MOTO-MASTER PRESENTS THE MXGP OF THE NETHERLANDS RACE REPORT
By John Basher
The Grand Prix series has featured several pristine tracks, others historic, and a few not fit to hold a local race. It’s easy to pick on Qatar, a horrid circuit that even Giuseppe Luongo admits isn’t up the standards of traditional Grand Prix racing. Others, such as Trentino, are beautiful to the eye but haven’t lived up to their potential due to overuse (I won’t go into the EMX class racing again, since I’ve already beaten a dead horse). There have been several saving graces this season–Valkenswaard, Matterley Basin and Lommel stand out–for a series that traverses across the world and touches on Europe, Asia, South America and North America. While not every racetrack can be a winner, a successful promoter had better make sure that the majority of the venues are a realistic representation of what motocross is. That’s where the debate begins. What constitutes a good motocross track? It depends on the person.
TT Circuit Assen in the Netherlands is a historic road racing circuit, with covered grandstands, a nice paddock and modern media center. It does not, however, have anything to do with motocross. That doesn’t bother Luongo, an admitted admirer of the Feld Motorsports Supercross platform. Giuseppe chose Assen not because of how the track was–after all, Assen was a manmade track–but because of the amenities. Truckloads of Dutch sand were brought in and dumped on top of the road racing circuit and infield. The track wound by the grandstands as droves of spectators watched in comfort of paid seating. A racing purist will strongly disagree about Youthstream’s praising the success of the event. Still, it’s hard to argue that Assen was a flop from an overall assessment of what happened in the Netherlands this weekend. Why? Read on.
There were good and bad things about the manmade track. The good? (1) Motocross is all about the dirt, or in this case, the sand. Luongo was smart to import soft Dutch sand instead of using dirt that could double as road base. The sand saved the race. (2) Diehard fans will brave the elements and stand in a field for hours just to catch a glimpse of their favorite racers. However, not everyone shares that same passion. That’s why covered grandstands were so appealing for casual fans, bleacher bums, parents with small children, and those who abhor getting dirty. (3) A champion was crowned on Sunday. History often overshadows negativity.
Now for the bad. (1) The lap times were too short. In the final moto of the day, when the track was at its roughest, the fast 450 guys were hovering around the 1:33-1:39 lap time range. (2) Forget elevation change, because there wasn’t any. The Netherlands isn’t exactly a sterling example of elevation variation, but even Valkenswaard has several undulations. Assen was flat as a board. (3) Certainly there were layout challenges, but what possessed the course designer to purposely use a right-hand first turn? The poor planning left a number of riders on the ground as the pack surged through the first turn.
No doubt the negatives won’t bother Giuseppe Luongo. Surely he was fist-pumping after the racing concluded, stoked out of his mind to pull one over on the purists by making his manmade track concept work. In 2017 there will likely be 18 Assen-like rounds.
What else happened at the MXGP of Netherlands?
The writing was on the wall as far back as Teutschenthal that 450 rookie, Romain Febvre, was going to be ordained the new 450 Champion. The Frenchman’s excellent scores during the second half the series left the competition fighting for scraps. Febvre’s childhood dream became reality in the second moto at Assen. He won the moto and waited to see where Gautier Paulin finished. Celebration ensued when Paulin ended up fourth, giving Febvre the gap he needed to clinch the title two rounds early. Romain can skip the Mexico GP and check out the ancient pyramids instead, and follow that up with an absence from the USGP in favor of taking one of those Hollywood star tours. Enjoy, Champ!
RED PLATE MUSICAL CHAIRS
The 250 class is far from settled. KTM sensation Pauls Jonass was the red plate holder after Lommel, but a busted front brake in the second moto in Assen left him fighting from the back of the pack. A 13th in the moto for Jonass, combined with a 2-1 day from Tim Gajser, resulted in a red plate exchange. Now Gajser leads the charge by 13 over Jonass heading into the penultimate round. With four motos left, there are five riders who still have a mathematical chance of winning the 250 World Championship–Tim Gajser, Pauls Jonass, Max Anstie, Valentin Guillod and Jeremy Seewer.
What could have been a great day for Max Anstie turned into a wayward affair for the Brit. Anstie moved up to second in the first moto and proceeded to fall while challenging for the lead. He duck-billed the rear fender and could only manage ninth. It was a huge hit to his title hopes. Max won the second moto, but the damage was already done. Anstie needed Tim Gajser and Pauls Jonass to falter. Instead it was Anstie who blinked first. Max sits 44 points adrift of Gajser. It’s possible that he could be mathematically eliminated in Mexico if he doesn’t kick his good moto/bad moto habit.
THE GOOD, THE BAD & THE UGLY
There were outstanding performances, mediocre showings, and downright horrible outings from a few. Who were these lucky (and unlucky)?
The good: Glenn Coldenhoff (450) and Brent Van Doninck (250) made the podium in Assen. For Coldenhoff it was a welcome relief that came after pedestrian results the past few rounds. Van Doninck had never graced the 250 class podium before. It’s nice that new faces grace the podium this late in the season.
