The best to cope with those difficult conditions at the weekend ‘s 15th round of the FIM Motocross World Championships were Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team riders Jeffrey Herlings and Jorge Prado.
The site of the 2018 Fiat Professional MXGP of Belgium is truly in the centre of the worldwide motocross. Nearly every team in the paddock calls Lommel or its surrounding regions home with many riders and personnel living in the area along with various team workshops. The area is also home to tens of thousands of motocross fans who arrived in massive numbers to watch the riders perform on the edge of perfection.
When looking at the results of the weekend on paper or watching the races on TV it is near impossible to truly understand the speed at which the MXGP riders attack the track but nevertheless Herlings finds a way to go even faster.
From the start of the weekend Herlings was on fire with the fastest times in free practice and timed practice followed by a qualifying race win. Sunday started just as strong with a heater of a lap time in the warm up followed by his 7th holeshot of the season to begin race one.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team-mate and title rival Antonio Cairoli was second across the chalk and the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP rider Romain Febvre was next, with Team Honda’s Tim Gajser running 4th.
Before even crossing the finish line to start the first official lap, Herlings already had a several second lead over Cairoli. Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP’s Belgian rider Jeremy Van Horebeek chased Gajser and his team-mate Febvre early but had Wilvo Yamaha Official MXGP’s Jeremy Seewer and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Max Anstie putting on pressure.
Anstie’s Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team-mate Gautier Paulin was off to a difficult race after falling twice on the opening lap and crossing the line to start the race in 34th. Seewer moved past Van Horebeek on the second lap and Anstie passed the Belgian a lap later. At around the same time Gajser passed Febvre for 3rd but only held the position for 3 laps before the Frenchman took it back.
The same lap saw Anstie pass Seewer to reach the top five and several laps after that Gajser dropped a spot to Anstie on his way backwards to 7th place. At the finish of Race 1 Herlings won by 13 seconds even after a fall of his own while Cairoli took 2nd, Febvre 3rd, Anstie 4th, and Seewer rounded out the top 5. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s 3rd MXGP rider, Glenn Coldenhoff took 6th.
Race two was another Red Bull KTM holeshot, but this time it would be Coldenhoff in the lead with Anstie and Gajser 2nd and 3rd but Herlings shot himself into second only a few corners later and took the lead before the end of the opening lap.
Cairoli was behind Anstie and Gajser as his teammates ran in 1st and 2nd but took the 4th spot from Gajser quickly and took 3rd from Anstie on the same spot the next lap. The same section worked well again for Cairoli as he passed Coldenhoff to get into second.
Herlings had grown his lead to an impressive gap at that point and showed no signs of slowing as he put in an unmatchable pace. Febvre and Gajser battle for 5th briefly in which Febvre came out ahead. Anstie took 3rd from Coldenhoff but mistakes allowed the Dutchman back through.
Herlings lapped his way through the field but on the final lap lost control sending him down. Herlings lead was massive however and though the fall cost him several seconds he still came away with a lap time faster than most riders on the track.
Across the finish line Herlings won by 33 seconds over Cairoli and left only the top eight on the lead lap with Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team’s Clement Desalle starting his final lap as Herlings took the chequered flag, while Van Horebeek finished one lap down and nearly seven seconds later. Coldenhoff took third but missed out on the podium to Anstie who took 4th ahead of Febvre.
Jeffrey Herlings: “The weekend was really good. I am very pleased, I took three good starts and won the qualifying, both races and was fastest in each practice. It is one of my favourite tracks on the calendar anyhow but I’m happy to extend the championship by 6 points and I’m looking forward to Switzerland.”
MXGP Race 1 Top Ten:
1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 35:45.618; 2. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:13.091; 3. Romain Febvre (FRA, Yamaha), +0:51.594; 4. Max Anstie (GBR, Husqvarna), +1:04.034; 5. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, Yamaha), +1:11.944; 6. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), +1:19.765; 7. Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda), +1:27.384; 8. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), +1:38.816; 9. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, KTM), +1:49.886; 10. Clement Desalle (BEL, Kawasaki), +1:59.284.
MXGP Race 2 Top Ten:
1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 35:34.847; 2. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:33.050; 3. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), +0:47.722; 4. Max Anstie (GBR, Husqvarna), +0:54.030; 5. Romain Febvre (FRA, Yamaha), +1:15.523; 6. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, Yamaha), +1:35.515; 7. Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda), +1:44.319; 8. Clement Desalle (BEL, Kawasaki), +2:13.053; 9. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), -1 lap(s); 10. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Suzuki), -1 lap(s).
MXGP Overall Top Ten:
1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 50 points; 2. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 44 p.; 3. Max Anstie (GBR, HUS), 36 p.; 4. Romain Febvre (FRA, YAM), 36 p.; 5. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), 35 p.; 6. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, YAM), 31 p.; 7. Tim Gajser (SLO, HON), 28 p.; 8. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, YAM), 25 p.; 9. Clement Desalle (BEL, KAW), 24 p.; 10. Shaun Simpson (GBR, YAM), 20 p.
MXGP Championship Top Ten:
1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 683 points; 2. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 647 p.; 3. Clement Desalle (BEL, KAW), 503 p.; 4. Tim Gajser (SLO, HON), 478 p.; 5. Romain Febvre (FRA, YAM), 468 p.; 6. Gautier Paulin (FRA, HUS), 435 p.; 7. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), 388 p.; 8. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, YAM), 350 p.; 9. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, YAM), 337 p.; 10. Max Anstie (GBR, HUS), 267 p.
