The 2019 FIM Motocross World Championship has seen its first racing on the magnificent Neuquen circuit in Patagonia-Argentina. With blue skies, sunshine, and the perfect track conditions it was Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP’s Romain Febvre and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Thomas Kjer Olsen who took the first Qualifying race wins in MXGP and MX2 respectively.
The event on track started with the Free Practice sessions as motocross fans poured into the venue to watch the world’s best return to racing. From the paddock to the hillsides fans bustled about in anticipation of top notch motocross racing.
As a precursor to the MXGP Qualifying race the two practice sessions took place. In the MXGP Free Practice Team HRC’s Tim Gajser took the fastest time just ahead of the quick lap times by HONDA SR MOTOBLOUZ rider Jeremy Van Horebeek.
In the second Timed Practice Gajser again edged out Van Horebeek’s lap time but Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP’s Romain Febvre bested all going 4 tenths of a second faster than the #243. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Antonio Cairoli was slightly off the pace coming in 5th during both sessions.
When the time came to line up for the Qualifying Race Romain Febvre was first on the grid with his top time but when the gate dropped, and the field of riders rounded the first turn, he found himself in around fifth. Meanwhile Tim Gajser was in the early lead followed by Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team’s Julien Lieber.
By the end of the first official lap Febvre was into third after passing Gebben Van Venrooy Kawasaki Racing’s Alessandro Lupino. Further back Antonio Cairoli was in 14th and working his way forward but on the 4th lap a mechanical issue forced him to leave the race. On the same lap Febvre took 2nd away from the #33 of Lieber and put in two back to back fastest laps of the race. The quick pace of Febvre then put Gajser under pressure for the lead causing the Slovenian to lose traction and fall. Gajser remounted in 2nd with Lieber still behind but a wild crash on the next lap threw the Honda rider off the bike and back to 8th.
While Lieber inherited 2nd, Van Horebeek moved into the top 3 with another Belgian, Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team’s Clement Desalle closing in. Standing Construct KTM’s Max Anstie chased KTM Sarholz Racing Team’s Max Nagl over 5th for several laps but eventually took the position from the German.
At the finish Romain Febvre took an impressive win considering his last MXGP event was the MXGP of Turkey last season. The top five spots where filled out by the three Belgians of Julien Lieber, Jeremy Van Horebeek, and Clement Desalle, along with the Brit, Max Anstie. Early leader Tim Gajser finished 9th behind the two Monster Energy Wilvo Yamaha Official MXGP riders Gautier Paulin and Arnaud Tonus but just ahead of new Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing recruit Arminas Jasikonis.
Romain Febvre: “It is really good to start the season like this. I am really loose on the bike and I think it shows. We did a lot of hard work with the team to get better starts and finally now we can start in the front. I am really happy about my riding, but tomorrow is another day and I need to stay focused. It is my favorite track on the calendar even though I haven’t been on the podium here before but now I will turn things around.”
Antonio Cairoli, “I was trying to catch the guys in front and at one point the bike stopped completely and I couldn’t get it started again. I am not worried, and I know it is important to get a good start tomorrow but if I’m in the top 10 off the start I will be happy and I can attack. I am really fit, I had a really good winter, and I have had a good preparation… it is really important to stay healthy and stay safe in these first races. For sure I will attack because I want to win but it is really important to stay consistent all season.”
MXGP Qualifying Race Top Ten: 1. Romain Febvre (FRA, Yamaha), 24:21.194; 2. Julien Lieber (BEL, Kawasaki), +0:04.306; 3. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Honda), +0:06.536; 4. Clement Desalle (BEL, Kawasaki), +0:10.377; 5. Max Anstie (GBR, KTM), +0:13.962; 6. Maximilian Nagl (GER, KTM), +0:14.612; 7. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Yamaha), +0:17.028; 8. Arnaud Tonus (SUI, Yamaha), +0:24.790; 9. Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda), +0:27.141; 10. Arminas Jasikonis (LTU, Husqvarna), +0:36.354
MX2’s qualifying racing was just as exciting if not more so with an epic three-way battle for the win. The early practice sessions were dominated by Thomas Kjer Olsen while reigning MX2 World Champion, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jorge Prado had the 5th fastest times in each.
As the qualifying race came to life with the MX2 field barreling into the first corner it was the 2018 Fox Holeshot winner Jorge Prado leading. Prado was chased by his new Red Bull KTM Factory Racing teammate Tom Vialle and F&H Racing Team’s Henry Jacobi.
Olsen was quickly into 5th place where he pushed REVO Husqvarna UK’s Alvin Ostlund for 4th. After getting by Ostlund, Olsen had Jacobi in his sights. Jacobi took over second position from Vialle who fell and then dropped to 8th between Monster Energy Kemea Yamaha Official MX2’s Jago Geerts and Ben Watson. Watson then took 7th from Vialle and then started to battle with Geerts before taking his 6th spot as well.
Back at the front Jacobi closed in on Prado and made a move to the inside of the final corner setting the pair up for a drag race after the finish and alongside pit lane. Jacobi took the lead, but Prado reclaimed it and in less than half a lap later Jacobi dove back into first.
The entire time Olsen had a front row seat just behind the two leaders and took advantage with a quick pass on Prado. The Dane continued his charge and got Jacobi with three laps to go. Prado was still in the hunt however and took Jacobi wide on the final lap to finish second.
With Olsen taking the win his perfect day continued and he will have first gate pick in both of tomorrow’s championship races. Behind Prado and Jacobi it was Ben Watson and Team HRC’s Calvin Vlaanderen 4th and 5th while the early frontrunner, Tom Vialle finished 11th.
Thomas Kjer Olsen, “I felt really good on the bike all day this is the first time I have been first in everything even though it is only on a Saturday but it still feels good and gives me confidence for tomorrow.”
MX2 Qualifying Race Top Ten: 1. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, Husqvarna), 24:24.613; 2. Jorge Prado (ESP, KTM), +0:02.267; 3. Henry Jacobi (GER, Kawasaki), +0:03.547; 4. Ben Watson (GBR, Yamaha), +0:18.925; 5. Calvin Vlaanderen (NED, Honda), +0:26.119; 6. Mitchell Evans (AUS, Honda), +0:28.658; 7. Adam Sterry (GBR, Kawasaki), +0:33.941; 8. Alvin Östlund (SWE, Husqvarna), +0:35.687; 9. Conrad Mewse (GBR, KTM), +0:36.072; 10. Jago Geerts (BEL, Yamaha), +0:38.221
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