New Zealand’s Ben Townley and his Team Suzuki World MXGP outfit are all set up now in Suphan Buri, north-east of Bangkok, ready for this weekend’s humid and hot second round of the 2016 FIM Motocross World Championship.
Townley will be determined to make up for mistakes made at round one in Qatar last weekend, where he jumped the start in race one and ran off the track in race two and was forced to use his ‘back-up’ bike for race two when he had mechanical issues and these two incidents cost him dearly.
He twice finished 11th in Qatar and is 10th overall in the standings after round one.
“I went with the guy next to me and hit the gate: Stupid. I haven’t done that in years. The bright points were that we made a change overnight with the bike and then again between warm-up and the first moto and the guys nailed it.
“It was pretty good and we made progress. I felt like I had a lot of cobwebs and rust in the system and it was a really tough track (at Qatar) for me to have my first race. It was so tricky and I think ‘treacherous’ would be a good word for it; there were literally potholes on the track.
“There are a lot of positives to take out of the first moto because I went from 21st to 10th on the first lap and I was able to ride with guys who were championship contenders.
“The second moto was just a cock-up. I went for the sighting lap and we had a ‘mechanical’. I had to use the back-up bike and it was a huge lesson for us as a whole team. Stefan said that in 18 years of racing he never had to use the back-up machine. So we learnt a lot.”
Little is known about the Thailand venue for this weekend, but temperatures are set to hover around the 40-degree mark meaning that the Asian fixture will again be one of the most demanding.
The Grand Prix of Qatar, run under floolights last Saturday night, was a tough introduction to the campaign for the team and both riders, with Townley’s team-mate Kevin Strijbos’ eighth position in the first moto the highest classification from the team’s four results. Strijbos finished 9th in moto two and is now 8th overall in the standings.
Importantly it was the first step of a lengthy trajectory that takes in another 17 meetings and 34 motos starting this weekend in the Thai ‘sauna’.
“We will have to put our heads together to see what we can do, or what I can do or what I did wrong in Qatar,” said Strijbos after the Losail launcher. “At the moment I don’t know. I expected top-five but I was far off. We will hope for better on Sunday.”
“We will start where we were in moto one,” commented Townley, who was also slightly frustrated by the compromise between set-up and form in Losail but was still 10th overall for a steady comeback to full-time racing.
“The track (Suphan Buri) is a bit of an unknown for everyone so that’s a good thing from my perspective. Coming to Qatar I did not appreciate what I was going to face – trackwise – and we had some great off-season riding but it fell apart a little. The fact that I felt horrible most of the meeting wasn’t really reflected in the first moto. I felt pretty decent in that race and want that again.”
The team’s general manager, 10-time former world champion Stefan Everts, knows that Thailand is another mark in the learning process.
“We can start again from zero in Thailand,” the Belgian said. “There is not much time to do anything but evaluate Qatar and then start to look more towards Valkenswaard (round three, Holland). We can start to make some proper plans when we get back. We need to do some more homework and get better and stronger.”
© Photo by Ray Archer
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MXGP championship standings after round one:
1. Tim Gajser (SLO, HON), 50 points; 2. Romain Febvre (FRA, YAM), 42 p.; 3. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, HON), 42 p.; 4. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, YAM), 34 p.; 5. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 33 p.; 6. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), 30 p.; 7. Tommy Searle (GBR, KAW), 25 p.; 8. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Suzuki MXGP), 25 p.; 9. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), 25 p.; 10. Maximilian Nagl (GER, HUS), 24 p.; 11. Ben Townley (NZL, Suzuki MXGP), 20 p.; 12. Valentin Guillod (SUI, YAM), 16 p.; 13. Jose Butron (ESP, KTM), 14 p.; 14. Tanel Leok (EST, HUS), 13 p.; 15. Milko Potisek (FRA, YAM), 13 p.; 16. Gautier Paulin (FRA, HON), 11 p.; 17. Alessandro Lupino (ITA, HON), 8 p.; 18. Christophe Charlier (FRA, HUS), 8 p.; 19. Kei Yamamoto (JPN, HON), 5 p.; 20. Clement Desalle (BEL, KAW), 3 p.; 21. Alex Snow (GBR, YAM), 1 p.