By John Basher

Like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of MXGP racing. The long, 18-round series, hits several continents over six months. With it comes a myriad of news stories worthy of mentioning, though those headlines have changed since the series kicked off in Qatar in April. It seems long ago that Max Nagl won regularly, Tony Cairoli fought for his spot in the pack on an underpowered bike, and Ryan Villopoto drew interested American eyes to a series that most who bleed red, white and blue wouldn’t otherwise care about. The times, they certainly are changing.

Round eight swept through Villars sous Ecot, and with it a legion of dedicated MXGP racers in search of glory. This year has proven that underdogs do win, evidenced by the fact that a handful of new talent in the 250 class, as well as a surprising 450 rookie, are beating the establishment. On paper it would appear that Tony “Grappa” Cairoli and Jeffrey “Bullet” Herlings would be well on their way to titles. It’s a good thing that they still hold races on Sunday, because Tony and Jeffrey are having a harder time than anyone would’ve expected.

The French GP was another reason in a long list of races this season as to why we should be paying attention to what’s going on in the Old World. This is what happened in a place that any red-blooded American would have no idea how to pronounce:

First win for Febvre: It was only a matter of time before the 450 rookie was going to win his first MXGP overall. Last weekend in Matterley Basin the Frenchman snagged a moto victory–his first ever–so naturally it made sense for the factory Yamaha rider to assert himself whilst racing in his home country. The Villars sous Ecot track was marbly and hardpack. Febvre had no problem finding traction when it mattered and tamping his normally aggressive style. Now before you and your buddies start chanting Romain’s name around the water cooler as being the big threat to Tony Cairoli’s title hopes, think again. He’s a full 50 points back of the points leader, Max Nagl, with a lot of racing left to go. Sure, a rookie has won the 450 GP title before, but Febvre has miles to go and serious competition to saw through before he can be considered a title threat. However, if the series started three rounds ago then Febvre would be sitting pretty. In six motos he has gone 4-2-7-1-2-1.

Desalle slips: For those not in the know of how a Grand Prix weekend goes, consider this–there’s a free practice session, timed practice, and a qualifying race…and that’s on Saturday alone. That’s a lot of time spent on the track. Naturally the odds of catastophe are exponentially increased the more times a rider takes to the track. It would be wrong to categorize Clement Desalle as injury-prone. After all, since he began his 450 GP career he has managed to compete in 137 of 147 races (93 percent). However, Clement’s forced layoffs have came at terrible times (then again, when is it ever good to sit on the couch?). Poor Desalle hit the deck hard on Saturday in timed practice. In the qualification race he landed hard and dislocated his right shoulder. He tried to gut it out on Sunday in order to maintain sight with Max Nagl, but the discomfort was too much. Clement was sidelined and fell 41 points behind in the chase for the title.

Clement Desalle had this to say about his weekend, including a few choice words about the track, which I’m sure he will get slapped on the wrist for by Youthstream:

“There is nothing to say. I’m really sad. Yesterday it happened in half-a-second. There was a stone on the take-off and I was on a slow lap. The bike reacted strangely because of the stone and I felt my shoulder go. It was like it came out a little bit but I popped it back immediately. I strapped it and tried to ride in the qualification but did not feel comfortable. I was scared that on every take-off it might come out because I damaged the muscle again. I don’t really have any more words at the moment. I want to say that the track was not at the level for a Grand Prix. When you see the take-offs then it is like it was made yesterday by an amateur. I will see the doctor tomorrow and we will know more. Compared to my other injuries, then it doesn’t feel too bad, but I need to see if I have strength in the next few days. I would like to have some scans to see what is going on in there.”

Nagl drops two: If points leader Max Nagl keeps the train on the tracks, he’s looking good for attaining his first 450 MXGP title. Nagl was far from impressive in France, going 6-2 for fourth overall. By all accounts his points lead should have been cannibalized by Tony Cairoli. Only it wasn’t. Tony had an up and down day just like Nagl’s, only Cairoli’s was slightly better than Max’s. How much better? Cairoli gained two points in the title chase. That’s hardly anything to write home about. Unlike in prior seasons, Max Nagl has been able to weather the storm as opposed to bleeding points during his down days. France was a fair amount of fortune for the German, because Romain Febvre and Evgeny Bobryshev provided the buffer that Nagl needed against Cairoli.

Evgeny Bobryshev dedicated his second place finish to the hospitality staff that suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning. Just another reason why he’s our favorite Russian.

Our favorite Russian: It was a terrible start to the French GP weekend for HRC Honda. Three of Honda’s hospitality staff suffered carbon monoxide poisoning while they slept in a team hauler. The outcome didn’t look good; however, two of the staff members regained consciousness while the third is still under medical observation. Evgeny Bobryshev and Gautier Paulin had added motivation in France, and both seemed up to the challenge. Bobryshev logged 3-3 moto scores for second overall. Paulin, still searching for the form he found in Valkenswaard a month ago, was firing on all cylinders in front of his home fans. Unfortunately his Team HRC CRF450RW was not. An electrical issue cut his first moto short while running second. In the final moto Paulin had vision problems and soldiered on to sixth. Certainly pride is on the line between Paulin and Bobryshev for being top Honda rider. After France they are only separated by five points. Surely their team boss, Roger Harvey, would love to see them battling for team supremacy whilst in first and second rather than fifth and sixth.

