The 20th and final round of the FIM Motocross World Championship also saw Spain’s Jorge Prado win for the second GP in a row and celebrate his first MX2 title win.
MXGP made a third visit to Italy this year as the famous ‘Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari’ in Imola staged the FIM Motocross World Championship for the first time at the weekend.
A hard-packed, compact and jumpy course lay over the final section of the asphalt track provided a mix of bumps, ruts and generous air time for the riders of the MXGP and MX2 classes. Late afternoon sunshine complicated some of the visibility but also warmed a packed attendance at the facility located in the town’s ‘park’ to see the MXGP project and who were able to witness the 16th double class win celebration by Red Bull KTM in 2018.
MXGP and MX2 title success mean that Red Bull KTM have owned both categories for seven years since the start of the decade and with seven different riders.
Red Bull KTM missed out in 2015 – with Yamaha’s Romain Febvre winning the MXGP title and Honda’s Tim Gajser winning the MX2 title – and claimed just the MX2 crown in 2016, as Gajser claimed the MXGP title.
Champions in that time for KTM were Tony Cairoli, Jeffrey Herlings, Marvin Musquin, Ken Roczen, Jordi Tixier, Pauls Jonass and Jorge Prado.
Herlings’ assault on the statistics of 2018 continued at Imola. On Saturday the new world champion topped every session and ran to a thirteenth Qualification Heat victory. The Dutchman had maintained his strict training schedule since his title spoils at Assen two weeks previously. He overtook Tim Gajser and sprinted clear in the first moto on Sunday and offered a repeat showing of his superiority in the second.
Herlings has now reached a staggering 84 career wins just after his 23rd birthday and has won the last eight in a row with his works KTM 450 SX-F. He has claimed 17 of the 20 rounds in 2018, gracing every MXGP podium apart from the one event he missed (the Grand Prix of Lombardia at Ottobiano in the wake of collarbone surgery). Herlings has totalled 33 moto wins from a possible 38 and went 1-1 in 15 of his 17 triumphs.
The 2018 runner-up, Italian hero Cairoli, had the attention and acclaim of his home crowd but the Sicilian struggled on the final race day of the season. A crash during the qualification heat on Saturday meant he suffered with a painful lower back and right hip. Cairoli finally took the difficult decision to sit out the motos.
Many of the riders in action at Imola now head directly to the United States and to Michigan to represent their respective countries at the 72nd Motocross of Nations.
Herlings: “A great way to finish the year. It has been a great experience, a great year and great memories. I especially want to thank my team. If you look to the statistics then it has been pretty unbelievable and almost an indescribable year. It will be hard to accomplish again I think. My goal now is to go 1-1 at the Nations. That would be the cherry on the cake and is the next thing on the wish list. We’ll see!”
Cairoli: “I was really happy to be here and I think this place is a good way to step up our sport but we just need to work a bit better on the track. The location is fantastic and we saw a lot of people. It is a shame I could not take part in the race but I was sore after yesterday and I knew it would be very hard for me from the outside of the gate. I was thinking about the big picture and the Nations is very important for me and for Italy. Our goal is to make the podium there because the championship was already done and Jeffrey won a lot of time and deserved the title. Second place was good for our efforts this year.”
Prado became one of the youngest FIM Motocross World Champions at seventeen years of age (he is 18 in January) but also the first ever for Spain in the principle categories of the series. The teenager wrapped a brilliant campaign of fast, consistent and smooth riding mixed with sensational starts (26 holeshots from 40) with his second 1-1 in a row at Imola.
Prado easily won the MX2 Qualification Heat on Saturday and seemed to revel in the jumps and technicality of the Imola dirt. In the first moto he kept pace with Australian Hunter Lawrence and was able to profit from the Australian’s technical problem to claim the win and roll across the finish line to a busy celebration party of his team, family, friends and well-wishers. Prado was a runaway winner in the second outing.
The Spaniard’s regularity means he accumulated 17 rostrum trophies, 17 chequered flags from a possible 40 and won 12 Grands Prix with the KTM 250 SX-F.
Jonass missed the Grand Prix due to surgery on the ACL in his right knee. The Latvian had already confirmed his position as No.2 for 2018 and his absence allowed Prado to assume the status of champion before the weekend began. Pauls, who won five GPs from the 20 and 15 motos from 40 while appearing on the podium 12 times and led the standings for more than half of the season, is expecting to make the jump into MXGP for 2019.
Prado: “I knew about being World Champion on Thursday and it was a weird moment. I didn’t expect it and thought I’d race against Pauls this weekend…but I still did my best out there today and wanted to show why I won the world title. I really felt I was world champion after that first moto and in the celebration. Overall I so happy with the weekend and the way we ended the season.”
Photo courtesy MXGP
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RESULTS & FINAL STANDINGS:
Results MXGP Imola 2018
- Jeffrey Herlings (NED) KTM (1-1)
- Tim Gajser (SLO) Honda (2-2)
- Clement Desalle (BEL) Kawasaki (3-3)
- Julien Lieber (BEL) Kawasaki (5-4)
- Gautier Paulin (FRA), Husqvarna (4-6)
Final MXGP Standings for 2018:
- Jeffrey Herlings, 933 points
- Tony Cairoli, 782
- Clement Desalle, 685
- Tim Gajser, 669
- Gautier Paulin, 574
Results MXGP Imola 2018
- Jorge Prado (SPA) KTM (1-1)
- Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN) Husqvarna (2-4)
- Thomas Covington (USA) Husqvarna (7-3)
- Michele Cervellin (ITA) Yamaha (4-7)
- Henry Jacobi (GER) Husqvarna (3-9)
Final MX2 Standings for 2018:
- Jorge Prado, 873 points
- Pauls Jonass, 777
- Thomas Kjer Olsen, 673
- Ben Watson, 602
- Thomas Covington, 599