MXGP’s first day at Sevlievo for the 2018 MXGP of Bulgaria has wrapped with impressive Qualifying race wins from Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jeffrey Herlings and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Thomas Covington in MXGP and MX2 respectively.
Sevlievo, Bulgaria’s hillsides combined with hard packed soil and changing moisture levels challenged all the riders on track. The layout and varying line options added to the racing action. Aside from the constant classes of MXGP and MX2 today was complemented by the FIM Europe racing of EMX250 and EMX300 presented by FMF Racing.
Starting the day with Race 1 was EMX300 presented by FMF Racing at what is the penultimate round of the championship. Jumping to the holeshot and early lead was GL12 Racing’s Mike Kras while red plate holder Brad Anderson slotted into second on his Verde Substance KTM. Erik Willems ran third with Youri van t Ende in 4th. The top 3 remained in their starting positions throughout the race but Vaclav Kovar took 4th from van t Ende on the second lap holding it to the finish while Kras took the race win.
EMX250 Race 1 was the last event on track today following the two Qualifying races of MXGP and MX2. The track had developed massively since the morning practice sessions but the fastest Qualifier from Time Practice, BUD Racing Monster Energy’s Brian Moreau, carried his speed into the race leading from lap one over current red plate holder Mathys Boisrame on his Honda RedMoto Assomotor bike. LRT KTM’s Tom Vialle pressured Boisrame for second but never made the pass while REVO Husqvarna UK’s Mel Pocock collided with another rider sending the Brit down and damaging his bike enough to result in a DNF. At the finish it was a win for Moreau, the first of his EMX250 career.
MXGP’s points leader Jeffrey Herlings and his Red Bull KTM Factory Racing machine continued the dominant form from the previous races into today’s qualifying. On the start he jumped to the early lead ahead of Team HRC’s Tim Gajser and Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team’s Clement Desalle.
Last week’s MXGP Qualifying Race winner from Switzerland, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Antonio Cairoli, crossed the finish in 4th position after the first official lap and had Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP’s Romain Febvre just behind.
Cairoli’s fellow Italian and friend, Gebben Van Venroy Kawasaki Racing’s Alessandro Lupino, was 6th but had Wilvo Yamaha Official MXGP’s Jeremy Seewer coming up fast. By lap 2 Seewer was up to 6th and Lupino pulled out of the race.
At the front Gajser was right with Herlings for the first few laps before the Dutchman started to check out. Gajser quickly lost track of the “Bullet” but maintained his gap over Desalle. Cairoli dropped 4th to Febvre on lap six and faded back while the Frenchman hounded Desalle for 3rd.
Cairoli managed to maintain 6th but perhaps saved energy for tomorrow’s point paying races. Febvre on the other hand didn’t hold back but was still unable to get by the #25 from Belgium. Seewer lost 6th to the hard charging Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider of Max Anstie on lap 7 and then lost out to the other Rockstar Energy Husqvarna of Gautier Paulin 3 laps later.
On the final lap Herlings continued his charge and put in the fastest lap of the race to take the race win by over 19 seconds. Gajser took second with a lap time 3 seconds slower while Desalle took 3rd ahead of Febvre and Cairoli.
Jeffrey Herlings: “I felt good on track. I’m really enjoying my time being here and I’m definitely looking forward to racing tomorrow, hopefully I get 2 good starts and we will go from there.”
Team Honda RedMoto Assomotors’ Petar Petrov took 14th in what is his home GP to which he said: “It feels nice, we haven’t been here for about 4 years. It is great to be back and great to be home. It is also nice for the spectators to see the World Championship and good for the sport in Bulgaria.”
MXGP Qualifying Race Top Ten: 1. (NED, KTM), 24:22.681; 2. Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda), +0:19.787; 3. Clement Desalle (BEL, Kawasaki), +0:24.281; 4. Romain Febvre (FRA, Yamaha), +0:33.807; 5. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:38.814; 6. Max Anstie (GBR, Husqvarna), +0:45.959; 7. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Husqvarna), +0:47.883; 8. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, Yamaha), +0:52.810; 9. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), +0:55.022; 10. Julien Lieber (BEL, Kawasaki), +0:57.569.
MX2 Qualifying was started with a holeshot by none other than Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jorge Prado. Prado led Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Thomas Covington with fellow Red Bull KTM teammate Pauls Jonass in 3rd.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Thomas Kjer Olsen continued the Austrian manufacturers’ sandwich in 4th while Calvin Vlaanderen’s Team HRC CRF250 joined the top 5.
Kemea Yamaha Official MX2 Team’s Anthony Rodriguez was 6th but by lap 2 had Honda 114 Motorsports’ Hunter Lawrence pushing for the position. Meanwhile it was Covington who was doing the same to Prado for the lead and hoping for a mistake from the young Spaniard.
On lap 5 Lawrence found his way past Rodriguez who immediately tried to retaliate but was unsuccessful. Covington was next to take a position but it was from Prado and for the lead. Prado was unable to pass Covington back in the remaining laps giving the American the Qualifying win. Prado maintained 2nd while Jonass took third, Olsen took 4th and Vlaanderen rounded out the top 5.
Thomas Covington: “It was a little more difficult to find a way to pass out there than I expected so for me the only way really was to apply pressure and hope for small a mistake so I could get around him. I’m looking forward to the races tomorrow and I hope to get a good start again, I just would really like to beat Jorge out of the gate, it is not so easy but that is a big goal for me tomorrow, I want to get 2 holeshots and then it comes a lot easier.”
Hunter Lawrence: “It was really good, I liked the track from the start and had a pretty good feeling on it. It should be good for tomorrow, I feel good, hopefully I can get a bit better start and go from there.”
MX2 Qualifying Race Top Ten: 1. Thomas Covington (USA, Husqvarna), 25:08.671; 2. Jorge Prado (ESP, KTM), +0:02.615; 3. Pauls Jonass (LAT, KTM), +0:04.281; 4. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, Husqvarna), +0:10.340; 5. Calvin Vlaanderen (NED, Honda), +0:18.398; 6. Hunter Lawrence (AUS, Honda), +0:25.301; 7. Anthony Rodriguez (VEN, Yamaha), +0:39.556; 8. Marshal Weltin (USA, Kawasaki), +0:43.879; 9. Stephen Rubini (FRA, KTM), +0:45.777; 10. Maxime Renaux (FRA, Yamaha), +0:50.288.