Following four flyaway events in exotic locations, a return to the traditional surroundings of Pietramurata is welcomed by those in the MXGP paddock. Pietramurata is, of course, just as extravagant as the Grand Prix of Patagonia-Argentina, as the circuit is nestled amongst mountains and sits just half an hour away from Lake Garda.
Both riders and teams, no matter how inexperienced, know what to expect when they arrive at this intriguing venue. It is that sense of familiarity that fills the competitors with excitement. The track has not changed at all, so a hard-pack surface that puts throttle control to the test will again act as the battleground. Rain could be the spoiler though, much like it was twelve months ago. A considerable amount of precipitation is forecast for the first day of racing and could turn the qualification races into a game of survival.
Do not fret, however, as the forecast is pleasant for Sunday. This could work in our favour, as an abundance of lines will form in the slop tomorrow and then provide plenty of options in the drier races on Sunday. It worked last year! It’ll only play out in that fashion if the rain is torrential though, as the slick surface will resemble an ice rink if we just have intermittent light showers. Whatever happens, it seems inevitable that we are going to be hit by rain at some point.
That threat of poor weather is not expected to deter the local fans. The area should be full of enthusiasts this weekend, as the Italian contingent march towards the venue to support their hero. This is also the closest that Tim Gajser will get to home, so there could be an interesting dynamic within the various spectator areas. It is hard to pick a winner, as both Gajser and Antonio Cairoli have been so strong here in the past, but that may not be the greatest topic of discussion.
Romain Febvre mentioned that he expects to be much stronger once the series returns to Europe, so Sunday could be considered judgement day for the former champion, and Jeffrey Herlings is coming off a win at the Dutch Masters of Motocross. Could this be the weekend that both riders show flashes of what they are truly capable of? Clement Desalle and even Arnaud Tonus could be spoilers too, as both have enjoyed success here in the past.
The paddock, which stretches to various corners of the facility, is a hive of activity currently. The EMX250 riders will occupy the supporting role for the first time this year and undoubtedly prompt question marks regarding the amount of on-track action, as eighty-six riders are scheduled to compete. That class alone puts a strain on the space that is available here. The women are also set to take part in the Grand Prix, which effectively acts as their second round. Courtney Duncan currently leads that series by one point over Nicky van Wordragen.
The biggest news that has emerged since the previous fixture is that Max Anstie has, of course, been sidelined. It really is a shame, as Anstie was on track to achieve great things. Remember that third-place finish that he garnered in the qualification heat at the Grand Prix of Leon-Mexico? The good news is that he is scheduled to miss just one round, so the time off should not disrupt his programme too much.
Speaking of Anstie, his injury has thrown a handful of Fox MX Manager teams into disarray. It is an unfortunate weekend for that to happen to certain players too, as Fox have provided an incredible prize. You’ll receive a signed jersey from Tim Gajser if you win on Sunday! What are you waiting for? Head over to this link and either sign up or finalise your team.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Sean Ogden