By John Basher

Max Nagl won his second GP of the season, while a surprise victory from Dylan Ferrandis ended Jeffrey Herlings’ dominance in the 250 class. What else happened in the Patagonia area of Argentina this past weekend?

End of the strange and unpredictable: The Patagonia, Argentina, round marked the third race in the MXGP series and the first in the Americas. If the series schedule stands (I wouldn’t hold my breath, given Youthstream’s track record–they already had to cancel one race), the Grand Prix teams will visit Mexico and Glen Helen before the season ends. What interests the Europe-based teams and riders most is that the series now goes back to where it should have begun last month–Europe. The MXGP series resumes on April 19th at the picturesque Trentino, Italy, circuit. That’ll give the teams plenty of time to work out the bugs–stomach and otherwise–and get grounded after spending the past month traveling around the world. Then it’s back to the traditional GP tracks through the hot summer months.

The mystique of Patagonia: Argentina is a beautiful country, with mountain vistas and sandy beaches that hug the Atlantic Ocean. The Patagonia area covers the lower half of Argentina and is a popular vacation spot for South Americans. The Patagonia Grand Prix was far and away the best flyaway track of the young season. It had spectators, a wide track, dirt that looked amazing (though, in truth, the top layer of soil was volcano ash). We tip our caps to Giuseppe Luongo for choosing a flyaway race that actually lived up to the billing. Although considering that Qatar and Thailand were held on flat fields next to race car tracks, the Argentina track could have been held in the parking lot and it would have been better than the first two rounds.     

Tony Cairoli and Ryan Villopoto share a moment after Saturday’s qualifying race, where RV2 got oh-so-close to passing the defending champ.

The four amigos: The prelude to this year’s 450 MXGP series boasted a Tony Cairoli versus Ryan Villopoto battle of epic proportions. IceOne Husqvarna’s Max Nagl, cast out of Red Bull KTM and then factory Honda, wasn’t on the radar. Clement Desalle, the Belgian machine, was an afterthought. Guess what? Desalle is leading the point standings. Nagl is tied for second with Cairoli? As for Villopoto? The pride of American motocross sits fourth, some 27 adrift of Desalle. Through six motos Clement Desalle has managed to amass a moto win points gap on Villopoto. However, the season is still very young. There are still 30 motos–750 points–up for grabs. What has been established so early on is that Clement Desalle, Max Nagl, Tony Cairoli and Ryan Villopoto look like the four riders most capable of winning the 450 title.

Not seen in this photo are the 14 riders from Argentina and Chile that helped (nearly) fill the gates.

Numbers game: Giuseppe Luongo has admitted in the past that he only wants the premiere Grand Prix racers on the track, and so he has gone to great lengths in order to freeze out the also-rans and privateers. That’s why the starting lines had resembled ghost towns at some races. Not so in Argentina. Did Luongo figure that having empty gates was a sign of a floundering series? Perhaps he felt that giving local racers the opportunity to line up next to the world’s best would cast him in a positive light? Probably not. Instead, he opened the floodgates for the best that Argentina had to offer so that the spectators had riders to root for. As a result, there were 12 Argentinians and two Chileans in the 450 class. In the 250 class there were six riders from Argentina, two from Chile and one from Brazil. How deep would the fields have been if Luongo barred the locals from racing? There would have been around 25 250 racers (instead of 34) and 24 riders in the 450 class (instead of 37).

Panic button: It’s hard for American fans to grasp the challenges that Ryan Villopoto has overcome in order to race the Grand Prix series, and the obstacles that are yet to come. Thus far Ryan has proven several realizations about MXGP. (1) The Europeans are just as fast as Villopoto. (2) The tracks are considerably different. (3) As is bike setup. Villopoto’s suspension is al dente, while his European competitors’ settings are as soft as boiled noodles left in the pot and forgotten about. Despite all of these hurdles, Ryan Villopoto is doing remarkably well. Is it time for Villopoto’s legion of superfans to hit the panic button? Nope. Questioning RV’s resolve is like choosing Clubber Lang over Rocky Balboa. We pity the fools.

Ryan Villopoto had this to say about his weekend in Argentina:

“This weekend was okay; it’s not exactly what we wanted, but we were able to improve in the second moto and to be right up there with those guys was good, but we still need to find a little more, and definitively to improve our starts. It was tough without a good start, I was able to salvage and get up there and come with them in the front, but Max was riding really well, and so were Toni and Clement. To pass all those guys would have been hard, but I think that if I had a little more speed I would have been able to make a little more happen. Once again I’d like to stop saying that but I need to get used to the format of the GP, and we’ll do some more work with the team and hopefully be better in Italy.”


450 Class: Max Nagl (3-1)

Max Nagl (12) hunted down Clement Desalle (25) in the second moto. By passing Desalle the German won the overall. Desalle, however, still holds the red plate.

Max Nagl wilted in the heat of Thailand with 4-11 moto scores, but he came back with a vengeance in Argentina. The German went 3-1 and tied Clement Desalle on points, but Nagl’s better second moto score earned him the overall. In the process Max became the first double winner of the season. Winning in Argentina wasn’t easy. He pressured Tony Cairoli in the first moto for second place, but the Italian held strong. In the second moto there was a battle royale between Nagl and Desalle for the lead. Mistakes cost Desalle, while Nagl rode flawless laps and built up a comfortable six second lead. He cruised it into the finish for his seventh career 450 GP overall.

