Seven rounds of the FIM Motocross World Championship have passed now and, to the delight of most, there have been countless twists and turns. There has been one constant, however, and that is the fact that the series has been referred to as action-packed each week. There is simply no alternative way to describe what has transpired so far.
The fact that Jeffrey Herlings became the fifth overall winner in seven races says a lot about the parity that resides within the MXGP division currently. Herlings has endured a turbulent time in his maiden season aboard a 450F, as everyone knows, but it seems that most thought he would finally stand atop the box at Kegums. The awe-inspiring ride at Valkenswaard two weeks prior obviously created that hype and sense of anticipation.
We can now forget about a majority of the questions that have been asked about Herlings and his prowess in the premier class, of course, but he must complete one more task before those are erased completely. ‘84’ must challenge for a spot on the podium on a hard-pack circuit. The fact that he finished fourth in the second moto at the Grand Prix of Trentino, which took place on Easter weekend, indicates that he will be just fine when the series rolls into Germany in two weeks though.
Whether or not his starts are no longer an issue remains to be seen also, as he struggled to get out of the gate at Valkenswaard and did not secure either holeshot on Sunday. Obviously he emerged from the first turn within the top three each time, but his position on the starting line had a lot to do with that. The start at Kegums massively favours the inside, you see, so it does not even matter if you get a poor jump or pinched off. That happened to Herlings in the second moto, as Arminas Jasikonis got an unbelievable jump, but he still just locked up his brakes and snuck around the inside. Herlings can contend if he gets out of the gate.
At rounds three and four onlookers were panicking about Herlings, then that negative energy transferred to Max Nagl. Now, with seven rounds of evidence to fall back on, Romain Febvre is the biggest question mark. Originally I put his lacklustre ride down to the fact that he hit his femur hard on Saturday, but he did not even reference that when he spoke out post-race. A lot of testing is happening behind the scenes and, at this point, is he just confusing himself further?
“I struggled to find a good set-up with the bike, which made racing really hard. It was just one of those weekends. Difficult," Febvre said in a press release from Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing. From that one would presume that he just had a sub-par weekend, right? There is no sense of panic there. ‘461’ had to battle to stay in the top fifteen, however, which is just insane. It was just twelve months ago that he last won a Grand Prix!
When we spoke to Febvre in Mexico he confirmed that this is not an issue with his mentality and that he does not think about that scary crash that he had, but one must wonder. His quote from Pietramurata is at the forefront of my mind, even now, as he said that he doesn’t “know what to say. I just feel like I don't know why the speed is not there. I will keep working." That came after he proclaimed that he would be back to his best once the series returned to Europe, which obviously has not panned out. It is time to reset and put stock into small victories, like a top-six finish, then build from there.
A lot happened in Latvia, but there were some impressive rides outside of the top five. Max Anstie was a little unsure of whether he would be at his best, but jumped in right where he left off and actually acquired a season-best finish. The fact that he came out and beat his Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing teammates says a lot about his potential on the bigger bike and, based on all of this, I would bet we see him on the podium more than once before this thing ends. Starts are a problem, as he is struggling to adapt his style to the 450F out of the gate, but that will come.
The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing team is in a great spot currently – all of their riders are performing (Max Nagl aside). Those who reside beneath the 250F awning are undoubtedly exceeding expectations, despite the fact that things got off to a turbulent start at the first three rounds. Thomas Kjer Olsen was due a victory though and, based on the speed that he has showcased thus far, it is almost unbelievable that his win in moto one was his first trip to the podium this season!
Is Thomas Kjer Olsen a title contender? Sure, but he would need some help. I would not, however, be surprised to see him beat Jeremy Seewer in the series standings, now that he is right there with him. Small mental errors were his downfall through rounds one to six, so he’ll be a factor if those have really been eliminated.
Jeremy Seewer had his worst round in quite a while. In fact, he failed to score points in a moto for the first time since the Grand Prix of Thailand in 2015. Push all of that to one side though, because I don’t want to discuss the results. Seewer rode better and showed more intensity than I have ever seen from him. In fact, I would argue that it is this will and determination that Stefan Everts has wanted to see out of ‘91’ all year. The fact that he now faces a deficit of forty-two points should only add to that.
Bas Vaessen, like Max Anstie, impressed in his return from injury. Vaessen secured eleven points at the Qatari MXGP opener, but bettered that considerably straight out of the blocks. The fact his results were similar to the first round indicates that this is just what he is capable of, but perhaps that was forgotten? Watching him develop alongside his teammate, Hunter Lawrence, is going to be interesting to follow, as they both have the potential to mix it up inside of the top five.
Calvin Vlaanderen deserves a tip of the hat too, of course, as he climbed up onto the podium for the first time in his career. Vlaanderen has always flown beneath the radar, because of his quiet demeanour, but he has shown some flashes of speed for well over a year now. This is undoubtedly going to be the first of many, as he has a couple of years left in MX2. His DOB on the MXGP website is incorrect, so the fact that this is his final year on the 250F will undoubtedly arise at some point. That could not be more wrong though.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: ConwayMX