The 18th race weekend of the 2017 FIM Motocross World Championship season started today at the sandy and ever changing Assen TT circuit for the MXGP of the Netherlands. The evolving circuit conditions forced riders to adapt throughout the day and the two who proved to be the most prepared by winning the qualifying races were Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jeffrey Herlings and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Thomas Covington.
Many of the fans are excited to witness an epic battle between the championship hopeful Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Antonio Cairoli and the country’s hero Jeffrey Herlings which is surely in store for tomorrow. The not to miss battle will feature two of the 2017 FIM Motocross Championship’s best riders fighting for the championship and bragging rights alike.
In addition to the MXGP and MX2 racing the Honda 150 European Championship, the Women’s Motocross World Championship and the Veterans’ Motocross World Cup took on the circuit. In the WMX’ racing Larissa Papenmeier led the opening laps but she was passed by Nancy van de Ven for the race win in turn taking second over Team One One Four’s Livia Lancelot.
The Veterans were the first race of the day and while some excelled many struggled, one rider who was riding well and originally took the win was Niko Kalatie. However shortly after the race it was determined that he had jumped on waved yellow flags giving the win to Martin Zerava with Honda Redmoto’s Christian Ravaglia 2nd while 2015 and 2016 winner Mats Nilsson took 3rd.
While the first Honda 150 European race 1 was won by Andrea Adamo as he continues his quest for the title to be decided tomorrow.
The home GP hero Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jeffrey Herlings did not disappoint his Dutch fans today as he took the MXGP Qualifying race win. To start the race Herlings nearly grabbed the holeshot just losing out on the early lead to Team HRC’s Tim Gajser.
Behind, running in third, was Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Gautier Paulin and as Herlings tried to catch Gajser the #21 stay within striking distance. On lap 2 Herlings made a rare mistake in the sand and went down losing the position to Paulin.
Meanwhile the two Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP’s of Romain Febvre and Jeremy Van Horebeek fought over 4th and 5th. Though Febvre had the advantage the first lap the #89 of Van Horebeek took the spot on lap 2.
Back towards the front it took two laps of battling for Herlings to make it back past the hard fighting Paulin. After the pass Herlings was over 5 seconds back of Gajser but to the cheer of his fans he pushed on and by the 10th lap of 13 the #84 was out front.
At the finish line Herlings won and Gajser fell on the last lap but managed to remount in time to hold off Paulin as Van Horebeek took fourth and Team Suzuki World MXGP’s Kevin Strijbos took 5th after a pass on Febvre.
Herlings in the press conference said: “Actually today was really good. It is pretty awesome to race here, it’s a special event, at the road race circuit so it is very interesting and I like it! We will do our best tomorrow and helpfully we will have some good racing, there is a big chance that two champions could be crowned.”
Herlings’ Red Bull KTM Factory Racing teammate, fellow Dutchman, and podium finisher last year, Glenn Coldenhoff struggled off the start and came back from well outside the top ten to finish 9th. Coldenhoff in the press conference said: “I’m feeling good here in Assen, I have a lot of fun out here with crowd. I felt like I had a good pace during the qualifying race and I’m feeling good for this weekend.”
In today’s qualifying the MXGP Championship leader Antonio Cairoli came from outside the top ten to run fourth before a mistake dropped him back to finish 10th. The Italian rider anyway comes into this weekend with the immense likelihood of becoming the 2017 FIM Motocross World Champion. Likely being crowned champion in the first race tomorrow Cairoli only needs to score a total of 5 points, which can be accomplished by placing 16th or higher in a single race, to secure his ninth world championship but Cairoli in the press conference mentioned how he wishes to win at his best here in Assen: ““I think this will be the easiest race that I have ever had to win a championship, but it is still a race I’m going to race for the win, that’s always my goal so I will go for it tomorrow. I want to be on the podium and I want to go out to win the title in a good way not just scoring points”
Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team’s Clement Desalle is last year’s overall winner and he was running in 8th position before a bike issue caused him not to finish. Desalle in the press conference said: “I had a horrible start in the qualifying race but I came back really good and was feeling well with my riding, I was around 7th before a mechanical problem. Tomorrow first I just need a good start to have a good race.”
MXGP Qualifying Race Top Ten: 1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 23:49.015; 2. Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda), +0:18.550; 3. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Husqvarna), +0:21.696; 4. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), +0:23.957; 5. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Suzuki), +0:26.247; 6. Romain Febvre (FRA, Yamaha), +0:33.587; 7. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda), +0:35.585; 8. Maximilian Nagl (GER, Husqvarna), +0:36.304; 9. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), +0:40.188; 10. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:53.744.
At the beginning of MX2 qualifying the #33 LRT KTM of Julien Lieber shot to the front of the pack. Right on the trail of Lieber was Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Thomas Covington who has been improving lately, especially on his starts.
Running third was Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Thomas Kjer Olsen but the two title contenders, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Pauls Jonass and Team Suzuki World MX2’s Jeremy Seewer didn’t have the same luck off the start.
Seewer was just out the top 5, in 6th on lap 1 while Jonass was back in 27th. Seewer and Jonass both charged forward but both face adversity along the way. For Seewer the challenge came for the hard charging Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Conrad Mewse who decisively took 6th from the Swiss rider. Seewer was able to latch on to Mewse though which helped him to make his way to 5th.
Jonass was on the other hand plagued by errors and went down multiple times before finally finishing in 19th position. At the front Lieber too faced a challenge in the form of his muffler coming loose. Covington took advantage of the power of his Husqvarna to pass Lieber.
Lieber continued to fight however and even with the struggling machine finished in fourth behind the 3 Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory racing teammates of Covington, Olsen, and Mewse. After the race Lieber machine was checked by sound control which resulted in a five position penalty and moved Seewer to 4th and HSF Motorsports Team’s Calvin Vlaanderen took 5th.
Covington’s qualifying race win was his 5th this season and in the press conference he said: “Today went pretty well, I actually didn’t feel very good in the first two practice sessions, I was struggling…but I got off to a good start in the race, second, I followed Lieber for a few laps and then made my way around him and it was a pretty smooth and easy race actually, I’m hoping that I can do the same tomorrow.
MX2 Qualifying Race Top Ten: 1. Thomas Covington (USA, Husqvarna), 25:22.519; 2. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, Husqvarna), +0:03.320; 3. Conrad Mewse (GBR, Husqvarna), +0:06.858; 4. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, Suzuki), +0:12.819; 5. Calvin Vlaanderen (NED, KTM), +0:25.660; 6. Davy Pootjes (NED, KTM), +0:26.215; 7. Jorge Prado Garcia (ESP, KTM), +0:32.771; 8. Brian Bogers (NED, KTM), +0:33.524; 9. Julien Lieber (BEL, KTM), +0:10.478; 10. Ben Watson (GBR, KTM), +0:35.641