Following months of anticipation and intense debate, the first shots have been exchanged in the FIM Motocross World Championship. The various practice sessions have wrapped up beneath glorious sunshine at the MXGP of Patagonia-Argentina, but what went on exactly?
Although Antonio Cairoli won the championship last year, an overwhelming majority of pundits expect Jeffrey Herlings to clinch the crown this season. Herlings, who won two of three pre-season races that he completed, made one heck of a statement right out of the gate, as he destroyed the competition in the free practice session with countless times that were of note. The 1:39.459 that he registered was rather impressive, of course, but what he did following that raised eyebrows. Going fast on a single lap is one thing, but repeating that is a whole different ball game. There is no doubt that his competitors are telling themselves that right now.
Well, Jeffrey Herlings did repeat it! ‘84’ had another stab at the quickest time on his penultimate lap, lap ten, and missed out by just 0.177. Herlings went through sectors three and four quicker than anyone else that lap and even smashed the times that he set previously. Why was the lap not quite as fast as his best one though? Sector two cost him, as he was 0.292 slower on that part of the track alone. It is quite clear that he could have gone even faster and stretched out a larger advantage on Antonio Cairoli.
There is one thing worth considering here though, Antonio Cairoli is never great in free practice. When was the last time he actually finished in the top two in that particular session? August last year, as he managed it at the Grand Prix of Belgium. Cairoli only did it two other times last year, those being at Ottobiano and Losail. The point is that he usually has a little more in the tank and can turn it on in a race situation. Is this gap already too big to bridge though? The time practice certainly did not do much to calm the doubters.
Pauls Jonass made a statement in the MX2 class, much like Jeffrey Herlings, but did not completely dominate proceedings. Jonass had to fight to get atop the board and kept losing the position throughout the respective sessions. It worked out in the end, however, and it is likely that he’ll capture his second victory at the Grand Prix of Patagonia-Argentina. The fact that Jorge Prado was second in time practice was promising too, as it silenced those who believed he was hiding a pre-season injury and would not be one hundred percent.
It is intriguing to watch the MX2 riders through the waves, as they have two options. If they go to the inside, they can double their way through and then single out at the end. That means they are effectively jumping into the face of the tabletop and risk losing some momentum. On the other hand, they can go to the outside before the waves and then double the whole way way through (even at the end) with relative ease. Which option is quicker? A lot of time is lost going to the outside, of course, but it seems that it may be better by the time that a rider reaches the end of the straight. Anyway, here are some final notes from practice.
What happened to Evgeny Bobryshev in free practice? Twenty-sixth is certainly not where the former Grand Prix winner belongs. There were no major issues to speak of, thankfully, but he just was not comfortable on the track and spent a little while in pit lane trying to figure things out. One immediately thinks that it was just free practice, so who cares, but he admitted that he would have liked to get out there and make a bit of a statement. Things were much better in time practice, as he was thirteenth.
Why did Vsevolod Brylyakov not complete a single lap in free practice? There was a small technical issue that he encountered, so he did not make it out there. It was nothing too significant, as he hit the test track whilst free practice was being completed and obviously returned to the track for time practice. Brylyakov was nineteenth in that session but, remember, he has not actually raced an MXGP event since the Grand Prix of Europe in April!
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: MX July