When the 2017 FIM Motocross World Championship calendar was released towards the end of last year, I was surprised to see that the Grand Prix of Leon was down as the fourth fixture. Everyone that we spoke to at the event a year ago was convinced that we would not be returning but, hey, here we are!
Credit where its due, however, as the promoters have really put in some additional work in an attempt to ensure that their event is successful. The paddock was a little livelier today, the presentation has drastically improved and we even have our first three-story pit lane! One of the largest gripes that I had with the venue last year was that it is simply impossible to see anything, even when you are stood on the second floor of the pit structure.
That feedback has been taken into consideration, however, and now we have this monster of a pit lane. Let’s just hope that the high winds do not tear it down! The wind is expected to pick up on Saturday and reach thirty-two miles per hour, which will provide another challenge for the track crew. When you combine that with the humid temperatures, the track should become extremely dry and end up just as slick as it has been in the past. It has been watered a considerable amount though, so deep ruts will ensure that the surface remains technical.
Altitude will pose the biggest challenge to the riders, of course, as we are almost six thousand feet above sea level. How does that compare to Thunder Valley, a popular stop on the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross tour? That circuit is just a couple of hundred feet higher. Each MXGP round has an area for teams to do practice starts, which is equipped with a single sheet of metal mesh, but it is rarely used. It was a hive of activity today though.
Riders like Evgeny Bobryshev, Arminas Jasikonis, Max Anstie and Arnaud Tonus were attempting to understand just how their machine is going to perform in the demanding conditions. There were some questionable attempts at practice starts, but the knowledge that was eventually gained will be helpful tomorrow.
Bobryshev took his preparation a step further, as he has spent the last two weeks in the USA to acclimatise to the high temperatures. The HRC rider, who finished fourth overall at this event just last year, has had a turbulent time at the flyaway events throughout his career, as the heat and food tends to disagree with him. He has taken some great steps forward in the past though and will undoubtedly be a contender for a spot on the box again this weekend. Max Nagl is in a similar boat, but will still be shooting for a spot in the top five for the first time this year.
How have we made it this far without touching on the biggest news that emerged today? We will be dedicating a lot of words to Conrad Mewse early next week, once we have garnered both sides of the story. It is certainly a perplexing situation, however, and one that reminds me of the predicament that Jason Anderson found himself in with Rockstar Energy Racing in his rookie season. Anderson has managed to overcome that difficult period and carve out an impressive career for himself, so would you really question whether Mewse can do the same? Our exclusive interview with Jacky Martens, of Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing, will keep you entertained for now.
Well, there are a cluster of different thoughts in this pre-race report from the Grand Prix of Leon. Does that not sum up the series perfectly though? There are so many different stories buried into the foundation of each class that it is impossible to fixate on a single thing. I’ll sign off with a thank you, however, for sticking by us after skipping the MXGP of Patagonia-Argentina. We are back this weekend and do not plan on missing another race for quite some time.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Sean Ogden