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EUROPE, KEGUMS (Latvia) 12 May 2018 – The 2018 MXGP of Latvia is off and running with the Qualifying races of the FIM Motocross World Championship being led from start to finish by Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jeffrey Herlings and Jorge Prado!
With a new track layout and new first turn today’s races were action packed from the very start. The new and longer right hand first turn left riders banging bars for position as they relied on only their front brakes for stopping power.
The track layout quickly became technical for all the riders especially those of the EMX classes, EMX250 and EMX125 Presented by FMF Racing. In EMX250 Race 1 Estonia’s Karel Kutsar led the first 12 laps before Honda Redmoto Assomotor’s Mathys Boisrame took the lead. Boisrame who started in 3rd passed KTM Silver Action’s Gianluca Facchetti for second on lap 3 then after his pass on Kutsar took the race win.
In the first race of EMX125 presented by FMF Racing it was Yamaha Europe EMX125’s Thibault Benistant who took over the lead from fast starter Emil Jonrup after 5 laps. Jonrup then lost 2nd to Raivo Dankers and 3rd to Rene Hofer before a big crash left him to finish 31st. Dankers applied pressure to Benistant throughout the remainder of the race but couldn’t get by the young French rider. At the finish Benistant won over Dankers and Hofer.
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MXGP’s Saturday racing was full of impressive action, mostly from Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jeffrey Herlings. Setting an unmatched pace in every session today Herlings left many wondering how. In Free Practice Herlings was 3 seconds a lap faster than the rest of the field and almost 2 seconds quicker in Time Practice.
At the start of Qualifying Herlings lined up in the furthest inside gate and charged into the first turn with the Holeshot, behind the “Bullet” was Monster Energy Kawasaki Factory Racing’s Clement Desalle and Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP’s Romain Febvre.
With Herlings in the lead many looked to find out where his title rival and defending MXGP Champion, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Antonio Cairoli was placed. Cairoli came across the first timing sector in 24th position after a first turn crash with Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Gautier Paulin, Team Honda Redmoto Assomotor’s Arminas Jasikonis, BOS GP’s Evgeny Bobryshev, and more.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Glenn Coldenhoff was also riding well from the start fighting for 4th position. Team HRC’s Tim Gajser who started outside the top five moved past Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP’s Jeremy Van Horebeek along with Coldenhoff by the end of the 6th lap.
Gajser’s fill-in HRC teammate Todd Waters was running an impressive 8th and closing in on Wilvo Yamaha Official MXGP’s Jeremy Sewer who ran 7th when a crash took Waters out of racing and left the Australian with a fractured collar bone and the unlucky Team HRC again down to 1 MXGP rider.
Herlings gapped Desalle and Febvre as they battled over 2nd and Gajser ending up taking advantage catching the pair before passing Febvre for 3rd. Cairoli meanwhile was making impressive work of the field calmly passing his way up to 7th with 2 laps to go.
On the penultimate lap Gajser crashed dropping him to 7th while Cairoli passed Coldenhoff for 5th and then both Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP riders, Van Horebeek and Febvre on the last lap. Cairoli’s amazing comeback to third place from well outside the top 20 was however overshadowed by the massive Herlings win where he was nearly 4 seconds a lap faster on average then 2nd place, finishing 50 seconds ahead of Desalle in 2nd.
Jeffrey Herlings in the Press Conference said: “It was a walk in the park today but it doesn’t mean anything for tomorrow, it is a gnarly track and a lot of things can happen as you could see in the pile up on the first turn. I feel I am really one with the bike here on this track and my confidence is growing, I definitely had a good start, I had another Holeshot so that was pretty nice and I could just do my own thing.”
MXGP Qualifying Race Top Ten: 1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 25:15.963; 2. Clement Desalle (BEL, Kawasaki), +0:50.350; 3. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:52.955; 4. Romain Febvre (FRA, Yamaha), +0:53.967; 5. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), +0:56.432; 6. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), +0:59.992; 7. Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda), +1:01.824; 8. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, Yamaha), +1:02.220; 9. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Husqvarna), +1:03.219; 10. Maximilian Nagl (GER, TM), +1:09.757
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The MX2 class Qualifying Race was also a testament to the importance of a strong start on the Kegums circuit. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Pauls Jonass is the clear home fan favorite and rightfully so as the Latvian leads the MX2 Championship. However when the gate dropped it was Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jorge Prado who took the Holeshot and early lead.
Similar to the MXGP start, the MX2 riders tried to manage their way through the first turn without making mistakes, it was not the case however as Jonass went down along with Team HRC’s Calvin Vlaanderen, F&H Racing Team’s Jed Beaton, and last year’s MXGP of Latvia’s overall MX2 winner, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Thomas Kjer Olsen.
Taking full advantage of the start was not only Prado, who created a gap which he maintained over all 12 laps, but Hitachi KTM UK’s Conrad Mewse who was in second behind Prado the first 6 laps.
The first to pass Mewse was Kemea Yamaha Official MX2’s Ben Watson. Watson, who just scored his career first podium in Russia, has now achieved his career’s best Qualifying result. Following the moves of Watson and taking a position away from Mewse was Honda 114 Motorsport’s Hunter Lawrence. Lawrence maintained 3rd position to the finish in a strong return from a hand injury which he suffered in Trentino’s practice sessions.
STC Racing Husqvarna’s Henry Jacobi also had a good qualifying race running third early before be passed by both Watson and Lawrence on the same lap. Jacobi ended up finishing in 6th just behind Kemea Yamaha Official MX2’s Jago Geerts and ahead of Olsen who came back to 7th.
Pauls Jonass was only able to recover to 12th place and later stated: “It is always nice to race at home but for sure it is always a little extra pressure. I have been racing here already for 4 years in the GPs and every year on Saturday I struggle. Saturdays are not the best for me and this year it was the same, I crashed on the start and the first laps I actually rode ok but after I got tight and had a little arm pump but tomorrow is a new day, I’m feeling positive for tomorrow.”
Jorge Prado shared: “It was a good qualifying race, I took the Holeshot so that made it easier… I rode pretty good and smooth the whole time so I’m really happy about that and I like the new layout. Last year I lost the podium on the last lap, this year my fitness is way better and I will not lose it in the last laps for sure. I am tight in the points with Pauls and yeah I will train to gain some points tomorrow.”
Thomas Kjer Olsen: “I went down in the first corner, made it pretty tough on myself throughout the race, I just wanted to see how far I could come back and I came back to 7th which I’m really happy with. My riding was really good and I felt smooth, the track is really fun out there, I enjoy this kind of soil and the way that the track develops. I actually felt really good and I got somewhat of a decent spot of the gate tomorrow so hopefully I can pull out two good starts and be up there.”
MX2 Qualifying Race Top Ten: 1. Jorge Prado (ESP, KTM), 24:09.314; 2. Ben Watson (GBR, Yamaha), +0:06.149; 3. Hunter Lawrence (AUS, Honda), +0:16.130; 4. Conrad Mewse (GBR, KTM), +0:18.654; 5. Jago Geerts (BEL, Yamaha), +0:25.607; 6. Henry Jacobi (GER, Husqvarna), +0:31.270; 7. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, Husqvarna), +0:42.455; 8. Ruben Fernandez (ESP, Kawasaki), +0:44.122; 9. Alvin Östlund (SWE, Yamaha), +0:46.279; 10. Calvin Vlaanderen (RSA, Honda), +0:47.834