Herlings takes the win and the championship lead!
Herlings takes the win and the championship lead!
Words and pictures Jonathan McCready
The most impressive thing about the Dutch GP was just how much racing was packed into the two days. With EMX150, EMX125, WMX plus MX2 and MXGP, the huge enthusiastic crowd certainly got their money’s worth over the two days. The first bikes hit the track at 8am on Saturday and finished at 6pm with the EMX125 first moto. Then on Sunday, the bikes hit the track again at 8:20am and the final MXGP race was not over until after half-five.
The track itself was beat up badly. And to see just how Cairoli and Herlings pick the track apart makes it a privilege to be there. Both riders are incredible in the sand, although both have slightly different styles. Cairoli hops, skips, and jumps his way around the place and is very light on the bike. Herlings has a more aggressive, forceful way around the track using his legs to put the back wheel exactly where he wants it.
Herlings of course had the fastest lap times of the weekend and even admitted after that he was finally happy with his riding. The Dutch crowd almost sat back in expectant admiration of their hero before giving him a huge ovation on the last lap of the GP, to express their appreciation of just how incredibly good their countryman is.
Herlings dominated both motos of MX2 as Arnaud Tonus lost the championship lead after crashing twice in race one.
Tonus lost the red plate
Tonus came from dead last to 12th in a very good ride, and went from fourth to second in a blinding last-lap in race two. Unfortunately, he still came away from Holland fifteen points down. The next two races in Spain and GB will be key for Tonus to win if he wants to stay in the hunt for this title.
Romain Febvre and Jordi Tixier rounded out the podium. Tixier was probably the second fastest rider on the track, but a crash while in second during race two dropped him to third on the podium. Tixier however, is starting to show the form he had last season. Febrve just continues to improve and his sand riding has went up a gear in 2014. The factory Husky rider is now third in the championship and is having a superb season.
Thomas Covington had a big learning curve all weekend to get used to sand and the nuances it takes to go fast. In the first moto he crashed and scored no points, but in the second moto Covington finally found his groove and rode into the top ten. He faded just a tad in the last ten minutes after a very aggressive first 15, where it looked like the American put all his frustrations of the last few GPs into a frantic first few laps. Covington still finished a fine 11th, and with his continued good attitude and obvious determination, he will be continuing to learn and improve throughout the season and should be back in the top ten soon.
Herlings wasn’t the only Dutchman the home fans had to cheer for! Davy Pootjes was superb in the EMX125 division and Rick Elzinga went 1-2 in the EMX150 class. Both Elzinga and Finland’s Jere Haavisto were on another level in the Honda 150 series, and both were seriously impressive in Holland doing lap times three to four seconds quicker than everyone else.
But not all the fans were from Holland. There were sporadic British flags dotted across the track, and of course, the Belgians were out in force to support Van Horebeek, Desalle, Strijbos and company.
Van Horebeek only lives 20 minutes away from the track across the border, and in some ways, this was as much of a home GP for him as the Dutch guys! Van Horebeek got on the podium again to the delight of his fans but admitted it was a bit of extra pressure too!
Van Horebeek was on the podium again
But it was Cairoli who again stole the show, and he didn’t even win the first moto! The Italian sand-master damaged his front wheel on the first lap of race one, and slowed down, but still led the race until the last lap when he had to admit defeat and crawl round the track to prevent the wobbling front wheel from collapsing altogether! Cairoli pulled holeshot in race two and put in three blistering laps to establish a ten second lead, where he then just controlled his lead for the rest of the race.
Cairoli won despite a broken front wheel
It was glory that turned into pain for poor Gautier Paulin. The Frenchman, who is very good in the sand, took advantage of Cairoli’s front wheel problem in race one to take the win, and he looked determined to win the overall in race two. But Paulin started about fifth in the second moto, and with Cairoli and Van Horebeek 1-2, Paulin needed to get to second to win the GP. He was pushing hard immediately on lap one to make up the ground when he went over the bars and broke his collarbone and his thumb. Paulin’s world championship aspirations are now in tatters and he will miss the next few weeks of racing. It is another blow to the series that has failed to see a full line up of factory riders in a single MXGP round all season.
Yamaha’s Jeremy Van Horebeek is having the best season of his career and now sits second in points. But the Belgian still just doesn’t have the self-confidence to believe he can challenge Cairoli. Van Horebeek should win a GP very soon; the kid has been a revelation this season.
Privateer Joel Roelants also deserves a shout-out for getting fifth overall in a very competitive class. The former MX2 race winner and factory rider is really rebuilding his career this season, and once he gets his starts sorted out, he could be in the top five more often.
Rattray wasn’t on the pace in Holland
But the stand out thing that sticks in your head coming away from a track as tough as Valkenswaard is the sheer skill of the GP riders to let the bike work under them as they navigate the ever-changing bumps and ruts on the track. They turn bumps into doubles and creating new lines continuously that mere mortals don’t even see. It forces you to come away with that burning question – just how do they do that?
MXGP Overall top ten: 1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 45 points; 2. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, YAM), 42 p.; 3. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, SUZ), 37 p.; 4. Clement Desalle (BEL, SUZ), 36 p.; 5. Joel Roelants (BEL, HON), 29 p.; 6. Tyla Rattray (RSA, HUS), 28 p.; 7. Steven Frossard (FRA, KAW), 26 p.; 8. Gautier Paulin (FRA, KAW), 25 p.; 9. Tanel Leok (EST, TM), 20 p.; 10. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, HON), 19 p.
MXGP World Championship Classification Top Ten: 1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 267 points; 2. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, YAM), 236 p.; 3. Clement Desalle (BEL, SUZ), 230 p.; 4. Gautier Paulin (FRA, KAW), 205 p.; 5. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, SUZ), 182 p.; 6. Maximilian Nagl (GER, HON), 166 p.; 7. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, HON), 114 p.; 8. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), 113 p.; 9. Joel Roelants (BEL, HON), 112 p.; 10. Xavier Boog (FRA, HON), 108 p.
MX2 Overall top ten: 1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 50 points; 2. Romain Febvre (FRA, HUS), 40 p.; 3. Jordi Tixier (FRA, KTM), 38 p.; 4. Valentin Guillod (SUI, KTM), 32 p.; 5. Arnaud Tonus (SUI, KAW), 31 p.; 6. Dylan Ferrandis (FRA, KAW), 31 p.; 7. Aleksandr Tonkov (RUS, HUS), 29 p.; 8. Jose Butron (ESP, KTM), 26 p.; 9. Julien Lieber (BEL, SUZ), 25 p.; 10. Tim Gajser (SLO, HON), 24 p.
MX2 World Championship Classification Top Ten: 1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 244 points; 2. Arnaud Tonus (SUI, KAW), 229 p.; 3. Romain Febvre (FRA, HUS), 198 p.; 4. Dylan Ferrandis (FRA, KAW), 185 p.; 5. Jordi Tixier (FRA, KTM), 185 p.; 6. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, SUZ), 176 p.; 7. Aleksandr Tonkov (RUS, HUS), 159 p.; 8. Tim Gajser (SLO, HON), 145 p.; 9. Valentin Guillod (SUI, KTM), 139 p.; 10. Jose Butron (ESP, KTM), 131 p.