New Zealand’s Ben Townley is on the pace.
The Kiwi Kawasaki star has had a rocky start to his 2011 motocross season as a succession of injuries hampered his preparation.
However, he put all that behind him as he qualified a creditable ninth in the MX1 class at the French Grand Prix at St Jean d’Angely overnight.
The qualifying race was won by Belgian Suzuki rider Clement Desalle , with German Max Nagl (KTM) second and Italian world champion Antonio Cairoli (KTM) third, but Townley’s ninth placing surely signals that he is progressing well with his recovery.
The sun-baked course near the west coast of France was excessively watered during the first part of the day and the practice sessions became more about exercises in caution.
Come late afternoon and the rough and drier mud offered varying degrees of grip. Desalle excelled during the 20 minute and 2 lap qualification heat where he chased down Nagl and enjoyed a brief battle with the German and Cairoli in the closing stages.
In the MX2 class, Germany’s Ken Roczen (KTM) topped qualifying, ahead of Dutchman Jeffrey Herlings (KTM) and American Zach Osborne (Yamaha).
Meanwhile, in the UEM EMX-2 championships, round two of which is sharing the programme with the MX1 and MX2 world championships at St Jean d’Angely, Rotorua’s John Phillips (Kiwi DBG Suzuki Team) qualified 12th fastest in Group A. In race one he finished 27th.
MX1 qualification heat result:
1. Clement Desalle (BEL, Suzuki), 25:16.274;
2. Maximilian Nagl (GER, KTM), +0:01.371;
3. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:01.919;
4. Shaun Simpson (GBR, Honda), +0:29.690;
5. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda), +0:36.953;
6. Steve Ramon (BEL, Suzuki), +0:38.746;
7. David Philippaerts (ITA, Yamaha), +0:43.562;
8. Rui Goncalves (POR, Honda), +0:45.884;
9. Benjamin Townley (NZL, Kawasaki), +0:48.882;
10. Xavier Boog (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:49.596.
MX2 qualifying heat result:
1. Ken Roczen (GER, KTM), 25:38.113;
2. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), +0:07.581;
3. Zachary Osborne (USA, Yamaha), +0:17.246;
4. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), +0:26.200;
5. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Yamaha), +0:30.007;
6. Arnaud Tonus (SUI, Yamaha), +0:36.841;
7. Christophe Charlier (FRA, Yamaha), +0:38.797;
8. Nicolas Aubin (FRA, KTM), +0:43.936;
9. Joel Roelants (BEL, KTM), +1:06.171;
10. Max Anstie (GBR, Kawasaki), +1:08.091.
In the meantime, enjoy this video clip introducing Townley’s CLS Kawasaki team: