MOTO-MASTER PRESENTS THE MXGP OF ITALY RACE REPORT
By John Basher
The MXGP series passed the halfway point, and the scenic and historic Maggiora circuit was a welcome sight for many racers. Unfortunately Mother Nature dampened a pristine track with a deluge on Sunday. Maggiora will be remembered as the first true mud race of the MXGP season, as well as the site of Tony Cairoli’s misfortune.
It’s no secret that the 450 field is depleted thanks to a barrage of injuries. In less than two months the series has suffered losses–either periodic or long-term–with Kevin Strijbos (Argentina), Ryan Villopoto (Trentino), Jeremy van Horebeek (Trentino), Clement Desalle (France), and now possibly Tony Cairoli. Maggiora was a proving ground for some, while others suffered on a slick, slot-car-like quagmire of a course that allowed for little error. Just ask the handful of 250 and 450 riders that slogged around in an effort to maintain some semblance of relevance, but instead were indistinguishable thanks to a thick coat of mud after sliding around Maggiora.
They say that mud is a great equalizer. In retrospect, mud is like betting the house on red and crossing your fingers. It’s an iffy proposition, even for those experienced in the wet stuff. However, several riders had no trouble shining on an otherwise ominous day. Nor did the dark and foreboding Italian sky dampen the spirits of the throngs of diehard spectators. Maybe, just maybe, those folks are the reason why Alessandro Lupino collected a 450-career best moto finish or Romain Febvre rebounded from a violent second moto spill to claw through the pack and take his second consecutive 450 overall. Or maybe the valor of racing was too exciting to keep a few good men down.
What happened in Maggiora? Read on.
Tony Cairoli crashed. It doesn’t take a statistician to realize that Tony Cairoli is having a tough go of things in 2015. The Italian isn’t as sharp, quick or precise as in past years. Cairoli’s forward progress up the points ladder was marred by a crash in Valkenswaard while aboard his trusty KTM 350SXF. A switch to the 450SXF rejuvenated the Champ, evidenced by overall wins in Spain and Great Britain, as well as a first moto victory in France. Things came unraveled again when Tony got kicked sideways going up a jump face during Saturday’s qualifying race in Maggiora. He went down like a ton of bricks and clutched his left arm while leaving the track. A hospital ride and several X-rays later, Cairoli discovered that he had broken two bones in his left hand. All seemed lost for the defending Champion…except that it is foolish to discount an eight-time GP Champion.
Tony Cairoli lined up to the gate at Maggiora on Sunday and nearly holeshot the first moto. He limped home to seventh. What’s more astonishing is that his chief adversary for the 450 title–Max Nagl–crashed on the opening lap and could only muster 15th. The 19 point lead Nagl had entering Italy was down to an 11-point gap. Would it be possible for the busted-up Italian to take the red plate from Nagl? That would only make sense in a Hollywood movie. Instead Cairoli scored an 18th in the second moto while Nagl finished second. The 11 point difference bloated up to a 30-point advantage for Nagl. Take a look below at a photo that Tony posted from his Instagram account. Ouch.
With Germany this weekend, Tony has six days to get his hand woes figured out before taking on Mr. Germany himself, Max Nagl, in the lion’s den. Click forward to the 4:19 minute mark in the video below to ride on board with Cairoli as he faceplants into the Italian countryside:
Desalle’s done. MXGP Saturday qualifying races seem to be the kiss of death this year. At the previous round in France Clement Desalle dislocated his shoulder in Saturday’s race and couldn’t contend on Sunday. Try as he might, the Belgian had no choice but to sit out the Maggiora round and fall farther down the points ladder. The series can turn on a dime for some riders, and Clement is a prime example of that. Injury is a pitfall of an otherwise great sport, and crashes strike quickly and without warning. Two months ago Desalle was on the top of the MXGP world. He held the red plate for several rounds and looked ready for a title push. Then he dislocated his shoulder and has since spiraled down to oblivion. Who has taken his place in the hierarchy? Romain Febvre.
Romain wins again. There have been numerous reports that MXGP fans have contracted a virus called, “Romainiac Febvre.” Symptoms include a likeness for heelclickers, French accents and winning. At this time there’s no cure. It’s possible that Romainiac Febvre could last clear through September–when the series concludes at Glen Helen.
Febvre shouldn’t have won the Maggiora round. Sure, he slaughtered the field on his 60th anniversary yellow-and-black electric start YZ450F in the first moto, but the Frenchman tossed it away early on in the final moto. However, bent handlebars and a lack of front brake didn’t dissuade Romain from slicing through the pack like a hot knife through brie. He worked up to sixth–good enough for the overall by three points. Febvre’s performance was magnifique!
