Analysis: MXGP of Argentina

Analysis straight from Argentina

· 12 min read

Following months of anticipation, fans across the globe are always on the edge of their seats by the time that the gates drop for the first moto of the new season. The opening round does not always deliver, however, as one rider tends to dominate or enter the season at a higher level than expected. Events like that tend to suck some of the air out of the series rather quickly.

However, the Grand Prix of Patagonia-Argentina was even better than anyone anticipated. Is that even possible? 29,700 fortunate fans were in attendance and got to see a duel that will go down in history. Antonio Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings tussled in each moto and claimed a win apiece. So, looking at those results on paper, one would presume that it was fairly close and no noteworthy answers emerged. There is no doubt that one man has more momentum on his side than the rest though, although two red plates will be dished out ahead of the Grand Prix of Europe.

The lap times that Jeffrey Herlings recorded in moto two were incredible (KTM Images/Ray Archer)

Jeffrey Herlings took what most consider to be one of the greatest victories of his career. It is honestly difficult to even describe just how impressive Herlings, who had only won the MXGP of Patagonia-Argentina once heading into the race, was whilst pushing through the field and hunting down his foe. The confidence that Herlings possesses is most impressive and a trait that makes him so superb, but even he was surprised that he made such progress on a one-lined track. "Once I had that nine seconds still to go, I was like ten seconds behind Tony I think with ten minutes (plus two) to go," he told us exclusively in a post-race statement.

"To still close that gap was not easy. It was tough. For some reason, I made it happen. Tony was riding outstanding. To pull that off, I do not know how I did it," he summarised. Do the statistics offer any more information? Well, yeah, but he was just faster everywhere. Sector one was where he was particularly brilliant though. Just look at those times below. How about the fact that he was remarkably consistent?

Jeffrey Herlings

Antonio Cairoli

Lap 16



Lap 17



Lap 18



Lap 19



What does this mean? Well, the worrying thing for Antonio Cairoli is that everything was perfect for him. The Italian had a perfect start and was unchallenged for a majority of the race, but was powerless when it came time to defend his position. How do you improve if there was not a fault in place to begin with? There is no doubt that Cairoli is looking at this race in a vacuum and believes that he will have enough in the tank to topple Herlings in The Netherlands and Spain, much like he did in moto one, but there must be some cause for concern there.

There are some factors that Cairoli can point to as a reason why he lost the moto, as he explained in our exclusive interview. "In the last three or four laps again I get some lappers and I was not liking some places that I find them, so I had to slow down in the critical places and I lost a lot of seconds on the last three or four laps." There is no doubt that lappers were a problem, especially with the track being so fast and one-lined in spots, but then the table above shows that Herlings was closing everywhere. Could one really argue that Herlings would not have won, had it not been for the lapped riders? That would be an intriguing debate.

This was the perfect promotion for Valkenswaard, round two of the FIM Motocross World Championship, as European fans must be extremely excited at the prospect of what could transpire on familiar turf. Winning at Valkenswaard would be the best possible redemption for Cairoli, especially considering Herlings has not yet won there on a 450F, but it could be his toughest challenge yet. The mouth-watering prospect of what lies ahead will further strength the empire that Youthstream continue to build. Antonio Cairoli has won six events at Valkenswaard and, hey, Jeffrey Herlings has done exactly the same. Talk about a perfect storm.

Starts may be the greatest strength that Antonio Cairoli has (KTM Images/Ray Archer)

Clement Desalle was third, much like he was at the season opener a year ago, and followed by the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing duo. Was this an encouraging outing for Romain Febvre in fourth? This is now the new normal for the former world champion and twelvetime Grand Prix winner. When Febvre won the title, riders like Antonio Cairoli and Clement Desalle were injured and the premier division as a whole was in a transition period. So, with that in mind, is too much expected of him? After all, the statistics do not lie and Febvre has not beaten an on-form Cairoli yet. The absent Tim Gajser, on the other hand, has gone toe-to-toe with the reigning champ.

Who else was of note in the premier class? Shaun Simpson returned to the top ten and redeemed himself, following a horrific end to the following season. It was his Wilvo Yamaha MXGP teammate, Jeremy Seewer, who stole the show beneath the awning though, as he came out and challenged for a position in the top five in his maiden showing on the bigger bike. It all ended in an unfortunate manner though, as he crashed in the second moto and hit his head rather hard. Seewer continued, despite the fact that his peak had disappeared, but was in no state to do a post-race podcast. A cryptic statement on his social media made it seem likely that he will skip the first round of the Dutch MX Masters this weekend.

Romain Febvre is a contender for podiums, but that may be all (Monster Energy Media/Ray Archer)

Max Anstie did not have the day that anyone expected, but everyone has a bad round at some point and that is all this was. After getting pinched off right out of the gate in moto one, he had to work his way up from thirteenth and did that in an impressive manner. Very few riders managed to make that much progress. A crash thwarted his efforts, however, and he crossed the line in twelfth. The second moto was fairly similar, except he had a great jump and undoubtedly would have exited turn one inside of the top three. Anstie got caught up with Julien Lieber and crashed though, then had to overcome some vision issues to enter the top fifteen again. There was sand everywhere.

Whilst we are on a run and discussing the British riders, how did the Tommy Searle story develop? Searle had his passport and wallet stolen from his apartment on Saturday evening, as he explained in an entertaining interview on MX Vice, but made it home much quicker than expected. A random fan messaged him on social media after the races and told him that he found his passport in the middle of the road, so Searle met this guy in town and retrieved it. The rest of the stuff that was stolen was never found though. There was even this drama off of the track to complete the hair-raising opening round!

