The fourth international foray for the FIM Motocross World Championship is underway, as four practice sessions have been completed beneath the beating sun. What has transpired thus far is not too far from what most would consider normal, but the events of this morning could indicate the direction that the MXGP division is going.
The man-made venue of Leon has been kind to Tim Gajser, the reigning champion, in the past. He won a moto on the first stop here four years ago, strengthened his series lead the next year and then won the overall with authority twelve months ago. If practice is anything to go by, he may add another Mexican triumph to his impressive résumé.
Now, I know what you are thinking. Should we really read too much into practice? It was not just the time that has made me believe he is the heavy favourite for the win, however, it was the fashion in which he achieved it. Gajser was first for a long period, by a considerable margin, but then went out and improved on that to increase his advantage.
The same sort of thing happened in time practice. ‘243’ was already sat on a nice gap, but threw down a heater at the end that left him with session-best times in the first three sectors. A mistake in the final sector stopped him from going even faster, but it is quite clear that he has more in the tank. What is it going to take to beat him?
The starts are going to be so important, but they will also be more of a lottery. A large amount of practice starts have been completed thus far, as the riders are attempting to establish the best way to get out of the gate at altitude. A handful of MX2 riders were trying to get off the metal mesh in second gear, but that rarely worked as intended. It seems that, instead of that, a majority of the guys will be opting for first gear and less revs.
You would think that the size of a rider would dictate a lot here, right? That would make sense, so perhaps Gajser is such a force because of his lean stature? Calvin Vlaanderen, one of the biggest guys in MX2, squashed that theory though, as he hopped to the top of the board in free practice. It took a lot of energy for him to get there, as Pauls Jonass and Jeremy Seewer were pushing the limits with some impressive sector times.
Normality was restored in the second session, as Benoit Paturel rocketed to the top spot, but perhaps Vlaanderen is going to be a dark horse? I would have picked Vsevolod Brylyakov as the underdog, seeing as he was on the box here last year, but Vlaanderen would be much more of a surprise. He finished on the cusp of the top ten here a year ago, so it is not like he has form on the Mexican soil.
Speaking of Benoit Paturel, he adopted the American approach of waiting right until the end to lay down a quick lap. He did it in the first session, which left him second, and then it worked in time practice! Paturel is the most underrated character in this MX2 division, simply because of his quiet demeanour, but he is very much in this title chase.
A handful of riders have commented that the surface is strange this year, as it is just so slick once the softer soil has been pushed to one side. Constant prep is going to help that, of course, but the heat could trump all. The surface was hard and slick last year, so it seems that we are heading in a similar direction. Who thrives on that kind of terrain? Tim Gajser.
A final note before we sign off: Shaun Simpson had some gear stolen at some point between now and Mexico. A scramble ensued in an attempt to find knee braces and a neck brace, but he eventually got everything in line with the help of some fellow riders. Oh, we have also had multiple power cuts across the venue. That has effected everything from live timing to our WiFi and caused two delays.
Anyway, the qualifying heats are going to begin quite soon. Stay tuned for more from the races and everything that goes down in Mexico.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Sean Ogden