Strijbos is back. Remember that other Belgian on a Rockstar Suzuki? Kevin Strijbos has stepped up in the absence of Clement Desalle, evidenced by his second moto heroics in Maggiora. He stole victory away from a bewildered Max Nagl on the last lap. Kevin had this to say about his first race back from injury: “I was happy to be back here and with my thumb and my wrist everything was fine. I was pretty happy it rained because I like that a lot.” That’s quite an insightful quote, isn’t it? In all seriousness, it’s nice to see the affable Belgian back on course. Remember that Strijbos is the guy who raced Lakewood and Muddy Creek two years ago, which means that he’s practically American. I’m rooting for the guy.
Tim Gajser wins. Slovenia’s biggest gross domestic export in 2015 is Tim Gajser. He gets shipped around the world and stimulates the small European country’s economy by kicking major tail. Gajser is proof that Slovenia is not to be messed with…especially in matters that concern Italy. Why? Tim Gajser has Italy’s number. He won in Trentino and followed it up by capturing Maggiora on Sunday. He didn’t win a moto this time around, but instead consistency gave him the upper hand in an arm’s race against the “Bullet,” Jeffrey Herlings.
Jeffrey Herlings loses. Secretly Herlings was probably hoping that the track organizers would drop 100 tons of Dutch sand on top of the slick Maggiora circuit on Sunday. It didn’t happen, and Herlings struggled to sixth in the first moto. Conditions improved for the second moto, and Jeffrey was off and running. He lost the overall by two points to Tim Gajser, but the 250 master of moto shouldn’t lose any sleep. Why? He holds a 139-point advantage over Vallentin Guillod and teammate, Pauls Jonass. At this rate Herlings can give up overalls left and right, just as long as he keeps his KTM near the front of the pack. Despite failing to win in Italy, Herlings gained 27 points on the field. At this rate it’s possible for Jeffrey to wrap up the title the next time the series visits Italy.
Who else is worth mentioning from Maggiora? Read on…
Todd Waters – The IceOne Husqvarna teammate to Max Nagl, Waters finally earned top honors on a stacked team. The Aussie went 4-4 for third overall, his first podium in the 450 class. Here’s what he had to say about his day. “It’s hard to talk because of the smile on my face. There was a few emotions, I came past pitlane in the last race and I got a pit board ‘podium position’ so I wanted to stretch those throttle cables and go for it for sure.”
David Philippaerts – It was great to see the Italian finish second in the first moto. David is a shadow of his former self after being hindered with a rash of crashes in recent years, so for Philippaerts to crack the podium is a good sign. Can he build on it?
Gautier Paulin – The Frenchman hasn’t finished where he should be, given that he’s on a factory Honda and was on fire last year after coming back from injury. The good news is that Gautier can win. After all, he was unstoppable in Valkenswaard. The bad news? Valkenswaard was five rounds ago. Paulin finished third in the second moto in Maggiora. He needs to do better.
Jeremy Seewer – The Swiss Mister is building and building. He went 4-3 for third overall. It was his first podium this season. He’s in an intense battle between five other riders for second in points.
Aleksandr Tonkov – A-Ton had a good thing going in Maggiora. He won the first moto by 10 seconds and looked prime and ready to pounce on the overall. Unfortunately the Russian left his brain in the paddock before the second moto. That’s the only justifiable reason for Tonkov to blatantly clean out Pauls Jonass, as well as himself, while running fifth. It ruined his day. Why you mad, bro? Take a look at the take-out below:
Brent Van Doninck – I double-checked that I spelled Van doninck’s name correctly. Why? Maybe it’s because I’ve never heard of the Belgian before. That was my mistake. Brent went 5-7 for fifth overall. Way to go, Mr. Van Doninck.
Valentin Guillod – The train has come off the tracks; I repeat, the train has come off the tracks. Valentin Guillod had been flying high for almost three rounds. He won back-to-back overalls in Spain and Great Britain, and then finished second in the first moto in France. It has been downhill from there. Guillod couldn’t keep himself–or his sweet 60th anniversary yellow edition Yamaha YZ250F–off the ground. The team should have just put brown plastic on Valentin’s bike and call it a day. Regardless, the smooth and stylish Swiss sensation still sits soundly in second in the standings.
450 Class: Romain Febvre (1-6)
Only at a mud race would a rider go 1-6 for the overall. Febvre’s second moto crash, followed by a spectacular ride to the front, will forevermore go down in GP lore as one of the most brazen displays of riding seen in quite some time. Bent handlebars and no front brake couldn’t stop Romain from railing around a course that was part slush/part ice. Febvre now sits alone in third place on the depth chart. It is clear as day as to who the title contenders are as the series passes the halfway mark. Those fortunate few are Max Nagl, Tony Cairoli (30 points back) and Roman Febvre (38 points adrift). Surely things happen, and it’s quite possible for someone like Gautier Paulin (-81) or Evgeny Bobryshev (-90) to close the gap, but it’ll take nothing less than HRC team manager, Roger Harvey, to set booby traps for the 12, 222 and 461 machines next weekend at the MXGP of Germany in Teutschenthal.
