The 2017 FIM Motocross World Championship is officially underway, as the MXGP and MX2 riders have completed their practice sessions in Qatar. There was an abundance of surprises, as you would expect, but we’ll attempt to run through some of the noteworthy points here.
Where do we even begin? Antonio Cairoli has continued his run of good form from the Italian Motocross Championship, as he topped both sessions with relative ease. That may not be much of a surprise, seeing as he has done that countless times, but he typically struggles around here. Keep an eye on that in the qualifying race later today, as the competition could be in severe trouble if he wins in a convincing fashion.
All of the usual suspects are sat around the top ten, as you would expect, but Max Anstie and Arnaud Tonus spent more time at the head of the field than most onlookers would presume. Anstie particularly looked great, but whether or not he backs that up in the motos will come down to the start. Just nine tenths separated the top ten, which backs up Cairoli’s statement about the track being extremely fast and one of the easiest, so good starts are going to be pivotal for those who want to contend.
There were a pair of large crashes in the MXGP time practice, so the riders did not have too much time to record a fast lap. Michael Docherty and Jaap Corneth, the two riders that crashed, were eventually stretchered off, but the yellow flags were out whilst they were receiving medical attention. Shaun Simpson and Jordi Tixier were docked ten positions each, because they “did not respect the yellow flag."
Those riders are actually quite intriguing, as they have different backgrounds. Jordi Tixier obviously had a difficult maiden season in MXGP, but appears to have found another gear in the off-season. A second in free practice and ninth in time practice (before he got docked) was much better than the results that he was achieving all of last year. Shaun Simpson, on the other hand, is capable of more than what his practice times show, as he is extremely happy with the Wilvo Yamaha squad. The fact that his suspension testing happened much later than planned has not even dampened his spirits.
Onto MX2, where Vsevolod Brylyakov stole the show. Brylyakov has undoubtedly been the most overlooked rider in MX2, as he showed a lot of speed at points last year. The Russian never quite looked capable of topping practice though! The fact that he was up front in both sessions proves that it is no fluke, but can he translate that to the races? Mistakes have always been a problem for him, so first he will have to eliminate those, but imagine how big of a surprise it would be if he is stood on top of the box at the end of the weekend.
It would be just as much of a surprise to see Julien Lieber in that position, but he too appears to be capable. The Belgian, who is working from his own team this year after not racing for twelve months, showed great speed in free practice and then backed it up with a solid time in the second session. Lieber has done extremely well at Losail in the past, so do not overlook his potential, but he, like Brylyakov, has always struggled with crashes. Perhaps the time away would have resurrected that?
Pauls Jonass was the strongest of the two title favourites, as he went fastest in free practice. Most were intrigued to see how he would fare, after sustaining a minor concussion just two weeks ago, but he is clearly feeling just fine. His foe, Jeremy Seewer, was very slow to start, but finally found his feet towards the end of the time practice session. A third indicates that his consistent streak from last year should stay intact.
There is so much more to discuss, but the qualifying heats are just about to begin. Follow @motocrossvice on Twitter for live updates during those races.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: ConwayMX