Herlings remains undefeated, taking a fourth consecutive Grand Prix win in Afyon and remains the only MXGP rider to ever win here. In addition, the man they call “The Bullet” also matched Italian Antonio Cairoli’s GP win record, as he secured his 93rd triumph.
The overall victory didn’t come easy for either of the factory KTM riders, as both Herlings and Vialle were challenged by a group of riders who were all hungry for the win, making for some epic races.
The MXGP class delivered some of the most intense racing that we have seen this season so far. The top protagonists of the championship were all within a couple of seconds of one another in both races, with a winner hard to predict.
After making some changes to the bike, Herlings topped the charts in timed practice to take pole position which set him up nicely for the races. Though as the gate dropped for race one, it was his Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team-mate Jorge Prado who clinched the holeshot ahead of Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team’s Romain Febvre, Herlings and Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jeremy Seewer.
Team HRC’s Tim Gajser, the championship leader, started the race in eighth, though made some quick passes as he got up to fourth within a couple of laps.
There was no change in the top four for quite a few laps as Cairoli worked his way through the field. He had Seewer ahead in fifth who eventually crashed out and dropped to 15th.
Prado then crashed big out of the lead and took a while to get going again, re-joining the race quite far behind the rest of the field, which made it tough for the Spaniard to score any points as he finished the race in 21st.
Febvre was then the new race leader, and it was game one for the top three. Herlings and Gajser had a couple of moments as the Slovenian pushed to get around the Dutchman.
SM Action Racing Team’s Alberto Forato was having a great opening race after a strong time practice. The Italian in sixth place, where he eventually finished. It did look like he was going to challenge Standing Construct GasGas Factory Racing’s Pauls Jonass at one point though, which made for some nice racing.
Febvre then looked to stretch out his lead as he set the fastest lap of the race with nine minutes plus two laps to go. And as the race progressed things got more interesting as Febvre, Herlings and Gajser were just within 1.559 seconds of one another.
Cairoli was closing in on the top three at that point too as he was faster than the top three ahead of him. Herlings then put the hammer down on Febvre.
With one lap to go, Herlings was pushing to pass Febvre and was being pushed by Gajser who had Cairoli applying the pressure. Febvre did a good job to defend his position until he made a small mistake and crashed with less than half a lap to go.
Then it was Herlings in the driving seat as Gajser looked to keep close and make a move for the win though got caught out by a hard charging Cairoli who stole second from the Slovenian. Herlings was the race winner.
In race two, it was Prado again with the holeshot as Herlings followed closely behind in second ahead of Gajser and Jonass, as Cairoli had to fight his way through the pack once again.
Herlings was looking to strike early as Cairoli got around Febvre for fifth and looked to put an attack on Jonass immediately after.
As the race went on, the top three remained close, just as they did in race one, with just 0.959 seconds in between them. Gajser was looking to make a pass on Herlings and make a charge for the win, though made a mistake which allowed Cairoli to close in and join the fight just like before.
At one stage Prado extended the gap to 1.840 seconds but it didn’t take long for Herlings to find his way onto the back of the Spaniard.
While the top four battled for the win, there was also nice action further down the field as Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Glenn Coldenhoff got around JM Honda Racing’s Henry Jacobi for 10th. The German responded soon after, parking the Yamaha rider. Coldenhoff then made a small error and crashed.
Back with the leaders though, Gajser was searching for every opportunity to get past Herlings and on lap six was finally able to do it. Then it was game on for the win.
Three laps later, Gajser was the new race leader as the top three were bunched up and within less than a second of each other, which meant that the race was far from over.
Herlings followed in Gajser’s steps to get around Prado but could not keep with the Slovenian.
In the end, the birthday boy, Gajser won the second heat with a 5.947 seconds advantage to Herlings, with Cairoli taking third from his team-mate as we were treated to another Cairoli vs Prado battle.
In terms of the podium, it was Herlings with the overall victory ahead of Gajser and Cairoli,” said Herlings.
Gajser continues to lead the championship with a 28-point advantage over Romain Febvre and Antonio Cairoli. Meanwhile, Herlings moves up to fourth in the standings, just 34 points off the series leader.
“I started the day strong with pole position and it was important to be on the inside in the start. First race was really good, I was actually equal with Jorge, but halfway down the straight he got me,” said Herlings.
“Then I was chasing Romain and Jorge and then at one point Jorge had a big crash, I got up to second and I was actually second all race, I couldn’t really attack because I had Tim on my back, so I had to defend my line but at the same time I wanted to attack Romain because I had more speed than him.
“I was just following long and managed to be second until the last lap and obviously Romain made a mistake, and I got the win handed to me. It was a bit of a gift. Second race, I was a bit late on the gate but again I had Jorge next to me so he kept the other boys a little bit away. I had Tim on the back of me again and he was pushing hard, so again I had to defend and attack at the same time.
“Then Tim basically got us both within two laps. I made a pass on Jorge pretty quick, but Tim had a three second gap and he was fast, I can’t deny it. I did not want to take a risk, so I took the second place and knew I was going to take the GP win. It’s been a great day and great two races, looking forward to Sardinia. I think the track will suit me a bit better.
“I can’t make any big mistake any more. I would like to be 34 points in front instead of 34 points behind but Tim is in the hot seat, but I went from fifth to fourth in the championship and I am just a few points behind Tony and Romain so that’s good. But second place doesn’t count, there’s only one place and that’s first. We had 9 races, so 9 to go. I missed three races but it’s like this right now and I have to make the best out of the situation”.
