Thousands of hardcore fans gathered at the historic circuit of Hawkstone Park earlier today for the annual pre-season international, an event that attracts a handful of Grand Prix stars each year. Even a handful of snowstorms could not dampen the spirits of those in attendance as they watched the Red Bull KTM duo of Jeffrey Herlings and Pauls Jonass clean up.
The first MX2 moto, which kicked off the race programme for the professionals, was all about Pauls Jonass. The reigning world champion took the early lead and then increased his lead with each lap that passed, before eventually crossing the line with a sixteen-second advantage over Martin Barr. Barr gave him a good run in the early stages and was very comfortable in second. Thomas Kjer Olsen rounded out the moto podium, following a mediocre start, and slowly plugged away to reach the front. Conrad Mewse, Ben Watson, Davy Pootjes, Adam Sterry, Mel Pocock, Mikkel Haarup and Jago Geerts completed the top ten. Pootjes would have actually been fifth, had he not crashed on the final straight right at the end.
The second MX2 moto included much of the same, as Pauls Jonass claimed another strong victory. Thomas Kjer Olsen was like a different guy in this one, however, and actually pushed him the entire way. Olsen even claimed the fastest lap of the race by more than nine tenths! It was quite the turnaround. The action was a little more interesting behind the top two as well, as Adam Sterry led the entire heat and then came under fire from Conrad Mewse towards the end. Mewse started down in ninth and was the fastest guy on track by a considerable margin through the closing laps. Ben Watson lurked behind those two and had a great seat to view the battle, but was just not quite close enough to get in the mix.
Conrad Mewse may not have got Adam Sterry for second in that final heat, but a fourth was still good enough to claim third overall on the day. This is a much better way to start the season. Pauls Jonass obviously took the top spot, as he was unbeaten in the category for the second year in succession, and then Thomas Kjer Olsen was second overall. A win would have undoubtedly been the goal for the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider, but this result was not bad at all when you consider the fact that he spent the previous day in hospital with stomach pains. Those did not hinder him on race day.
The MXGP class was undoubtedly the main attraction and it did not fail to deliver. The lap chart shows that the top four started where they finished in the first moto, which is true, but they were extremely close throughout the heat. It was more of a chess match than an all-out brawl. Jeffrey Herlings did more than enough to bring home the win, just as a lot of fans expected, but never had enough of a gap to completely relax. Glenn Coldenhoff was nipping at his heels, you see, whilst also dealing with heat from Max Anstie. Anstie actually made the move at one point, but then things got a little aggressive and Coldenhoff slipped back through into the runner-up spot.
It seemed as though the second and final MX1 moto was going to follow a similar pattern, as those three rocketed to the front of the pack yet again. Anstie made a minor mistake, however, and then a freak issue forced him withdraw prematurely. Glenn Coldenhoff ensured the race was still exciting though, as he led the first eight laps and actually started to develop a nice cushion at one point. Jeffrey Herlings eventually prevailed though and won the moto by a second and a half. Remember, Coldenhoff injured his hand not too long ago! Gautier Paulin, Tommy Searle and Evgeny Bobryshev completed the top five. Graeme Irwin, the reigning British champion, was slightly further down the order in eighth, following a couple of crashes. One of which was caused by a wayward backmarker.
A Superfinal, which pulled the top twenty from both classes together, rounded out the day and provided Glenn Coldenhoff with another chance to shine. Coldenhoff led for the first seven laps, following another terrific start, but gave way to his teammate at that point and had to be content with second place. The gap at the end was a little bigger this time around, as it was a little over two seconds, and then Gautier Paulin was another eighteen seconds back in third. A one-lined track and snowstorm caused most to focus on making it through the heat in one piece. The battle for fourth, which included Pauls Jonass and Tommy Searle, was one that gripped fans, but the former eventually secured the position.
Where was Max Anstie this time around? The DNF from moto two left him with a sub-par gate pick for the Superfinal, which then caused him to start the race on the cusp of the top fifteen. Anstie charged through to sixth though and actually made a pass stick on Thomas Kjer Olsen right at the very end. Conrad Mewse, Ben Watson and Nathan Watson completed the top ten in this particular heat. Speaking of the Watson brothers, stay tuned to MX Vice for podcasts with them both and much more coverage from the Hawkstone International.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: ConwayMX