By John Basher
Valkenswaard, Netherlands, marked round five of the MXGP series. While the previous round in Italy was sun-baked hardpack track, Valkenswaard is uniquely different thanks to the heavy sand that comprises the undulating circuit. A slight hill offers great vistas for the spectators, who came from places such as Italy, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, France and other distant countries to watch Ryan Villopoto do battle with Tony Cairoli, Max Nagl and Clement Desalle. The problem? Villopoto didn’t line up. Of course that’s old news now, but up until Friday evening there was hope that RV would suit up and keep his championship hopes alive. Unfortunately Ryan had to rest a broken tailbone and watch as his chief competitors jetted away with valuable points.
Given that Valkenswaard is a sand track, the tricky terrain was better for some–notably Jeffrey Herlings. The Dutch sand master had a string of five straight Valkenswaard GP victories. His riding style in the sand is perfection in motion. On Sunday under mostly dark skies, Herlings and his gold-colored Alpinestar Tech 10 boots shone brightly for what was a massacre of epic proportions. In the first moto Jeffrey got off to a good start, tucked in right behind Aleksandr Tonkov, and made his way around with nary a problem. He couldn’t be touched, amassing a 42-second lead by race end. In the second moto Herlings didn’t get quite the start that he wanted, but “The Bullet” went to work. A few laps in he was making progress, and then disaster struck. Herlings tucked his front end in the deep sand and lost valuable positions. For a few laps it looked like Jeffrey would be shut out of a sixth straight victory. That’s when he hit the afterburners and blew by the 250 riders like they were wobbly-legged nervous Novices. He straight up embarrassed guys like Dylan Ferrandis, Pauls Jonass and Jordi Tixier. The only rider capable of pulling off the massive upset was Aleksandr Tonkov. However, Tonkov would’ve had to hop in the DeLorean, travel back to 1994 when Herlings was born, and send him in a basket down the Nile. By the way, Herlings won the second moto by over 27 seconds.
It was a foregone conclusion that Jeffrey Herlings was going to win the 250 GP. Fortunately the action in the 450 class was much more exciting. It included dominant performances by a first time winner in 2015, as well as a shake-up in the point standings and an ugly crash from the eight-time Champion. Below is a list of players, and how their day in the Netherlands went:
Gautier Paulin: Truth be told, the start of the 2015 season wasn’t going well for Paulin or his new employer, HRC Honda. Paulin was a series challenger in previous seasons, but for one reason or another (usually injuries) the wheels came off the track at some point. In what was GP musical chairs, Gautier inherited Max Nagl’s spot at Honda, while Nagl joined the Kimi Raikkonen’s IceOne Husqvarna team, and Ryan Villopoto took Paulin’s place at Kawasaki. From the onset it seemed that Honda made the wrong choice. Why? For starters, the outcasted Max Nagl won three of the first four Grand Prix rounds. Even Ryan Villopoto, a guy who was never going to leave Kawasaki for greener pastures, took Paulin’s old bike to the top of the podium in Thailand. Then a strange thing happened. Gautier Paulin won the 450 qualifying race on Saturday afternoon in Valkenswaard. Maybe he likes the sand. Maybe he’s coming to terms with the Honda. Maybe he woke up on the right side of the bed. Whatever it was, the rejuvenated Paulin kept on winning when the starting gate dropped on Sunday. He was flawless, pure and simple. As a result, Gautier’s 1-1 performance boosted him up to fourth in the point standings and somewhat back in the championship hunt (if you count 36 points adrift being back in the hunt).
