The play went exactly to script at today’s qualifying races for the annual Motocross of Nations in Italy.
Spurred on by an amiable, excited and boisterous home crowd, the host country topped qualifying thanks to splendid wins by Antonio Cairoli (MX1) and David Philippaerts (Open class) in their respective class qualification races.
The third member of the Italian team, MX2 rider David Guarneri, produced a solid 10th in his race, not surprisingly won by just-crowned world MX2 champion Marvin Musquin, of France.
As the format allows, Italy discarded Guaneri’s result, giving Team Italia the perfect 1-1 result.
Second best nation was France, with Musquin and open class rider Gautier Paulin, who finished runner-up to Philippaerts.
Third-ranked in qualifying was Belgium, with all team members finishing inside the top three. If the “discard” rule was not applied, Belgium was the best team on the day.
Clement Desalle finished second in the MX1 race, while team-mates Joel Roelants (MX2) and Steve Ramon (Open class) both produced third placings.
And if “solid” was acceptable, then that’s also exactly the word to describe the performance of Team New Zealand, which qualified 8th among the 35 nations that lined up.
MXoN veteran Josh Coppins (MX1) finished an impressive fourth in his qualification race, closing in fast on third-placed Chad Reed, of Australia, as the race drew to a close, strongly hinting that the man from Motueka still has plenty in store for tomorrow.
Coppins was backed up by Scott Columb, who raced to 11th position in his Open class race, while third Kiwi teamster, Rotorua’s Mike Phillips (MX2) (pictured above), brought a 20th placing to the equation, only a mid-pack result but he still outshone the best MX2 riders from 15 other nations in this 35-nation “Olympic Games of Motocross”.
All of this qualified the New Zealanders comfortable among the top 10, impressive considering several first-choice riders were not available and that Phillips was making his MxoN debut.
Kiwi team captain Coppins was satisfied with the day’s work.
“It was a good, solid performance. It showed we are capable of a top-10 result, so qualifying eighth makes me happy. These two young guys in the team can be pretty proud with how they went today.
“I also think we can all do better tomorrow.”
Big surprise of the day was the sixth overall achieved by the highly-fancied Americans, the MXoN champions for the past four years.
Words and photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com