The MXGP of Patagonia Argentina hosted MXGP for the fifth year and again provided amazing racing. The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing duo of Antonio Cairoli and Jorge Prado each took double race wins to score the first respective MXGP and MX2 overall wins of the new year.
New Zealand’s Dylan Walsh finished 13th and 18th respectively in the two MX2 motos, good enough for 15th overall for the GP.
Cairoli was the favourite for this first MXGP event of the season, especially with the absence of injured 2018 world champion Jeffery Herlings, but it wasn’t an easy weekend by any means for the 9-time champion. Saturday’s qualifying races left Cairoli on the far outside gate after not finishing due to a bike issue the day before.
When the racing kicked off, Cairoli’s KTM was back better than ever, but Kawasaki’s Julien Lieber took the holeshot. The lead for Lieber was short lasted as Cairoli took over on the first lap.
Yamaha’s Romain Febvre, who came into the race as the qualifying race winner, was into second position by the end of the first lap leaving Lieber to fight for position with his Kawasaki team-mate Clement Desalle and Honda’s Tim Gajser.
During the next three laps, Lieber dropped two more spots, first to Yamaha’s Gautier Paulin and next to fellow Belgian Jeremy Van Horebeek, on his Honda.
Gajser was the rider on the move in race one though as he passed Desalle for second then reeled in Febvre and took second. With five laps remaining, Cairoli was long gone in the lead but Gajser keep pushing to open a gap over Febvre.
The race win went to Cairoli in a dominating performance with Gajser, Febvre, Desalle, and Paulin rounding out the top five. Husqvarna’s Arminas Jasikonis and Pauls Jonass battled throughout the late stages of the race after both made it by Yamaha’s Jeremy Seewer. Jasikonis eventually came out ahead of Jonass as the pair finished 8th and 9th and Seewer took the final spot in the top ten.
MXGP race two started with another holeshot from Lieber, while Cairoli came out of the first turn around 5th avoiding a crash that involved Paulin, Desalle, and Seewer. Seewer was the first get going coming across the first lap in 15th while Desalle was 16th and Paulin 19th. Lieber lost the advantage earned by his holeshot when he fell on the opening lap as well getting back up in 18th.
Febvre took over the lead from Lieber with Gajser giving chase and Cairoli closing in to the fight for the lead. Britain’s Tommy Searle (Kawasaki) was in 4th but dropped a spot to Van Horebeek early in the race while KTM’s Ivo Monticelli took 6th from KTM’s Shaun Simpson.
Monticelli’s KTM team-mate Max Anstie took 6th from the Italian on the 5th lap and then sized up Searle for 5th position. Meanwhile the battle for the lead turned into an all-out but short-lived brawl as Cairoli miraculously passed both Gajser and Febvre in the same section.
With Cairoli taking the spot from Febvre the Slovenian of Gajser found a way past the Frenchman as well. On the 14th lap of 18 Febvre crashed out of the race in the roller section giving Van Horebeek 3rd and moving Anstie and Searle into the top 5.
Desalle and Paulin worked forward together throughout the race after the first turn crash with Paulin taking 5th from Searle with 3 laps to go while Desalle made a pass on Searle in the last lap.
At the finish it was Cairoli who managed to hold of a consistently fast Gajser for the first MXGP overall victory of 2019 and his 16th consecutive season with a GP victory. Gajser’s pair of second place finishes took him to the podium as well while Van Horebeek surprised many with his 6-3 race finishes to earn 3rd and his first podium since the 2017 season where he finished 3rd at MXGP of Europe in Valkenswaard and 2nd at this same venue prior.
Antonio Cairoli, “I am happy overall today because after yesterday I wasn’t sure how I will do off the starts. The rhythm was high in the beginning but I was just trying to see where I could gain some time. I managed to have 2 good starts, both were in the top ten … I found some good lines and I had a good race taking the overall which makes me really happy. There are a lot of Argentinian fans who cheer for me all year on social media so it is nice to give them a win especially on this track which I have never had the chance to win at, I was close last year but it is always nice to race where people don’t see us often and make them happy.”
MXGP Race 1 Top Ten:
- Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 34:41.270; 2. Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda), +0:06.253; 3. Romain Febvre (FRA, Yamaha), +0:09.838; 4. Clement Desalle (BEL, Kawasaki), +0:11.464; 5. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Yamaha), +0:14.030; 6. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Honda), +0:32.226; 7. Julien Lieber (BEL, Kawasaki), +0:39.435; 8. Arminas Jasikonis (LTU, Husqvarna), +0:49.752; 9. Pauls Jonass (LAT, Husqvarna), +0:50.285; 10. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, Yamaha), +0:59.164.
MXGP Race 2 Top Ten:
- Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 34:56.475; 2. Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda), +0:02.386; 3. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Honda), +0:37.829; 4. Max Anstie (GBR, KTM), +0:42.332; 5. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Yamaha), +0:43.070; 6. Clement Desalle (BEL, Kawasaki), +0:47.509; 7. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), +0:49.602; 8. Arminas Jasikonis (LTU, Husqvarna), +0:58.810; 9. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), +1:01.941; 10. Arnaud Tonus (SUI, Yamaha), +1:03.513.
