and Strijbos crept in. Bobryshev managed to drop Searle with a textbook move up the inside, which was replicated by Cairoli and Nagl a lap later.
It was smooth sailing for Gajser who checked out for his second consecutive qualifying heat win. Meanwhile, Bobryshev worked hard to take second with a couple of laps to go only to throw it away with a mistake on the final lap. Cairoli took over second with thanks, followed by Nagl. Bobby managed to recover for fourth while Febvre put in a last lap charge to pass Searle for fifth.
MXGP Qualifying Race Top Ten: 1. Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda), 24:11.002; 2. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:06.195; 3. Maximilian Nagl (GER, Husqvarna), +0:07.714; 4. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda), +0:11.931; 5. Romain Febvre (FRA, Yamaha), +0:13.024; 6. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), +0:15.544; 7. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Suzuki), +0:16.678; 8. Clement Desalle (BEL, Kawasaki), +0:30.277; 9. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), +0:36.778; 10. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), +0:38.393.
A blur of orange flew through turn one with all three Red Bull KTM riders Pauls Jonass, Davy Pootjes and Jeffrey Herlings leading the way. Pootjes ran in too hot and went wide which allowed his teammate through followed by TM Racing Factory Team’s Samuele Bernardini and Wilvo Standing Construct Yamaha’s Aleksandr Tonkov.
Less than a quarter of a lap in and Bernardini impressively split the KTM’s when he passed Herlings to take over second. As Herlings raised an eyebrow at the surprise performance of the TM rider, Tonkov withdrew with a bike problem, which allowed Team Suzuki World MX2’s Jeremy Seewer and Monster Energy DRT Kawasaki’s Vsevelod Brylyakov to slot into the top five.
At the halfway mark, Herlings said “I’m boss” to Bernardini with a committed move up the inside and went after his teammate Jonass who he passed easily a couple of laps later.
Bernardini, who was impressive in the opening laps, began to fade as the freight train of MX2 stars started to pick him off. Seewer took over third followed by Brylyakov and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Max Anstie, who was all over Brylakov like a rash for fourth.
When the checkers came out, it was Herlings who won and remains unbeaten this year, winning thirteen races from thirteen starts, which is a combination of championship race wins and qualifying heats. His teammate, Jonass, who won the qualifying race here in Leon last year, came home in a sturdy second place twenty seconds clear of Seewer in third. Hats off to Brylakov who managed to hold off the wrath of Anstie and Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team’s Petar Petrov for fourth. Anstie and Petrov crossed the line simultaneously but it was Anstie who was awarded fifth.
MX2 Qualifying Race Top Ten: 1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 24:50.878; 2. Pauls Jonass (LAT, KTM), +0:10.962; 3. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, Suzuki), +0:32.100; 4. Vsevolod Brylyakov (RUS, Kawasaki), +0:33.372; 5. Max Anstie (GBR, Husqvarna), +0:34.178; 6. Petar Petrov (BUL, Kawasaki), +0:34.728; 7. Samuele Bernardini (ITA, TM), +0:43.221; 8. Benoit Paturel (FRA, Yamaha), +0:46.366; 9. Calvin Vlaanderen (NED, KTM), +1:07.595; 10. Damon Graulus (BEL, Honda), +1:12.220.
MXGP OF LEON – QUICK FACTS
Circuit length: 1575m
Type of ground: Intermediate to hard
Weather conditions: cloudy
MXGP will be available across the board in high definition and is also globally available to view live and in HD on MXGP-TV.com. Click here for the complete list of countries and cooperating MXGP broadcasting networks.
Sunday: MX2 Warm up 10:20; MXGP Warm up 10:40; MX2 Race 1 12:15; MXGP Race 1 13:15; MX2 Race 2 15:10; MXGP Race 2 16:10.