Saturday Report: Assen

Insight from qualifying.

Insight from qualifying.

This MX Vice feature typically begins with a rundown of interesting titbits from the MXGP division, but that heat was fairly mundane in The Netherlands earlier today. The MX2 qualifying race, on the other hand, was a chaotic affair that featured countless twists and turns. With that in mind, it makes sense to kick things off with some notes from the heat that was eventually won by Thomas Covington of the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing team.

The lap charts do not necessarily tell the full story in this class. Those indicate that Covington started second, took the lead at the halfway point and then claimed his second pole position in succession. That is true, of course, but what went on was actually much more intense than that. “Yeah today went pretty well," said Covington. “I actually didn’t feel too good in the first two practice sessions and was struggling in the wet sand out there.

Thomas Covington won a moto at this venue one season ago (ConwayMX)

I got off to a good start in the race, was second, followed Lieber for a few laps and ended up getting around him," he continued. “It was a pretty smooth and easy race actually, so hopefully we can do the same tomorrow." Thomas Kjer Olsen slid into the runner-up spot at the halfway mark and then pressured his teammate for much of the race, but ultimately had to focus on defending his position from yet another Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider.

Conrad Mewse, who has blown hot and cold this season, dominated headlines on the first day of racing at Assen with a flamboyant display. Mewse claimed the fastest time in free practice, which already sent the British fans into frenzy, but then ripped through the pack in the qualifying heat with ease. Although the lap charts show that ‘426’ started from ninth, he was actually much further back than that. Dissect the photos from the first turn and it is quite clear that he started outside of the top fifteen. Just how remarkable was his comeback? The lap times below tell the full story.

Thomas Covington

Thomas Kjer Olsen

Conrad Mewse

Lap 7

1:45.560

1:45.049

1:45.557

Lap 8

1:46.134

1:43.977

1:44.967

Lap 9

1:47.321

1:47.987

1:46.554

Lap 10

1:46.712

1:47.696

1:46.326

Lap 11

1:47.972

1:47.509

1:47.521

Lap 12

1:50.381

1:49.332

1:48.593

Lap 13

1:49.896

1:51.938

1:48.545

Conrad Mewse is capable of stepping up onto the podium (ConwayMX)

There was a fact that was more intriguing than that though, as Mewse took a massive chunk out of his teammates with just a couple of laps to go. A remarkable time in sector one on lap thirteen was responsible for that, as the table below shows. Would he have won with a better start? It is certainly a possibility. Whilst most contenders moved towards the inside, a spot that is often considered the safe bet, Mewse went out by the doghouse and was immediately swallowed up by those around him. Seeing as he does not have the greatest track record out of the gate, perhaps a spot closer to the inside would suit him better? Time will tell if he alters his strategy for the races.

Thomas Covington

Thomas Kjer Olsen

Conrad Mewse

Sector One

0:26.394

0:27.188

0:24.667

Davy Pootjes, like Conrad Mewse, exceeded all expectations with a solid showing in the qualifying heat, but may get overshadowed somewhat. The HSF Logistics KTM rider was actually set to finish inside of the top five, which would have been quite a boost for him, but fell with a couple of laps to go and had to settle for sixth. ‘46’ was bumped up a spot, along with a gaggle of other riders, as Julien Lieber was docked five positions for failing noise control. Brent Van Doninck was dealt a similar blow during the post-race inspection.

Pauls Jonass had one of his worst showings in the qualifying heat (ConwayMX)

What about Pauls Jonass, who limped to a disappointing finish? The Red Bull KTM rider, who needs to gain just ten points on Jeremy Seewer to win the MX2 title this weekend, ran off track on lap one and later fell again with Henry Jacobi. It is understandable that he was hindered in the results somewhat, but there was a lack of urgency even when he was riding. It’ll be most interesting to see if he turns this thing around in drier conditions tomorrow. The good news is that it is possible to get a good start from anywhere on the line at this circuit, so do not be surprised to see him rail around the outside and exit the first turn inside of the top five.

Finally, before we move onto the premier division, what happened to Michele Cervellin? ‘747’ crashed in a spectacular fashion after the chequered flag a week ago, but no injuries were sustained and he stated midweek that he was eager to race at the Dutch Grand Prix. It became apparent after that that he had strained his groin and, following further examinations at the circuit this morning, a doctor advised him to not race. There is currently no timeline on his recovery.

Betting against Jeffrey Herlings would be rather brave (ConwayMX)

Onto the MXGP heat, where Saturday belonged to Jeffrey Herlings once again. “It was really good," Herlings said after another strong outing. “I almost had a holeshot, finally, but I was like second or third. I was behind Tim [Gajser] on the second or third lap and then I tipped over, so Gautier [Paulin] got by me. The track was pretty tough to pass on, because of the rain that we had overnight and yesterday.

“We managed to start going again in third and pass Gautier, but I still had ten seconds to make up to Tim," he continued. “We closed that gap, got around him and still pulled away. Actually it was really good. They will probably flatten the track tonight, but hopefully they leave it rough in the day tomorrow so that we have some options to pass." Just how quickly did Herlings gain ground once he began to flow?

Jeffrey Herlings

Tim Gajser

Difference

Lap 6

1:45.799

1:46.314

-0.515

Lap 7

1:45.673

1:46.304

-0.631

Lap 8

1:44.746

1:47.122

-2.376

Lap 9

1:45.268

1:48.471

-3.203

Lap 10

1:48.830

1:53.410

-4.580

Lap 11

1:48.639

1:50.020

-1.381

Lap 12

1:49.054

1:51.461

-2.407

Tim Gajser couldn't quite stick with Jeffrey Herlings in the second half (ConwayMX)

It would be unadvisable to bet against Jeffrey Herlings in the motos, which actually are not too far away now. So, with that in mind, we’ll rattle through some final notes from the MXGP division.

– Antonio Cairoli crashed in the qualifying heat, hence why he finished so far down the order, and actually skipped free practice earlier in the day. Why? ‘222’ thought that the track was wetter than it turned out to be and was not overly keen to take risks with a title on the line. This is not the first time that the eight-time champion has pulled that move and it surely will not be the last.

– Clement Desalle and Shaun Simpson were high-profile riders outside of the points. Desalle had a bike problem on the final lap of the heat, so obviously failed to finish, and Shaun Simpson crashed out at the midway point. Although the Wilvo Yamaha MXGP landed on concrete, he is absolutely fine and raring to go today.

Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: ConwayMX

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