MXGP Overall Top Ten:
- Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 50 points; 2. Tim Gajser (SLO, HON), 44 p.; 3. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, HON), 35 p.; 4. Clement Desalle (BEL, KAW), 33 p.; 5. Gautier Paulin (FRA, YAM), 32 p.; 6. Arminas Jasikonis (LTU, HUS), 26 p.; 7. Tommy Searle (GBR, KAW), 22 p.; 8. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), 22 p.; 9. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, YAM), 21 p.; 10. Pauls Jonass (LAT, HUS), 21 p.
MX2 Championship racing was the first to start off the day and as early as the first turn the unexpected happened with KTM’s Tom Vialle taking the holeshot in his first ever FIM Motocross World Championship race.
Vialle’s lead quick went to the defending MX2 World Champion, KTM’s Jorge Prado but the young French rider held his own as the race progressed. Kawasaki’s Henry Jacobi took second during lap 2 and then worked to catch Prado.
Saturday’s qualifying winner, Husqvarna’s Thomas Kjer Olsen, spun off the gate and was fight his way forward from outside the top 5 in the early stages of the race. Between Vialle in 3rd and Olsen was Honda’s Mitch Evans, Honda’s Calvin Vlaanderen, and Yamaha’s Jago Geerts.
However, in only 5 laps, Olsen moved up 4 positions to just behind Jacobi who was in second. During this time Prado had done damage to anyone else’s chance of winning by putting in 3 consecutive fastest laps of the race and growing a massive gap.
It took 3 laps for Olsen to make a pass on Jacobi stick as the Kawasaki rider didn’t let the spot go easily. Prado’s gap proved to be too big for Olsen to overcome and the Spaniard took the race win while Jacobi finished 3rd, Vlaanderen 4th, and Australian MX2 rookie Evans took 5th.
Race two was another KTM holeshot, but this time it went to Prado with Evans running in 2nd and Olsen 3rd. Yamaha’s Ben Watson was off to a good start as well, but a handful of mistakes dropped him from 4th to outside the top ten early.
Vlaanderen took over the 4th position vacated by Watson and Vialle moved to 5th while at the Prado again pulled a gap. Olsen was able to get by Evans and closed slightly on Prado but still was several seconds behind.
Kawasaki pair Adam Sterry and Henry Jacobi were making progress as Sterry took 5th from Vialle who then dropped another spot to Jacobi. Sterry stayed in 5th for nearly 5 laps but crashed just before the challenging wave section. The fall gave Jacobi 5th but dropped Sterry to 9th where he would finish.
At the finish line it was Prado who took the overall win and 50 points allowing him to retain the red plate earned last season. Olsen took second overall matching his 2018 result in Patagonia while Evans took 3rd overall in what his first ever MX2 race.
Jorge Prado, “It was great to be back at the GPs, it is a long season but I have so much fun. Yesterday I had a good day but today I woke up and felt even better. I had 2 good starts which is very important because everyone is going fast and it is hard to make a difference. I am very happy with two firsts, for first overall, and points lead so it is a good start to the season.”
MX2 Race 1 Top Ten:
- Jorge Prado (ESP, KTM), 34:50.385; 2. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, Husqvarna), +0:16.677; 3. Henry Jacobi (GER, Kawasaki), +0:23.565; 4. Calvin Vlaanderen (NED, Honda), +0:25.535; 5. Mitchell Evans (AUS, Honda), +0:27.289; 6. Ben Watson (GBR, Yamaha), +0:29.198; 7. Tom Vialle (FRA, KTM), +0:37.127; 8. Adam Sterry (GBR, Kawasaki), +0:39.496; 9. Conrad Mewse (GBR, KTM), +0:41.631; 10. Davy Pootjes (NED, Husqvarna), +0:52.057.
MX2 Race 2 Top Ten:
- Jorge Prado (ESP, KTM), 33:48.208; 2. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, Husqvarna), +0:04.825; 3. Mitchell Evans (AUS, Honda), +0:12.437; 4. Calvin Vlaanderen (NED, Honda), +0:23.647; 5. Henry Jacobi (GER, Kawasaki), +0:30.601; 6. Jago Geerts (BEL, Yamaha), +0:31.623; 7. Ben Watson (GBR, Yamaha), +0:34.405; 8. Tom Vialle (FRA, KTM), +0:46.909; 9. Adam Sterry (GBR, Kawasaki), +0:51.470; 10. Davy Pootjes (NED, Husqvarna), +0:53.754.
MX2 Overall Top Ten:
- Jorge Prado (ESP, KTM), 50 points; 2. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, HUS), 44 p.; 3. Mitchell Evans (AUS, HON), 36 p.; 4. Calvin Vlaanderen (NED, HON), 36 p.; 5. Henry Jacobi (GER, KAW), 36 p.; 6. Ben Watson (GBR, YAM), 29 p.; 7. Tom Vialle (FRA, KTM), 27 p.; 8. Jago Geerts (BEL, YAM), 25 p.; 9. Adam Sterry (GBR, KAW), 25 p.; 10. Davy Pootjes (NED, HUS), 22 p.
© Photo by Andy McGechan, BikesportNZ
Find BikesportNZ.com on FACEBOOK here