250 Class: Tim Gajser (3-2)
At this rate, anyone not named Jeffrey Herlings deserves serious praise. Go go Gajser caressed his Honda CRF250 around the slimy Italian track and was handsomely rewarded. The Slovenian either has good days (such as in Trentino and Maggiora) or bad days (Argentina and Valkenswaard).
CRASH OF THE WEEKEND: ROMAIN FEBVRE GOES DOWN & STILL WINS
Yamaha introduces groundbreaking “Invisible Forcefield” technology on their electric-start YZ450F. How else to explain why the Frenchman didn’t get pummeled by his bike?
MAGGIORA MXGP OUT-TAKES
Jeremy Van Horebeek went 3-7 for fifth overall.Great Britain’s Shaun Simpson collected sixth overall. Gautier Paulin was cold, then hot, in Maggiora. Max Nagl is riding smart and relying on attrition to walk away from the rest of the 450 field.Nevermind the 450 racers. Look at those cool vantage points in the background.Pauls Jonass had a bad day made worse when Aleksandr Tonkov sawed off his front end in the second moto.
Jordi Tixier styled his way to a second place in the first moto. He failed to score points in the final moto.
Do you think it was wet in Maggiora? That’s Thomas Covington (64) sandwiched between Damon Graulus (7) and Valentin Guillod (92). Those 60th anniversary Yamaha YZ250F retro bikes were things of beauty in Italy. The Maggiora track was rather dry for Great Britain’s Max Anstie.Your ride certainly was magnificent, Romain Febvre! Evgeny Bobryshev drifts his million-dollar factory Honda through the Maggiora mud. Glenn Coldenhoff finished 15th. No bueno.
MXGP OF ITALY HIGHLIGHT VIDEO
ITALIAN GRAND PRIX II: 450 CLASS
1. Romain Febvre (Yam)…1-6
2. Kevin Strijbos (Suz)…..9-1
3. Todd Waters (Hus)…4-4
4. David Philippaerts (Yam)…2-7
5. Jeremy Van Horebeek (Yam)…3-9
6. Shaun Simpson (KTM)…6-5
7. Max Nagl (Hus)…15-2
8. Gautier Paulin (Hon)…14-3
9. Evgeny Bobryshev (Hon)…8-11
10. Ken DeDycker (KTM)…12-8
Other notables: 11. Christophe Charlier; 12. Jose Butron; 13. Tony Cairoli; 14. Alessandro Lupino; 15. Glenn Coldenhoff; 18.Tyla Rattray.
ITALIAN GRAND PRIX II: 250 CLASS
1. Tim Gajser (Hon)…3-2
2. Jeffrey Herlings (KTM)…6-1
3. Jeremy Seewer (Suz)…4-3
4. Aleksandr Tonkov (Hus)…1-8
5. Brent Van Doninck (Yam)…5-7
6. Max Anstie (Kaw)…12-4
7. Julien Lieber (Yam)…8-9
8. Petar Petrov (Kaw)…7-11
9. Benoit Paturnel (Yam)…15-5
10. Brian Bogers (KTM)…14-6
Other notables: 12. Jordi Tixier; 13. Pauls Jonass; 14. Valentin Guillod; 15. Ben Watson; 18. Davy Pootjes; 24. Thomas Covington.
2015 FIM 450 POINTS STANDINGS
(After 9 of 18 races)
1. Max Nagl…360
2. Tony Cairoli…330
3. Romain Febvre…322
4. Clement Desalle…291
5. Gautier Paulin…279
6. Evgeny Bobryshev…270
7. Shaun Simpson…200
8. Todd Waters…174
9. Jeremy Van Horebeek…158
10. Ken de Dycker…155
2015 FIM 250 POINTS STANDINGS
(After 9 of 18 races)
1. Jeffrey Herlings…398
2. Valentin Guillod…259
3. Pauls Jonass…259
4. Aleksandr Tonkov…256
5. Tim Gajser…251
6. Jordi Tixier…251
7. Jeremy Seewer…246
8. Max Anstie…210
9. Julien Lieber…209
10. Dylan Ferrandis…205
Tune in next weekend as the Moto-Master MXGP race report covers the German round in Teutschenthal. The ever-changing 2015 series has been the most intriguing in years, despite the loss of Ryan Villopoto early on. Can 450 points leader Max Nagl win in his home country on Sunday? You’ll have to check back here to find out. Until then, take a few minutes to visit www.moto-masterusa.com. They make outstanding brake products for your bike.
Photos by Massimo Zanzani, HRC Honda & KRT Kawasaki