The MX2 racing was just as interesting and showcased nearly as dominant of a performance from Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jorge Prado. Similar to Herlings in MXGP, Prado took Saturday’s qualifying race win and backed it up with a holeshot to start race one on Sunday.
Prado had Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Thomas Covington behind him first but title adversary and Red Bull KTM Team-mate Pauls Jonass was alongside and took second from the American immediately.
Covington’s Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team-mate Thomas Kjer Olsen chased Covington with Team HRC’s Calvin Vlaanderen following both. In a heated battle over sixth was Hitachi KTM UK’s Conrad Mewse and Kemea Yamaha Official MX2’s Jago Geerts. Geerts had the upper hand however with it being his home GP the fans cheered him on to pass the Brit in what was his first race in nearly six weeks.
The biggest moment of the race however was the crash of Jonass as he tried to catch Prado for the lead. Jonass miss timed the massive SIDI jump into rollers and landed heavy which ejected him from his bike. Lucky to get away from the fall uninjured Jonass rejoined the race in 4th but lost another spot while trying to kick his clutch lever back into place.
At the finish Prado took the win with Covington 2nd, Olsen 3rd, and Jonass 4th after he passed Vlaanderen back 2 laps after the crash. Mewse managed to take the 6th spot back from Geerts after following the Belgian’s lines for 6 laps.
Race two was consistent with the race one for Prado who took the holeshot again leading Covington and Olsen while Jonass fell remounting in 14th. Kemea Yamaha Official MX2’s Ben Watson started well in 4th but dropped to 7th before the opening lap was complete.
Geerts in the other hand battled again with Mewse taking the spot and advantage of a crash from Vlaanderen. Geerts continued his charge forward taking 3rd from Olsen and then going after Covington for 2nd.
Covington made a mistake and jumped off the track while under pressure from Geerts and lost the spot but somehow managed to stay on the bike and take 3rd. Prado’s 2nd race win was followed by Geerts, Covington, Olsen, and Watson while Jonass fought back to 6th.
In the overall podium result it was perfect 50 points from Prado followed by Covington’s 2-3 and Olsen’s 3-4. Prado now leads the championship by 28 points after gaining 17 points on Jonass this weekend.
Jorge Prado: “It was a great weekend getting the qualifying win yesterday and today I felt really good already in warm up with the bike and the track. The first race I got a good start and could win then in the second race got the FOX Holeshot and won again. We train really hard and you can tell we get to a track like this.”
The 16th round of the FIM Motocross World Championship will take place in Frauenfeld-Gahnang on August 19, the MXGP of Switzerland.
Photo courtesy MXGP
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MX2 Race 1 Top Ten:
1. Jorge Prado (ESP, KTM), 34:59.736; 2. Thomas Covington (USA, Husqvarna), +0:11.439; 3. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, Husqvarna), +0:21.141; 4. Pauls Jonass (LAT, KTM), +0:31.144; 5. Calvin Vlaanderen (NED, Honda), +0:33.899; 6. Conrad Mewse (GBR, KTM), +0:45.443; 7. Jago Geerts (BEL, Yamaha), +0:56.360; 8. Adam Sterry (GBR, Kawasaki), +1:02.821; 9. Michele Cervellin (ITA, Yamaha), +1:07.739; 10. Brent Van doninck (BEL, Husqvarna), +1:11.923.
MX2 Race 2 Top Ten:
1. Jorge Prado (ESP, KTM), 34:51.222; 2. Jago Geerts (BEL, Yamaha), +0:04.083; 3. Thomas Covington (USA, Husqvarna), +0:12.715; 4. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, Husqvarna), +0:21.133; 5. Ben Watson (GBR, Yamaha), +0:24.378; 6. Pauls Jonass (LAT, KTM), +0:39.784; 7. Calvin Vlaanderen (NED, Honda), +0:52.172; 8. Conrad Mewse (GBR, KTM), +0:59.965; 9. Adam Sterry (GBR, Kawasaki), +1:06.985; 10. Marshal Weltin (USA, Kawasaki), +1:21.222.
MX2 Overall Top Ten:
1. Jorge Prado (ESP, KTM), 50 points; 2. Thomas Covington (USA, HUS), 42 p.; 3. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, HUS), 38 p.; 4. Jago Geerts (BEL, YAM), 36 p.; 5. Pauls Jonass (LAT, KTM), 33 p.; 6. Calvin Vlaanderen (NED, HON), 30 p.; 7. Conrad Mewse (GBR, KTM), 28 p.; 8. Ben Watson (GBR, YAM), 26 p.; 9. Adam Sterry (GBR, KAW), 25 p.; 10. Brent Van doninck (BEL, HUS), 21 p.
MX2 Championship Top Ten:
1. Jorge Prado (ESP, KTM), 645 points; 2. Pauls Jonass (LAT, KTM), 617 p.; 3. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, HUS), 492 p.; 4. Ben Watson (GBR, YAM), 453 p.; 5. Calvin Vlaanderen (NED, HON), 444 p.; 6. Thomas Covington (USA, HUS), 417 p.; 7. Jago Geerts (BEL, YAM), 346 p.; 8. Michele Cervellin (ITA, YAM), 291 p.; 9. Henry Jacobi (GER, HUS), 261 p.; 10. Davy Pootjes (NED, KTM), 218 p.