The bad: Gautier Paulin (450) has been battling a bum wrist, but earlier in the season he was battling inner demons. Gautier had the first moto win in his grasp, but he couldn’t thwart privateer Shaun Simpson’s advances. A fourth place in the second moto wasn’t enough to stay in the title picture. As for the 250 class, Pauls Jonass got tangled up on the first lap of the second moto and had to get a new front brake. He made the best out of a bad situation by racing back to 13th.
The ugly: 250 racer Valentin Guillod hasn’t been able to keep himself off the ground in the past three races. His best finish was a fourth in a moto during that span. Otherwise he hasn’t been the same rider that he was in Czechoslovakia, Sweden or Great Britain. In the 450 class, the field is looking severely depleted. Who was missing from action in Assen? Tony Cairoli, Clement Desalle, Kevin Strijbos, David Philippaerts, Christophe Charlier and Steven Frossard were off the playbill. Heal up.
FROM THE HORSE’S MOUTH: HRC HONDA MANAGER ROGER HARVEY
“In general it was a good day today. Both Bobby and Gautier showed good speed, enough to win, and Bobby’s speed in race two especially was quite amazing, but then a small mistake cost him. Really we should have been on podium today, but it was a good weekend in general to consolidate second and third in the championship. It was a difficult track and a difficult day for everyone. It’s a unique track for the grand prix series, and the grandstands filled so the atmosphere was great and I think it worked really well.”
TAKE A LAP AROUND THE ARTIFICIAL ASSEN CIRCUIT
450 Class: Shaun Simpson (1-3)
It was the privateer’s second GP win in three races. Simpson has been a revelation, and he’s one of the best in the world in riding deep sand. He sits in fourth place and will likely finish the season in that spot. Be sure to root this gentleman on when he comes to Glen Helen on September 20th, because he was kind enough to race the Unadilla National on an off-weekend. Very cool.
250 Class: Tim Gajser (1-2)
Gajser had to overcome a big crash on Saturday and ho-hum starts on Sunday. He was an animal in the sand, showing the world that he is primed and ready to be the 2015 title holder. Assen was Tim’s fifth overall win this year.
ROMAIN FEBVRE: 2015 450 WORLD CHAMPION
MASSIMO ZANZANI’S NETHERLANDS PHOTO GALLERY
MXGP OF NETHERLANDS HIGHLIGHTS VIDEO
NETHERLANDS GRAND PRIX FINAL RESULTS: 450 CLASS
1. Shaun Simpson (KTM)…1-3
2. Romain Febvre (Yam)…5-1
3. Glenn Coldenhoff (Suz)…4-2
4. Gautier Paulin (Hon)…2-4
5. Evgeny Bobryshev (Hon)…3-5
6. Max Nagl (Hus)…6-6
7. Jeremy Van Horebeek (Yam)…7-7
8. Todd Waters (Hus)…9-9
9. Dean Ferris (Hus)…8-11
10. Jose Butron (KTM)…14-8
Other notables: 11. Nathan Watson; 12. Jeffrey Dewulf; 14. Filip Bengtsson; 16. Tyla Rattray; 20. Stuart Edmonds; 27. Kyle Engle (USA)
NETHERLANDS GRAND PRIX FINAL RESULTS: 250 CLASS
1. Tim Gajser (Hon)…1-2
2. Max Anstie (Kaw)…9-1
3. Brent Van Doninck (Yam)…4-4
4. Julien Lieber (Yam)…3-6
5. Jeremy Seewer (Suz)…10-3
6. Pauls Jonass (KTM)…2-13
7. Harri Kullas (Hus)…5-8
8. Benoit Paturel (Yam)…7-7
9. Thomas Covington (Kaw)…6-11
10. Brian Bogers (KTM)…11-9
Other notables: 11. Ben Watson; 12. Petar Petrov; 13. Henry Jacobi; 14. Valentin Guillod; 15. Davy Pootjes
2015 FIM 450 POINTS STANDINGS
(After 16 of 18 races)
1. Romain Febvre…638
2. Gautier Paulin…536
3. Evgeny Bobryshev…499
4. Shaun Simpson…437
5. Tony Cairoli…416
6. Max Nagl…414
7. Jeremy Van Horebeek…394
8. Glenn Coldenhoff…361
9. Clement Desalle…331
10. Todd Waters…324
2015 FIM 250 POINTS STANDINGS
(After 16 of 18 races)
1. Tim Gajser…518
2. Pauls Jonass…505
3. Max Anstie…474
4. Valentin Guillod…446
5. Jeremy Seewer…440
6. Jeffrey Herlings…423
7. Jordi Tixier…393
8. Julien Lieber…391
9. Benoit Paturel…320
10. Petar Petrov…301
There’s a two-week hiatus in the MXGP series before things heat up in North America as the boys of Grand Prix race in Leon, Mexico. The title is wrapped up in the 450 class, but the 250 class is still going at a fever pitch for the title. Will it be Gajser, Jonass or Anstie? Tune in next time to find out how the drama will play out. In the meantime, do your bike a favor and visit www.moto-masterusa.com to browse a list of performance products for your trusty steed. Thanks for reading the MXGP race report, sponsored by Moto-Master.
Photos by Massimo Zanzani, HRC Honda and Rockstar Suzuki.