The 26-year-old former world champion elected to travel to the UK to compete in the second round of the British Motocross Championships in the absence of other pre-season events and with the FIM MXGP Motocross World Championship delayed twice.
Herlings last rolled into a start gate at the Grand Prix of Citta di Faenza, September 2020.
He rode factory KTM 450 SX-F to head the timed qualification session by more than a second around the shallow hillside course.
In the first moto he ran out of time to chase down the figure of native racer Ben Watson (Yamaha) after having to stop briefly to dislodge a stone from the rear end of the bike. He collected a solid runner-up finish.
In the second outing he hounded his MXGP peer and made the move to lead the field. Less than a second split Herlings and Watson at the flag and thanks to his victory he reached the highest step of the podium even though they tied on points.
British rider Tommy Searle (Honda) claimed third overall for the weekend and he leads the championship standings after two rounds.
Meanwhile, New Zealand’s Dylan Walsh (Kawasaki) finished 9th and 5th in the two races at the weekend, good enough for seventh overall.
The Grand Prix of Russia opens the 2021 MXGP season in less than three weeks’ time, on the weekend of June 12-13.
“It was a good day of racing. I had a bit of a problem in the first moto and lost around 10 seconds while I sorted out the stone,” said Herlings.
“I came back through the pack but the track wasn’t easy for passing and I finished on the leader’s rear wheel.
“In the second moto I had to come back from 6-7th at the start, although I could reach 1st place this time.
“I had a few issues with arm-pump but I guess that’s normal after eight months away from a race! We’ll keep working from here and hope to get a bit better each week until we go to Russia.”
Photo courtesy KTM Europe
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