Max Nagl: How unusual it is for a three-time winner to not be in the points lead, but that’s exactly what Max Nagl dealt with after Thailand and Trentino. The reason? Nagl was off the pace and appeared to practically melt in the blistering heat of Thailand. He returned to form in Trentino and won the overall, but Clement Desalle still held a one-point advantage. That all changed in Valkenswaard. He didn’t win.Truth be told, Max Nagl rides like a horse jockey. His small stature and Valkenswaard’s deep braking bumps don’t make for a good combination. At times he fought the mighty Husqvarna, but he held strong until the bitter end. Late in the second moto he closed the gap on Gautier Paulin. Then, with a crack of the throttle, Paulin opened the gap back up. Certainly Nagl wants to win every Grand Prix, but on this day second place was enough. He took the red plate away from Desalle and has a five-point advantage heading into Spain.
Clement Desalle: Valkenswaard will probably be a weekend that Desalle would like to forget, but that’s because he had a terrible result in Saturday’s qualifier and could only muster a third place overall on Sunday. I say “only” because Desalle is from Belgium, which is a hop, skip and a jump from Valkenswaard. The guy knows how to rip turns in the sand. As they say, riders win titles by minimizing damage when they’re not performing at their best. That’s precisely what Clement did. Perhaps the weight of carrying the red plate has been lifted from his broad shoulders. Time is a telling tale.
Tony Cairoli: Tony, Tony, Tony! The maestro of GP motocross went down in a ball of flames this weekend. He swapped out before the finish line in the first moto and hit the deck like a sack of potatoes. The impact resulted in bent bars and a severely damaged KTM. Failing to continue, the Italian watched as his title hopes took a serious hit. Scored in 28th, Tony failed to score a single point. One would have guessed that Cairoli, no stranger to limiting a damaging weekend by mounting a second moto comeback, was going to win the second moto and begin making up the points gap in quick order. However, Cairoli was a shell of his healthy self. He was nursing a banged up shoulder and came away with seventh place. Tony will have to climb out of a 30-point hole, and he has the next 13 races to do so.
250 GP NOTES
* Jeffrey Herlings was the fastest rider all day long. I’m not just talking about the 250 class, but out of the entire program. Detractors will point out that the 250’s race before the 450 field in both motos, making the track rougher and thus slower for the bigger bikes. A counter-argument could be made that the 250 machines have a tougher time slogging through the sand compared to the high-powered 450s. Let’s call it a draw. The fastest times below (250 and 450 class combined) suggests that the track crew smoothed out a few sections before the second 250 moto. However, Herlings logged the fastest lap of the day in the first moto. There’s no disputing that Jeffrey is the king of Valkenswaard.
1. Jeffrey Herlings (250, moto 1)…1:51.198
2. Jeffrey Herlings (250, moto 2)…1:51.491
3. Pauls Jonass (250, moto 2)…1:51.659
4. Aleksandr Tonkov (250, moto 2)…1:52.298
5. Gautier Paulin (450, moto 2)…1:52.330
6. Brian Bogers (250, moto 2)…1:53.036
7. Jordi Tixier (250, moto 2)…1:53.162
8. Max Nagl (450, moto 2)…1:53.258
9. Gautier Paulin (450, moto 1)…1:53.362
10. Dylan Ferrandis (250, moto 2)…1:53.513
* Just as John Dowd and Doug Henry were the local hotshots at Southwick before they ever achieved success on the National level, Valkenswaard was very good to the locals. Brian Bogers (Netherlands, 6-5 for fourth overall) and Jens Getteman (Belgium, 12-8 for ninth overall) made great use of home field advantage.
* Dylan Ferrandis had a relatively good day…that is until he karate kicked Pauls Jonass while trying to pass the KTM rider by the mechanic’s area. The FIM docked Ferrandis ten positions. It dropped him from third in the moto to 13th. Otherwise he would have finished third overall.
* There’s a small pond at the front part of the track with a very nice water feature. Unfortunately for Brit Ben Watson, it’s located to the right of the second turn. In fact, if a rider missed the first turn then he’d end up in the drink. Poor Ben was bumped too far outside and went swimming. He soldiered on, and though he didn’t score points in the first moto, he finished 19th in the second moto.