Photo courtesy KTM Europe
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RESULTS & STANDINGS:
MXGP – Grand Prix Race 1 – Top 10 Classification:
- Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 34:31.387; 2. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:00.494; 3. Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda), +0:02.969; 4. Romain Febvre (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:10.585; 5. Pauls Jonass (LAT, GASGAS), +0:35.881; 6. Alberto Forato (ITA, GASGAS), +0:40.918; 7. Henry Jacobi (GER, Honda), +0:49.141; 8. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, Yamaha), +0:51.337; 9. Alessandro Lupino (ITA, KTM), +0:53.507; 10. Brent Van doninck (BEL, Yamaha), +0:54.619.
MXGP – Grand Prix Race 2 – Top 10 Classification:
- Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda), 34:44.781; 2. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), +0:05.947; 3. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:08.978; 4. Jorge Prado (ESP, KTM), +0:14.097; 5. Romain Febvre (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:31.196; 6. Pauls Jonass (LAT, GASGAS), +0:32.209; 7. Alberto Forato (ITA, GASGAS), +0:41.561; 8. Alessandro Lupino (ITA, KTM), +0:57.060; 9. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, Husqvarna), +1:00.476; 10. Brian Bogers (NED, GASGAS), +1:06.485.
MXGP – GP Top 10 Classification:
- Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 47 points; 2. Tim Gajser (SLO, HON), 45 p.; 3. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 42 p.; 4. Romain Febvre (FRA, KAW), 34 p.; 5. Pauls Jonass (LAT, GAS), 31 p.; 6. Alberto Forato (ITA, GAS), 29 p.; 7. Alessandro Lupino (ITA, KTM), 25 p.; 8. Henry Jacobi (GER, HON), 24 p.; 9. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, HUS), 21 p.; 10. Jorge Prado (ESP, KTM), 18 p.
MXGP – World Championship Top 10 Classification:
- Tim Gajser (SLO, HON), 355 points; 2. Romain Febvre (FRA, KAW), 327 p.; 3. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 326 p.; 4. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 321 p.; 5. Jorge Prado (ESP, KTM), 315 p.; 6. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, YAM), 249 p.; 7. Pauls Jonass (LAT, GAS), 231 p.; 8. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, YAM), 212 p.; 9. Alessandro Lupino (ITA, KTM), 182 p.; 10. Ben Watson (GBR, YAM), 143 p.
MX2 – Grand Prix Race 1 – Top 10 Classification:
- Maxime Renaux (FRA, Yamaha), 34:59.757; 2. Tom Vialle (FRA, KTM), +0:17.288; 3. Mattia Guadagnini (ITA, KTM), +0:26.148; 4. Jago Geerts (BEL, Yamaha), +0:29.053; 5. Wilson Todd (AUS, Kawasaki), +0:30.215; 6. Thibault Benistant (FRA, Yamaha), +0:32.424; 7. Kay de Wolf (NED, Husqvarna), +0:36.135; 8. Ruben Fernandez (ESP, Honda), +0:37.165; 9. Rene Hofer (AUT, KTM), +0:45.611; 10. Simon Laengenfelder (GER, GASGAS), +0:47.253.
MX2 – Grand Prix Race 2 – Top 10 Classification:
- Tom Vialle (FRA, KTM), 35:15.694; 2. Maxime Renaux (FRA, Yamaha), +0:05.534; 3. Jed Beaton (AUS, Husqvarna), +0:26.982; 4. Thibault Benistant (FRA, Yamaha), +0:30.264; 5. Rene Hofer (AUT, KTM), +0:32.021; 6. Mattia Guadagnini (ITA, KTM), +0:35.350; 7. Isak Gifting (SWE, GASGAS), +0:43.977; 8. Kay de Wolf (NED, Husqvarna), +0:46.001; 9. Wilson Todd (AUS, Kawasaki), +0:47.172; 10. Andrea Adamo (ITA, GASGAS), +0:51.262.
MX2 – GP Top 10 Classification:
- Tom Vialle (FRA, KTM), 47 points; 2. Maxime Renaux (FRA, YAM), 47 p.; 3. Mattia Guadagnini (ITA, KTM), 35 p.; 4. Thibault Benistant (FRA, YAM), 33 p.; 5. Jed Beaton (AUS, HUS), 29 p.; 6. Rene Hofer (AUT, KTM), 28 p.; 7. Wilson Todd (AUS, KAW), 28 p.; 8. Jago Geerts (BEL, YAM), 28 p.; 9. Kay de Wolf (NED, HUS), 27 p.; 10. Ruben Fernandez (ESP, HON), 22 p.
MX2 – World Championship Top 10 Classification:
- Maxime Renaux (FRA, YAM), 361 points; 2. Mattia Guadagnini (ITA, KTM), 312 p.; 3. Jago Geerts (BEL, YAM), 290 p.; 4. Jed Beaton (AUS, HUS), 266 p.; 5. Thibault Benistant (FRA, YAM), 261 p.; 6. Ruben Fernandez (ESP, HON), 251 p.; 7. Rene Hofer (AUT, KTM), 244 p.; 8. Kay de Wolf (NED, HUS), 237 p.; 9. Tom Vialle (FRA, KTM), 227 p.; 10. Mathys Boisrame (FRA, KAW), 216 p.