Saturday Report: Villars sous Ecot

Ending the season in Southern California.

Ending the season in Southern California.

A perk of ending the season in Southern California was that the Grand Prix contingent were able to bask in glorious sunshine. Now that the FIM Motocross World Championship is concluding in France, at the old-school circuit of Villars sous Ecot, those in the paddock do not get to embrace that. In fact, conditions at the MXGP of Pays de Montbeliard were rather miserable.

A small shower was initially forecast for the afternoon and that eventually arrived, but soon turned into so much more. The support classes, EMX250 and WMX, got the brunt of it, so those riders were really focussed on surviving rather than thriving. Staying upright was still a priority for those in the premier classes, but conditions allowed them to battle it out somewhat. Romain Febvre and Max Anstie were the only riders really throwing it all on the line, however, as they tussled over pole position in the premier division.

Max Anstie was an unstoppable force in the qualifying heat (Sean Ogden)

Max Anstie eventually took that win and was clearly the fastest rider at the end of the race. His line through the waves at the bottom of the circuit was particularly awe-inspiring. ‘99’ actually took the early lead, despite the fact that he raced into the first turn in the middle of the pack, as he tucked himself on the inside and capitalised when a lot of guys ran wide. “It feels great," commented Anstie in the post-race press conference.

It was awesome to be battling with Romain, the French crowd were really behind him. It was a little bit similar to Switzerland, as in the race there I was battling with Arnaud Tonus. I was a little bit nervous in the first few laps and he got around me, but then I found some lines and relaxed a little bit," Anstie continued. “We had a really good battle going and, okay, it was a Saturday race and there was no point risking everything. A race win for me is still a race win. It was still really cool."

Max Anstie

Romain Febvre

Difference

Lap 6

1:58.119

1:57.551

+0.568

Lap 7

1:55.661

1:56.503

-0.842

Lap 8

1:55.729

1:55.917

-0.188

Lap 9

1:56.860

1:59.336

-2.476

Lap 10

1:56.515

1:55.878

+0.637

Lap 11

1:53.692

1:54.953

-1.261

Lap 12

1:53.057

1:55.223

-2.166

Things started to change around five laps from the end when Romain Febvre threw his goggles. That clearly hindered his charge somewhat, especially as backmarkers really started to come into play. Those slower riders helped him tremendously at one point though; Anstie made it through, then was immediately caught up in lapped traffic and had to give up the lead. Obviously there was still not much that Febvre could do, but he kept the battle alive until the very end.

It is worth noting that Anstie is one of the few riders who could actually improve on his championship ranking. Tenth is the position that he currently occupies, despite the fact that he missed two rounds earlier in the year, and he is just two points down on Glenn Coldenhoff. Jeremy Van Horebeek is just twenty points ahead in eighth, so could be caught too. If you work out his average amount of points at each round, then give him that number at the two that he missed, he would be vying for a position in the top five with Tim Gajser and Febvre. That is quite impressive in his rookie season, right?

Jeffrey Herlings will need a good start in conditions like this (Sean Ogden)

Not much went on behind the top two, except for the fact that Jeffrey Herlings charged forward to third. Herlings was rather impressive towards the end, just as his lap times below indicate, but it took too long for him to get going. Speaking of Herlings, an interesting statistic emerged earlier today. ‘84’ has been the fastest in free practice at every round since the Grand Prix of Lombardia and he only missed out on the top spot by less than a tenth at that event! Take a second to remember where he came from at the start of the season, as the turnaround is rather remarkable.

Max Anstie

Romain Febvre

Jeffrey Herlings

Lap 6

1:58.119

1:57.551

1:59.932

Lap 7

1:55.661

1:56.503

2:00.423

Lap 8

1:55.729

1:55.917

1:58.093

Lap 9

1:56.860

1:59.336

1:56.557

Lap 10

1:56.515

1:55.878

1:54.055

Lap 11

1:53.692

1:54.953

1:59.644

Lap 12

1:53.057

1:55.223

1:58.946

There were many noteworthy rides in the MX2 division, but Hunter Lawrence stole the show. Lawrence, who claimed the first qualifying race victory of his career, stole the early lead and threw down some lap times that those behind him simply could not match. It was an impressive display and reminded everyone present what he is capable of when he gets out of the gate with his competitors.

Hunter Lawrence is always a contender when he gets out of the gate (Sean Ogden)

I got a great start on my RM-Z250, taking the holeshot and leading the way around the first few bends," Lawrence said in a press release. “I was pretty pumped to have got that good start, so I put my head down and made sure to hit my lines and keep everyone behind me. I have been feeling good all day, as I love the track and all the ruts. Everything seems to have gone well today, I just hope we can keep it going tomorrow because it was such a good feeling to take the victory."

Pauls Jonass was reminded by his team to play it smart halfway through the heat, as he started to close in on the race leader, and was then later told to take the inside line at the end of pit lane. That same line almost caught him out earlier in the race and then it happened again after he registered the advice. Despite that, however, he gave it another go, which shows how much value he puts into what Marc de Reuver says. Pit boards may be more useful than some realise! It is more than likely that Jonass will lock up the title in moto one tomorrow, as he just needs to finish twelfth or higher.

Jed Beaton deserves to be recognised after such a great heat (Sean Ogden)

Jed Beaton was simply phenomenal in the qualifying race, but will not get the recognition that he truly deserves. Beaton crashed in turn one, which is typically a recipe for disaster in muddy conditions, but then got up and charged through to fourth within just eight laps. “Qualifying today was okay," Beaton said. “I actually got off to a much better start today, but then crashed in the first corner. I just ran in too hot, tucked the front and was dead last! I tried to get up as quick as I could and get into it, not let them get too far away. I ended up coming back to fourth overall, which is my best result to date. I feel really good and comfortable out there."

Thomas Covington charged forward in a similar fashion, as he pushed through from fourteenth on lap one to sixth, and Jorge Prado also recovered well from a first-turn crash to claim twelfth. Ben Watson fell twice en route to seventeenth, which was just two positions ahead of Conrad Mewse. Mewse had a rather large crash early on in the race, pulled into pit lane briefly and then salvaged a nineteenth. What about Darian Sanayei? ‘57’ struggled to make it to the top of the longest hill on the circuit and then watched as his Monster Energy DRT Kawasaki went up in a cloud of smoke.

Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Sean Ogden

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