Monday 17th December: Tracks Closed.

GP of Mexico Preview

FIM MX World Champs 2016

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After being wowed by the MXGP of Patagonia Argentina last weekend where the racing was top notch, particularly in the premier class, we’ve landed in Leon, Mexico, where the fifth round of theFIM Motocross World Championship will take place.

This weekend is the third time in succession that the MXGP has been here in town. In recent times this round of the series took place near the end of the calendar, but after the mud fest last year and since September is rainy season for this area of the world, the round has been shifted forward for a more stable climate where the risk of rain has been massively reduced.

Interestingly, the MXGP of Leon has never been won by the same rider twice, not only in the MXGP class but also in MX2. In 2014 it was Gautier Paulin and Jordi Tixier who were able to do the victory dance, while last year it was Romain Febvre and Thomas Covington. Judging by the previous rounds and the result patterns of the MXGP of Leon, we are in for a hard-core awesome round of racing.

Honda Gariboldi’s Tim Gajser took a decent chunk out of Febvre’s lead in Argentina & has good memories of Mexico where he won his first ever MX2 race back in 2014. The nineteen-year-old Slovenian impressively has a 50% win rate in MXGP at the moment having won four from the eight races thus far, and two from four grand prix overalls. ‘Tiga’ really likes the track in Mexico and judging by the pace he’s running at the moment, is probably a good rider to put your chips on.

Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Max Nagl has lined up at the last two rounds a seemingly new man. He’s been fast and aggressive out on track and that paid off with the German taking his first race win of the 2016 season in race one last weekend. Although he was bummed he didn’t take the overall win in Patagonia, Max is feeling positive for this round in Mexico since the track is said to be one of his favourites.

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Antonio Cairoli is known for his methodical approach to the championship. Just like he has done over the previous years, he is racking up consistent results. After a thirteen round podium drought, TC222 bounced back for third overall last weekend and quietly snuck into third place in the championship standings. The Italian star missed the MXGP of Leon last year due to injury, but was second overall the year before and should be in good shape to land on the box once again this weekend.

A rough day in the office saw Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Romain Febvre break his astonishing sixteen round podium streak. Even though he went down in both races last weekend, it never broke his stride and he bounced back for a respectable fourth overall. At the MXGP of Leon last year, Febvre had already wrapped up the title, he only need to cruise for the rest of the season. Instead he went out in race one and obliterated everyone to win by a whopping forty-five seconds. To put that into perspective, everyone remembers Ryan Villopoto winning the MXGP of Thailand qualifier by an astonishing thirty-three seconds. Well, add ten more seconds to that gap, and that’s what Febvre did here last year. Amazing.

Last but not least, there is the heroic Shaun Simpson who is doing it for the satellite teams onboard his Wilvo Virus Performance KTM. Simpson was second here last year so we can’t count him out for another top five or podium performance. Also we can’t forget Team HRC’s Evgeny Bobryshev who actually won the Tag Heuer fastest lap last weekend, which means he was the fastest rider in the world on that day but a couple of strokes of bad luck meant he would finish outside the top five.

2015 MXGP of Leon MXGP Top 3

1. Romain Febvre

2. Shaun Simpson

3. Evgeny Bobryshev

MXGP Championship Top 10: 1. Romain Febvre (FRA, YAM), 172 points; 2. Tim Gajser (SLO, HON), 169 p.; 3. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 144 p.; 4. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, YAM), 138 p.; 5. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, HON), 134 p.; 6. Maximilian Nagl (GER, HUS), 125 p.; 7. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), 105 p.; 8. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, SUZ), 103 p.; 9. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), 82 p.; 10. Tommy Searle (GBR, KAW), 74 p.

        

Every now and then the sport turns out a one of a kind talent, and it just leaves everyone scratching their heads as to how he can ride the way he does. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jeffrey Herlings is one of them. Don’t take anything away from the rest of MX2, those kids are hauling too, Jeffrey is just on another level at the moment. While The Bullet is running on pure confidence, and he rides at a pace that makes people question if he is even human, he has proved in the past he is real and he can make mistakes and those mistakes have been his undoing. Because of those mistakes, Herlings has never won here in Leon, although he did win the hearts of most when he attempted to race in 2014 with a broken femur. It was obvious he was in pain, he could barely walk, but that is what being world champion meant to him. Maybe that is the difference? Maybe he wants it more than anyone else. Either way, if he keeps riding the way he is and manages to keep a cool head, he should be able to wrap up his third MX2 world title this year.

Team Suzuki World MX2’s Jeremy Seewer has been indulging in his fair share of podium pie this season. He has now had three in a row and looks to be picking up the pace. The Swiss rider will be hoping for another ‘lovely day’, as his butt patch reads.