450 GP NOTES
* Valkenswaard was a season-best for quite a few riders. At the top of the list was Evgeny Bobryshev, who went 3-4 for fourth overall. He tied with Clement Desalle on points, but Desalle got the nod due to a better second moto score. As for other riders that performed well in the sand, Shaun Simpson, Glenn Coldenhoff and Tyla Rattray seemed to enjoy the beach.
* Who moved up in the overall point standings? Take a look below:
Rider Name……..Position Before….Position After Valkenswaard
Ken de Dycker……….15…………………………11
* What are Ryan Villopoto’s chances of winning the 450 Grand Prix title? By my estimation he has somewhere between a slim to zero percent chance. He now trails current leader, Max Nagl, by 90 points. Let’s say that he wins every moto from here on out and Nagl finishes second in every moto. Villopoto would gain 78 points. The pressure is off for Villopoto, and maybe he will have a change of heart about retiring after this season given that the 2015 title is out of his grasp. Will he return next year? A year of GP racing under his belt would do wonders. Or he could retire with the millions of dollars that he has accumulated over nearly a dozen years of racing professionally.
GRAND PRIX PHOTO GALLERY
CRASH VIDEO: TONY CAIROLI’S FIRST MOTO ENDO
VALKENSWAARD GRAND PRIX HIGHLIGHT VIDEO
Watch Ferrandis kick Jonass by the mechanic’s area at 3:13 into the video
VALKENSWAARD GP RESULTS: 450 CLASS
1. Gautier Paulin (Hon)…1-1
2. Max Nagl (Hus)….2-2
3. Clement Desalle (Suz)…4-3
4. Evgeny Bobryshev (Hon)…3-4
5. Shaun Simpson (KT)…5-6
6. Tyla Rattray (Kaw)…6-8
7. Romain Febvre (Yam)…10-5
8. Ken DeDycker (KTM)… 8-9
9. Glenn Coldenhoff (Suz)…7-10
10. Tommy Searle (KTM)…12-11
Other notables: 11.Tony Cairoli; 12. Dean Ferris; 13. Todd Waters; 14. Xavier Boog; 15. Filip Bengtsson; 16. Steven Frossard.
VALKENSWAARD GP RESULTS: 250 CLASS
1. Jeffrey Herlings (KTM)…1- 1
2. Jordi Tixier (Kaw)…3-3
3. Aleksandr Tonkov (Hus)…4-2
4. Brian Bogers (KTM)…6-5
5. Valentin Guillod (Yam)…11-4
6. Jeremy Seewer (Suz)…9-7
7. Dylan Ferrandis (Kaw)…4-13
8. Brent Van Doninck (Yam)…10-9
9. Jens Getteman (Hon)…12-8
10. Max Anstie (Kaw)…2-30
Other notables: 11. Julien Lieber; 12. Benoit Paturel; 13. Thomas Covington; 14. Pauls Jonass; 16. Petr Petrov; 17. Tim Gajser.
2015 FIM 450 POINTS STANDINGS
(After 5 of 18 races)
1. Max Nagl….214
2. Clement Desalle…209
3. Tony Cairoli…184
5. Gautier Paulin…178
4. Romain Febvre…156
6. Evgeny Bobryshev…138
7. Ryan Villopoto…124
8. Shaun Simpson…98
9. Todd Waters…92
10. Glenn Coldenhoff…860
2015 FIM 250 POINTS STANDINGS
(After 5 of 18 races)
1. Jeffrey Herlings….222
2. Dylan Ferrandis…185
3. Pauls Jonass…148
4. Tim Gajser…137
5. Aleksandr Tonkov…133
6. Valentin Guillod…129
7. Jeremy Seewer…125
8. Julien Lieber…121
9. Jordi Tixier…115
10. Thomas Covington…102
The Grand Prix series heads to Talavera de la Reina, Spain, in two weekends. A special thanks to the great folks at Moto-Master for making this race report happen. If you’re interested in stopping power and superb modulation then be sure to visit www.moto-masterusa.com. Thanks for reading.