Tommy Searle got home much quicker than initially expected (Monster Energy Media/Ray Archer)

Onto the MX2 class then and a different format. Here is a look at the top ten in the division, along with some news and notes on the guys.

1st Pauls Jonass (1-1): The way in which Pauls Jonass dominated on Saturday was certainly a concern for some, but he also had a great start. It seemed as though things would be much harder in the first moto on Sunday, as Hunter Lawrence led early on, but Jonass just let the race come to him and eventually won by a comfortable margin. Neuquen is seemingly a track that suits him well, seeing as he dominated there a year ago, but is that gap really going to close up in Valkenswaard? It will certainly be a worrying look at what lies ahead, if he starts the season with four moto wins on the bounce.

2nd Thomas Kjer Olsen (2-2): Thomas Kjer Olsen just does his thing and slips under the radar whilst recording impressive results. The real test for Olsen will come in the middle of the season, however, as he fell a little flat after his triumph at the Grand Prix of Latvia last year. This is promising though and once he got into second in the final moto, he did not lose touch with Pauls Jonass. The gap actually dropped by two seconds across the final half of the race. Was Jonass really pushing or just managing the situation? It is likely that we will never get an honest answer to that.

3rd Hunter Lawrence (2-6): The hype was strong with this one and, for that reason, some will be a little disappointed with a third-place finish, especially considering he did not have much for Pauls Jonass on the day. It seems that there is a story brewing beneath the 114 Motorsports umbrella, as rumours have been floating around that the support from GEICO did not materialise in the expected manner or something similar. Things may not exactly be as they seem, but that story will soon come to light on MX Vice. 114 Motorsports is an official Honda Europe team though – it is not like they are a privateer effort.

Hunter Lawrence is off to a consistent, but not spectacular, start (Monster Energy Media/Ray Archer)

4th Ben Watson (4-4): The ride of the day. What makes this even more impressive is that Watson told us in a post-race podcast that he hates the track and has never really done too well there. "I hate this track, if I am honest. Every year I have come here I have hated it," Watson said. "It is just so fast and has small edges. It just gets these weird, sketchy holes and grooves in the take-offs and stuff. At the start of the race everybody is just completely flat out. For me to just go straight off the line and then balls out, it is just not my style."

5th Jed Beaton (7-8): Welcome to the MX2 class, where going seventh and eighth in the motos will get you fifth overall. Beaton was obviously helped a little to get to this position, but being consistent is a talent in itself and something that very few guys have mastered. The trip to the sand of Valkenswaard may cause him to drop to the cusp of the top ten, based on what occurred last year, but then he should be right back in this mix at RedSand, Pietramurata and Agueda. This already seems as though it will be yet another success story for Marc de Reuver.

6th Vsevolod Brylyakov (9-9): This is just good to see. Vsevolod Brylyakov dealt with so much last year, because of that shoulder injury that was more serious than most probably realise. It would not have been surprising at all if he came out and struggled, then built towards a finish like this across five or six rounds. What heights will Brylyakov reach if this is just the start of the comeback tour? This is his final year in MX2 and top three is the goal that Kemea Yamaha have put in place. Is that a stretch? Perhaps, although his talent level indicates that he should be up there. Brylyakov is one of the guys who will really get stung by the age-restriction rule.

Vsevolod Brylyakov finally returned to the Grand Prix starting line (Monster Energy Media/Ray Archer)

7th Henry Jacobi (5-16): Henry Jacobi started sixth in moto one and finished fifth, then started seventeenth in moto two and finished sixteenth. Does that say a lot about him, the track or just how competitive the MX2 class is nowadays? Jacobi only cracked the top ten once last year though and, considering the level of support that he has compared to some guys, there is a reason to celebrate. STC are one of the smaller satellite teams in the pits, but they have merged with Sturm Racing this season to provide extra support. Whether or not that has a drastic impact on Jacobi remains to be seen, however, as it seems that the extra budget went towards some EMX talent.

8th Darian Sanayei (31-3): Had his fuel line not split in the first moto of the season, Darian Sanayei would have landed on the overall podium. There is absolutely no doubt about that. Sanayei was incredible at the Grand Prix of Patagonia-Argentina last year, so this was to be expected, but what does this mean for the future? Sanayei will be a podium contender at an overwhelming majority of the rounds and should end the season in the top five, then it will be intriguing to see where that leaves him next year. There are some significant slots on factory teams that are about to open up.

9th Jago Geerts (12-9): Jago Geerts will be a new name to most fans, especially those outside of Europe. The MX2 rookie is locked in at Kemea Yamaha for the next three seasons, following a single term in EMX250, and is actually still finishing school, so he is not even a full-time rider yet. This was obviously a rather impressive ride. It seems as though it is just a matter of time before Geerts becomes a contender for podiums and wins in the hotly-contested division.

10th Calvin Vlaanderen (18-5): Calvin Vlaanderen should have been in the top six overall at the very least. The newest HRC recruit was particularly impressive on both days, as he ripped through the field with ease. Starts are clearly something that need to be worked on, as he should not be pulling through from outside of the top ten each time, but that may have just come down to first-race jitters. What caused him to finish eighteenth? Vlaanderen ran it in so hot on Jorge Prado that he crashed as well – he even made a public apology on social media.

Before this thing gets wrapped up, how about Jorge Prado? Prado was running a huge scar on his elbow from an injury that was sustained in December. After breaking his elbow, he started riding again just twenty-one days ago. The Spanish superstar did not even get a chance to capitalise on that time though as he spent a week of that travelling to Argentina. The way in which he performed in the qualifying race on Saturday was incredible, with all of that taken into account, but then that crash caused him to spend time in hospital that night. Talk about a stacked weekend! With all of that in mind, exiting the first round with nineteen points in the bag is incredible.

Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Husqvarna/J.P Acevedo

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