Saturday Report: MXGP of France

Updates from round nine.

Updates from round nine.

The MX2 qualifying heat at the Grand Prix of France was fairly mundane, as Pauls Jonass claimed the early lead and then pulled away. It seemed that the MXGP qualifying heat was heading in a similar direction – Cairoli took the holeshot and established an advantage almost immediately – but then a red flag turned everything upside down.

Jeffrey Herlings, who has struggled with his starts at the best of times, simply could not go anywhere at the beginning of the MXGP race, as his gate failed to fall. It took a couple of laps for the race officials to determine what had happened and then a red flag was waved around. Although Antonio Cairoli got another brilliant jump out of the gate on the restart, a fumble in turn one caused him to lose a handful of positions and drop to the cusp of the top five. Clement Desalle – a man who has struggled to unearth his form from yesteryear – took control at the head of the field at that point.

Admittedly the outcome of the race could have been quite different, had Romain Febvre not fallen after a couple of laps. That mistake allowed Desalle enough breathing room to control the race and cross the finish line as a winner for the first time since the first moto at the Grand Prix of Patagonia-Argentina in 2015. That was seven hundred and ninety-one days ago! Things got close towards the end, but the table below does a better job of telling that story.

Clement Desalle

Romain Febvre


Lap 9




Lap 10




Lap 11




Lap 12




Lap 13




The qualifying heat may do more for Romain Febvre, even though he did not obtain pole position for tomorrow. “On the first lap I crashed," he said in the post-qualifying press conference. “I made a mistake before the triple down, so I was fourth. I came back to second. Last weekend I felt really good with the bike changes we made and everything is still working now. We will see tomorrow; I had a good speed. It is good to feel really good with the bike again."

The start is such a vital part of the race on this specific track, as even those who possess a substantial amount of raw speed struggle to make up the type of ground that is necessary to contend. Jeffrey Herlings made the most progress of the frontrunners, as he moved from eighth on lap one to third at the chequered flag and made two moves on the final lap alone. Just how much was Herlings pushing on that last lap? Here is his lap time compared against those around him.

Jeffrey Herlings


Glenn Coldenhoff


Max Nagl


Antonio Cairoli


Tim Gajser really struggled. ‘243’ has taken some hard hits in recent weeks, but he was visibly in more pain here. “I could ride four good laps and then after that I felt so much pain that I couldn’t jump anymore or go normal in the corners," he said in a press release. “I rode a couple more laps, but went out because it was dangerous and I could have crashed again."

What is wrong with Gajser exactly? "The problem we have with Tim is that we have a muscle issue in the back of the shoulder," HRC General Manager Roger Harvey confirmed. "There is absolutely nothing broken – it is just a muscle that has been stretched. We are going to try and work around this tomorrow. We are assessing the situation this evening and [will] see the possibilities of starting tomorrow."

It seems that Gajser is going to ride, just as you would expect, but the chances of him cracking the top ten in either moto appear to be rather low. This means that he will more than likely give up second in the championship and face a deficit of more than fifty points to Antonio Cairoli, who has really been a picture of consistency. The series needs Gajser to be at his best, as it would be extremely disappointing to lose a contender and someone who could potentially steal points in each moto. If Gajser is going to be off the pace – for a lack of a better term – it would be even harder for Herlings and the rest of the protagonists to make progress in the series standings.

Pauls Jonass led the MX2 qualifying heat from start to finish, as mentioned at the beginning of this report, and was fairly nonchalant about it post-race. "We got a really good start," he said. "I did not get the holeshot, but by the second corner I was leading already. That helped a lot, because the track has many lines. It is good to just get a good start and ride your own race on the first laps. I pulled a pretty good lap and cruised to the finish line. I’m looking forward to tomorrow and hopefully doing the same."

The heat actually summed up the way that the season has gone perfectly. Pauls Jonass was a picture of consistency out front and did all that was necessary, whilst Jeremy Seewer battled misfortune to salvage a thirteenth-place finish. "I got my leg caught in the back wheel of Brian Bogers so that put me down in the first turn," Seewer stated in a press release. "I charged back through and was going well again when another rider just didn’t do the jump and braked right in front of me. This put me on the ground again and meant I couldn’t really come back too much more. It isn’t good and it just didn’t work today."

Hunter Lawrence, the second rider beneath the Suzuki World MX2 awning, had similar issues out of the gate, but again showed good speed whilst pushing through the pack. ‘96’ made ten passes, salvaged a respectable gate pick for tomorrow and actually had a lap time that was considerably better than Thomas Kjer Olsen in fifth. “Off the start of the qualification race some guy on the inside came in too fast, cut across and took out a couple riders which then took me out as well," Lawrence mentioned in a statement from Suzuki. “I got tangled up with them and started from almost dead last. I wasn’t able to find any rhythm and struggled to pass people, so ended up eleventh." 

Before signing off, both David Herbreteau and Ben Watson deserve props for some impressive rides. Herbreteau started fourth and had no trouble running the pace at the head of the field – although he eventually faded to ninth – and Watson fought for a spot inside of the top ten with Darian Sanayei before a small fall caused him to drop down the order.

That is all from day one in France, although there is plenty more coverage on this very site to keep you entertained. The knowledge gained at Ernee today could be useless in the motos that pay points, by the way, as black clouds are expected to loom over the facility. This thing may be about to get even crazier.

Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Sean Ogden

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