It’s off to France this weekend for the eighth round of 15 in the motocross world championship season.
And once again it’s anybody’s event to win or lose.
Kiwi ace Josh Coppins (Yamaha) remains in fourth place in the standings, just 46 points behind the leader, Italian Yamaha rider Antonio Cairoli, and a double win at Ernee on Sunday might be just the ticket to the top.
Coppins beat Cairoli in both races at the British GP last weekend, demonstrating clearly that Coppins is very capable of moving up and Cairoli is also very capable of slipping back.
But, the truth is, the New Zealander needs to make huge inroads over the next few GPs if he is to have any chance of taking the MX1 crown in 2009.
Cairoli leads the MX1 championship from Coppin’s Italian team-mate, defending MX1 champion David Philippaerts, with Spaniard Jonathan Barragan (KTM) in fourth spot, just six points ahead of Coppins.
Winning the previous GP in Mallory Park, Philippaerts took a giant leap in the points standings as he stormed from fifth to second place overall. The defending champion, who celebrated his last MX2 podium appearance in Ernee 2006, will be looking for another win this weekend to make up for a poor 18th in his last French appearance, in 2008 at St. Jean
Yamaha Red Bull De Carli’s Cairoli had a bad weekend in Great Britain where he hurt himself in a crash during the qualifying heat. The Italian managed to defend the red plate but stopped his four podium row to see Philippaerts becoming a bigger threat than he was the week before.
Another one having a bad British weekend was third placed in the championship Barragan, who was out of heat two thanks to a clutch problem while KTM fellow rider Max Nagl went on to take his first heat win of the season.
Getting back on a Grand Prix bike to answer a last-minute request of the Martin Honda squad, who was left with no riders after the injuries of Kevin Strijbos and Marc De Reuver, French legend Mickael Pichon clinched a sixth place overall at his first time out on the factory Honda at Mallory. The two-time world champion announced he will head to France with higher ambitions to please his home crowd.
On the other hand Sebastien Pourcel, who won the French GP last year at St. Jean d’Angely by taking both heats, will be just a spectator at Ernee because a recent shoulder operation sidelined the GP winner ahead of his home event.
As Pourcel is due to miss most of the remaining GPs, French countryman Florent Richier will be replacing him in Ernee and Teutschenthal.
Estonian Yamaha rider Tanel Leok ended on the podium in 2006 at Ernee which might be a good venue for him to come closer to the top of the championship standings where he sat after Faenza’s season opener.
In the MX2 class it is an exciting two-way battle for glory between home favourites Marvin Musquin (now on KTM after racing the early part of the season on Honda) and Kawasaki’s Gautier Paulin.
Musquin won first time out on the new machine as he dominated the British weekend last weekend courtesy of back-to-back wins.
Already at ease with the new bike, Musquin hopes in another win at Ernee to follow the steps of KTM’s Stefan Everts, who won his 101st Grand Prix there in 2006 at his last GP appearance.
The French crowd’s excitement mounts with other home rider Paulin being second in the championship standings after he kept the red plate until Bellpuig. The Bud Racing Kawasaki man mounted on the podium last weekend at Mallory Park to announce he is back chasing countryman Musquin after a difficult Catalan Grand Prix at Bellpuig.
Taking second on the British podium Steven Frossard added his name to the list of potential home winners at Ernee.
KTM riders Rui Goncalves, from Portugal, and Jeremy Van Horebeek, from Belgium, who both won their maiden GP this year, can be other strong opponents to face the French armada while the man positioned third in the championship, Italian David Guarneri needs to finish ahead of Goncalves if he wants to keep his spot safe – the Italian has not yet mounted on the rostrum this season.
Photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com