Matthes Report: MXGP of Czechia

Matthes changes things up.

Matthes changes things up.

Washougal, the ninth Lucas Oil Pro Motocross round, will take place this weekend, as things start to wind down over here in America. The march towards crowning Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Zach Osborne as champions in their respective classes seems inevitable, right?

I mean, Osborne’s valve cover puked out eight gallons of oil on the weekend and he still salvaged an eighth or something. Tomac’s crashing left and right and both guys are still the class of their fields, you know what I mean?

Okay, enough about that, what I want to talk about this week is the MXGP series. That’s right! Full disclaimer here, I haven’t been to any of the races and I’ve probably only watched about half of them. I’ve got a lot on my plate here with the USA and Canadian series as well as trying to follow other sports and not get divorced, okay? That fact doesn’t stop me from having some opinions about both series!

Antonio Cairoli is en route to another title in the premier class (KTM Images/Ray Archer)

First up, I’m glad you MXGP fans finally get to experience what we have had over here for most of the past twenty years and that’s a total runaway in the premier class. KTM’s Antonio Cairoli is just crushing the MXGP class and you know it’s good when he wins at Loket, a track that he doesn’t even like. Generally speaking the MXGP series has more parity than what we see here in the USA but not this year, as the old man in the class is showing everyone what’s up.

I’m so impressed with Cairoli. Written off over the past two years for being too old whilst younger stars took turns winning races, it seems that Antonio worked on not starting the season off so slowly this year. ‘222' is like fine wine, just getting better with age. The switch to the 450F has also seemed to be something he agrees with as he nurses home a lead of almost one hundred points!

Defending champion Tim Gajser has had a rough year man. What’s funny is that he doesn’t seem to ever slow down, Tim knows one way to ride a bike and that’s flat out. He reminds me a bit of James Stewart; Gajser has only got warp speed and when things go wrong, they go very wrong. My guess is this troubled season keeps him from coming to the USA for 2018. I’m sure he’ll be back next year to try and get the title back. [Ed Note: Roger Harvey confirmed exclusively to MX Vice in May that Gajser would be sticking to Europe.]

It’s unbelievable to me that Romain Febvre does not have a single overall podium finish this year. What in the heck happened to a dude that dominated this series two years ago, won a moto at the MXoN and appeared to be on top of the world? I can’t figure it out and I’m sure Yamaha would like to know as well. [Ed Note: Romain Febvre revealed exclusively at Agueda that he is currently experimenting to overcome set-up issues.]

There is no doubt that Tim Gajser has buckets of raw speed (Honda Racing Corporation)

Jeffrey Herlings long awaited MXGP season was maybe a wash before he even started due to injuries. Am I the only one who thought he’d be better though? Maybe staying so long in MX2 hurt Herlings, because he lost some of his aggression and desire. I’m not sure. He has won five motos, so that’s a good thing, but I’m surprised that he’s been just in the mix in the races recently and not as consistently up front as I thought he’d be. I have that much respect for his talent.

Jeremy Van Horebeek is perhaps the most underrated MXGP rider year in and year out. He’s always capable of sneaking in a win here or there. What’s up with Glenn Coldenhoff this year everyone? On a factory bike, I would think he’s got to be better. But, again, maybe he’s hurt or something and I’m just not that plugged into what’s going on. Also, what happened to Max Nagl’s starts? [Ed note: Max Nagl mentioned to MX Vice at Ernee that the metal mesh was not working with the set-up that he previously adopted.]

Max Nagl needs of a new for next year, if rumours are correct (Husqvarna Images/J.P Acevedo)

Nice to see Clement Desalle able to stay healthy for a long stretch of time. At one time he was neck and neck with Antonio Cairoli and it would’ve been interesting to see his career path if he hadn’t gotten hurt those few years.

In MX2, it’s taken a bit of time but Pauls Jonass has proven to be the man with Jeremy Seewer right there. These two riders have claimed seventeen wins in the twenty-six motos that have been run this year and I’d love to see what the Suzuki guys are doing to Seewer’s motor because, over here, the 250F Suzuki motor is not very good. But in watching the races, it seems pretty quick.

One thing about Jonass that I like is he seems to be very quick in all conditions be it sand, mud or hard-pack. That’s impressive. With the lack of rides in MXGP though, doesn’t it seem that like Jordi Tixier or a number of other guys Jonass better hope he makes as much money as he can in MX2?

Benoit Paturel has been pretty good this year but I thought he’d be a bit closer to the top two guys if I’m being honest. He’s still a rider on the rise though and I expect him to be better next year although I have to confess I have no idea if he’s going to age out of this class or not. [Ed Note: Benoit Paturel has to move up to MXGP next year, because of the age-restriction rule, and has been linked to a seat at Monster Energy KRT.]

A lot of American fans are so stoked over Thomas Covington’s performance this year and that leaves me scratching my head a bit. Yes, he’s been decent, but he’s been far off the top two guys, it’s his fourth year in the class and he’s on a factory machine. The way that the MX2 class is, you need to be progressing each year that you get stronger and gain more experience. Having kids with less experience and on worse bikes leapfrog you is not a good look in my opinion. Sixth in the points is, to me, not a great accomplishment for Thomas for what he should be doing.

I hear that Jorge Prado is going to be the next great European rider to come to America in the footsteps of Ken Roczen. The Spaniard has a deal with KTM that'll allow him to step right into the TLD KTM awning over here and I know the USA people here have spoken about him. [Ed Note: Jorge Prado will not be racing in the USA in 2018.] I know he’s only sixteen, but Roczen was right there with Marvin Musquin for the MX2 title when he was sixteen and winning it when he was seventeen. Herlings was phenomenal at sixteen years old too!

I’m not saying that Prado sucks or is a failure by any means. But, right now, eighth in the points in a class where you’re kicked out when you get to be twenty-three years old tells me he’s not ready for the USA scene just yet. Winning a GP at sixteen is amazing, but let’s cool it down on Prado being Roczen-ish.

Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: KTM/Ray Archer

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