250 Class: Dylan Ferrandis (1-2)

Dylan Ferrandis avoided catastrophe and dug deep to win his first 250 overall. Felicitations!

Jeffrey Herlings didn’t win? Preposterous! Argentina looked like it would be another sweep for the Dutch master, especially after he gapped the field by 22 seconds in Saturday’s qualifying race. The flames were tamped when KTM teammate Pauls Jonass clipped Herlings going off a big tabletop early stages in the first moto. Herlings tumbled and was nearly landed on. It was a close call for Jeffrey and, although he was able to continue, his handlebars were undone by the impact. But enough about Herlings, because France’s Dylan Ferrandis was the overall winner. It didn’t come easy. Ferrandis jetted away with the first moto win after passing the wide-riding Pauls Jonass. In the second moto he crashed and clawed his way up to second (Jeffrey Herlings walked away with the moto win). It was Dylan’s first overall victory in 51 Grand Prix races. The win, coupled with Herlings’ DNF, put Ferrandis into a tie with Herlings for first place in the point standings. This proves two things: (1) Despite Jeffrey Herlings being the odds-on favorite to capture the 250 title, the series can turn on a dime. (2) The fact that Herlings had earned enough points through five motos to give up 25 points to Ferrandis AND STILL BE FIRST IN POINTS shows how dominant Jeffrey has been. Regardless, congratulations to Dylan Ferrandis on his first win.   


See the crash that ended Jeffrey Herlings’ string of moto wins



Clement Desalle (25) sneaks it up the inside, while Ryan Villopoto (2) can only watch as the field goes by. Villopoto will need to improve his starts if he wants to stand on top of the box more often.

The Argentina track had some strange rhythm sections and roller combinations. Gautier Paulin (21) takes an alternate path than Villopoto.

Pauls Jonass very well could be the future of the 250 class. He was hand-picked by KTM to be Jeffrey Herlings’ successor. Jonass finished second on the day.

Thomas Covington goes big on the picturesque Patagonia circuit. The American went 7-7 for fourth overall on the day.

If it wasn’t for a massive crash and broken handlebars it’s safe to say that Jeffrey Herlings would have logged another win.

Tony Cairoli squeezes every ounce of power out of his KTM 350SXF.



1. Max Nagl (Hus)….3-1
2. Clement Desalle (Suz)…1-3
3. Tony Cairoli (KTM)…2-2
4. Ryan Villopoto (Kaw)…4-4
5. Gautier Paulin (Hon)…6-7
6. Jeremy Van Horebeek (Yam)…9-5
7. Romain Febvre (Yam)…8-6
8. Evgeny Bobryshev (Hon)…5-10
9. Todd Waters (Hus)…11-9
10. Glenn Coldenhoff (Suz)…14-8
Other notables: 11. Davide Guarneri, 12. Ken DeDycker; 14. Steven Frossard; 16. Shaun Simposn; 18. Tyla Rattray; 19. Dean Ferris.


1. Dylan Ferrandis (Kaw)…1-2
2. Pauls Jonass (KTM)…2-3
3. Jeremy Seewer (Suz)…5-5
4. Thomas Covington (Kaw)…7-7
5. Tim Gajser (Hon)…12-4
6. Aleksandr Tonkov (Hus)…10-6
7. Jeffrey Herlings (KTM)….35-1
8. Adam Sterry (KTM)…11-11
9. Max Anstie (Kaw)…3-22
10. Brian Bogers (KTM)…15-8
Other notables: 11. Julien Lieber; 12. Petr Petrov; 13. Benoit Paturnel; 15. Valentin Guillod; 19. Jens Getteman; 22. David Herbreteau.

(After 3 of 17 races)
1. Clement Desalle…133
2. Max Nagl….123
3. Tony Cairoli…123
4. Ryan Villopoto…106
5. Gautier Paulin…96
6. Romain Febvre…95
7. Evgeny Bobryshev…72
8. Todd Waters…62
9. Jeremy Van Horebeek…60
10. Kevin Strijbos……55

(After 3 of 17 races)
1. Jeffrey Herlings….125
2. Dylan Ferrandis…125
3. Pauls Jonass…112
4. Aleksandr Tonkov…82
5. Thomas Covington…81
6. Julien Lieber…80
7. Tim Gajser…79
8. Valentin Guillod…73
9. Jeremy Seewer…70
10. Petar Petrov…57

The Grand Prix series takes two weekends off before heading to the MXGP of Trentino, Italy, in Pietramurata. As always, look for a full race report, brought to you by the fine folks that can make your bike stop on a dime: Thanks for reading.

Photos by KRT Kawasaki, Rockstar Energy Suzuki, Red Bull KTM and HRC Honda.

argentinadylan ferrandisgiuseppe luongoGrand Prixjeffrey herlingsJOHN BASHERmax naglmoto-masterMXGPrace reportryan villopototony cairoliYOUTHSTREAM