Because everyone wants to know: Oh yeah, Mike Alessi raced the French GP. How’d he do? By U.S. standards he did terribly. Alessi went 13-23 for 18th overall. Apparently that was the last GP for Alessi, who will presumably come back to North America and race select AMA Nationals and Canadian Nationals. In case you’ve lost track, Mike’s moto scores have been 22-17-13-23. I expected much better.

Herlings is back: Jeffrey Herlings is his own worst enemy. He took himself out at a handful of rounds this year, and despite his gaffes the flying Dutchman is 112 points ahead of second place. That’s a four-plus moto lead! Had it not been for his first moto yard sale in Argentina and second moto hop, skip and flip in Spain he would probably have a 150-point lead by now. Even so, the 250 title picture is quickly shrinking. Only six riders are within three races of Herlings. With ten rounds remaining, they really only have 14 motos to make something happen. Either that or they’d better be lining up to buy Jeffrey a pit bike or encourage him to do other extracurricular activities. Say, who wants to go jump rental cars?

Guillod the great: I bet you didn’t know Valentin Guillod’s name a month ago. Don’t worry, because I didn’t either. Up until the Spanish GP his best moto finish was a fourth. Big whoop. Then he caught fire, racking up two straight GP wins and a oh-so-close second place in the opening moto in France. Then things went sideways for the happy-go-lucky Swiss mister. He tangled with Damon Graulus and bent his Yamaha into a pretzel. He still somehow managed to make his way back to 13th.


450 Class: Romain Febvre

Vive le Francais! The French GP was Romain’s race to lose, even if he had never won a 450 GP prior to Sunday. Why? The Yamaha rider was brimming with confidence after winning the second moto last weekend in Great Britain. Febvre went 2-1 for the overall, scoring seven points higher than anyone else. So where does the win put Romain in the point standings? He’s steadily climbing the ladder. After Matterley Basin he trailed Max Nagl by 60 points. Romain knocked ten points off that gap in a single weekend. Can you say dark horse?

250 Class: Jeffrey Herlings

At the past few races only Herlings and Valentin Guillod had been in the same time zone, while everyone else was left fighting for scraps. Guillod finished 1.6 seconds off Herlings’ rear tire in the first moto, while Jeffrey captured the second moto by just over five seconds ahead of Tim Gajser. Keep in mind that if the French circuit had a speck of sand on it then Herlings would’ve put on the afterburners and nearly lapped the field. Hardpack is not the Dutchman’s forte, but he won because he’s outright awesome. This kid had better move up to the 450 class in 2016.



Photos by Massimo Zanzani




1. Romain Febvre (Yam)…2-1
2. Evgeny Bobryshev (Hon)…3-3
3. Tony Cairoli (KTM)…1-7
4. Max Nagl (Hus)…6-2
5. Dean Ferris (Hus)…4-9
6. Glenn Coldenhoff (Suz)…9-5
7. Jeremy Van Horebeek (Yam)…5-9
8. Ken de Dycker (KTM)…8-8
9. Shaun Simpson (KTM)…7-11
10. Todd Waters (Hus)…12-13
Other notables: 11. Gregory Aranda; 12. Gautier Paulin; 14. Tyla Rattray; 18. Mike Alessi ; 19. Alessandro Lupino; 32. Clement Desalle.


1. Jeffrey Herlings (KTM)…1-1
2. Tim Gajser (Hon)…4-2
3. Jordi Tixier (Kaw)…3-3
4. Pauls Jonass (KTM)…7-4
5. Valentin Guillod (Yam)…2-13
6. Aleksandr Tonkov (Hus)…6-7
7. Petar Petrov (Kaw)…5-8
8. Jeremy Seewer (Suz)…10-6
9. Max Anstie (Kaw)…11-5
10. Vselvold Brylyakov (Hon)…11-11
Other notables: 11. Roberts Justs; 13. Julien Lieber; 14. Benoit Paturel; 17. Jens Getteman; 19. Maxime Desprey.


(After 8 of 18 races)
1. Max Nagl…332
2. Tony Cairoli…313
3. Clement Desalle…291
4. Romain Febvre…282
5. Gautier Paulin…252
6. Evgeny Bobryshev…247
7. Shaun Simpson…169
8. Todd Waters…138
9. Glenn Coldenhoff…134
10. Ken de Dycker…133
Other notables: 11. Tyla Rattray; 12. Jeremy Van Horebeek; 13. Ryan Villopoto; 14. David Philippaerts; 15. Dean Ferris; 18. Mike Alessi.


(After 8 of 18 races)
1. Jeffrey Herlings…358
2. Valentin Guillod…246
3. Pauls Jonass…245
4. Jordi Tixier…229
5. Aleksandr Tonkov…218
6. Tim Gajser…209
7. Jeremy Seewer…208
8. Dylan Ferrandis…205
9. Julien Lieber…184
10. Max Anstie…183
Other notables: 12. Thomas Covngton; 13. Benoit Paturel; 15. Robert Justs; 20. Mel Pocock; 21. Ben Watson;  27. Harri Kullas.

There’s a slight break in the MXGP schedule, with the next round in Maggiora, Italy, taking place on June 14th. This will be the second of three MXGP rounds held in Italy. As always, remember that this race report was brought to you by the perfectionists at Moto-Master. You’ll be happy that a brake company takes so much time and care in making brakes that are more than good enough for your moto steed. Visit them at Thanks for reading, mon ami.

Photos by Massimo Zanzani, HRC Honda and Suzuki

Grand Prixjeffrey herlingsJOHN BASHERmoto-mastermotocrossmotocross actionmxaMXGPrace reportromain febvrevalentin guillod