Red Bull gives you wings, don’t take the slogan seriously. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Pauls Jonass tried last year when he was catapulted horrifically from his bike. Amazingly, he was ok but it was a costly mistake in terms of winning the MX2 world championship, which eventually went to Tim Gajser. Putting that spectacular crash aside, Jonass was incredibly fast around Leon last year where he won his first ever MX2 race. He hasn’t won one since and it might be a little difficult against his teammate this weekend, but either way, we are sure the courageous Latvian will give it his best shot.

It may pay to keep an eye on TM Racing Factory Team’s Samuele Bernardini. The Italian, who is the only TM rider in the class, made his debut to MX2 halfway through last year and is already starting to crack the top five. Also, Bernardini is blistering fast out of the gate, which always assists in achieving good results.

And then there is last years MX2 round of Leon winner Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Thomas Covington. Last year the American took his first ever race win and overall out here, which will leave him buzzing on the gate this weekend. Hopefully all his stars can fall in line once again and we can see Covington fulfill his potential and the same for Kemea Yamaha MX Official Team’s Benoit Paturel who uncorked his first bottle of bubbles here in 2015 on the third step of the podium.

2015 MXGP of Leon MX2 Top 3

1. Thomas Covington

2. Tim Gajser

3. Benoit Paturel

MX2 Championship Top 10: 1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 200 points; 2. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, SUZ), 152 p.; 3. Aleksandr Tonkov (RUS, YAM), 131 p.; 4. Pauls Jonass (LAT, KTM), 130 p.; 5. Petar Petrov (BUL, KAW), 104 p.; 6. Benoit Paturel (FRA, YAM), 99 p.; 7. Samuele Bernardini (ITA, TM), 91 p.; 8. Vsevolod Brylyakov (RUS, KAW), 84 p.; 9. Brent Van doninck (BEL, YAM), 78 p.; 10. Alvin Östlund (SWE, YAM), 70 p.

        

 

All the photos of the MXGP of Leon will be available HERE

 

TIMETABLE

Saturday: MX2 Free Practice 10:45; MXGP Free Practice 11:15; MX2 Time Practice 13:00; MXGP Time Practice 13:35; MX2 Qualifying Race 15:10; MXGP Qualifying Race 16:00.

Sunday: MX2 Warm up 10:20; MXGP Warm up 10:40; MX2 Race 1 12:15; MXGP Race 1 13:15; MX2 Race 2 15:10; MXGP Race 2 16:10.

The MXGP class is really warming up to something special in 2016. Defending champion Romain Febvre leading the way, and holding the red plate. MX2 champion Tim Gajser sitting a close second in the MXGP points, just three points behind Febvre.

After four round these two have owned the top step of the MXGP podium, two GP victories each, Febvre going 3-2-1-1-3-1-6-3 in his eight moto’s, and Gajser putting together 1-1-3-5-1-8-3-1 results. Only Max Nagl, who won the opening moto in Argentina has a race win outside these two. If you were a betting man, one of these two would probably be on top of your list.

We all ask is this the new era of Grand Prix motocross, the post Antonio Cairoli era you might say. But then we also have that man in third place in the MXGP points standings, the great Antonio Cairoli.

No current rider in the world has the same statistics as the veteran Italian. Eight world championships, 74 GP wins, and a determination possibly unmatched in GP history. Since 2005 he hasn’t lost back to back championships, winning in 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. That is the upside, but there is also a down side to his story.

Since a year ago the Sicilian hasn’t been on the top step of the MXGP podium, a record long run without a victory for Cairoli. He has struggled with injuries since a crash at the Italian GP at Maggiora in June of last year. A pre-season crash saw him pick up another injury, and since that crash he has been slowly coming back to his best form.

Going 6-4-2-12-7-2-2-2 is the worst racing month Cairoli has had since 2004 (apart from being out injured), and while he is only 28 points behind Febvre and the red plate, it will take a mammoth effort from the multiple world champion to fight back.

What is great about legends though is they have something special in their pocket, like a joker card, or a four leaf clover. I think Cairoli could probably be 60 points behind and you still couldn’t write him off, and if MX2 champions from 2014 and 2015 (Jordi Tixier and Tim Gajser) can win their titles after being 100 points behind Jeffrey Herlings, then anything is possible.

I think we might see more questions answered by Cairoli in Mexico this weekend. I get the feeling he will build on his already unsteady season, and going to Latvia at the start of May, he might even be a favorite to win that GP. Kegums is a circuit that Cairoli loves.

We have two present world champions in the front, and one of the greatest of all time sitting behind them waiting for a mistake, and his chance to return to the place he has owned for the last 10 years.

One thing is for sure, the next month is going to tell us a lot about the 2016 MXGP championship, and I for one will be watching with bated breath.

 

Author: 
Geoff Meyer
 
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