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Day One: MXGP of Europe

A comprehensive look at day one

· 7 minutes read

Jeffrey Herlings and Pauls Jonass are brilliant at the sandy circuit of Valkenswaard, so it was just obvious that they were going to emerge victorious again and further cement their position at the front in their respective classes. Those words were meant to be the introduction to this feature, but then things got turned upside down in the qualifying race.

Jeffrey Herlings was poised to take another commanding victory, following a dominant showing in practice, but an untimely mistake cost him dearly. It is best if the man himself explains what happened exactly. "I was feeling really good in both practices, took a very good start behind Jeremy and then managed to overtake him and lead half the moto," Herlings stated in the post-race press conference. "There was something not right and I went down. I thought I had a broken wheel, which obviously it was not, but at least something was not right. It does not matter though – it is racing.

"I had to restart in dead last and managed to get back to eighteenth or nineteenth, I do not know exactly. I think tomorrow should be dry and the start straight should be dry as well, then nineteenth is not that bad. Obviously I would prefer first, but nineteenth I can live.

Jeffrey Herlings is still the heavy favourite to claim the victory (Sean Ogden)

Although Jeffrey Herlings took the early lead and was stretching out his advantage when he crashed, Jeremy Van Horebeek actually set the quickest lap of the race. The time (2:01.920) was set on lap three and Herlings did not fall until the fourth circulation. A fun fact is that Van Horebeek, Gautier Paulin and Tim Gajser all set their quickest times on the second lap. Van Horebeek was clearly not out of his depth whilst shadowing Herlings, based on that fact above, but how did their times compare towards the end of the moto? Turn your attention to the table below.

Jeremy Van Horebeek

Jeffrey Herlings

Lap 7



Lap 8



Lap 9



Lap 10



Lap 11



There is a particular reason why the table above has been shared. Just look at that last lap! Eight laps on from the moment that Jeremy Van Horebeek set the quickest time of the race, Jeffrey Herlings almost matched it on a rougher track and whilst in traffic. It is certainly an impressive fact and a sign of things to come tomorrow. The start will be a major factor though, just as it always is, as Herlings could end up with a lot of work to do from the nineteenth gate pick. What happens if he only begins to turn it up at the halfway mark again?

A final point to consider is this. A lot of riders have mentioned that Valkenswaard is extremely similar to how it was in 2013. Freezing temperatures struck the Grand Prix contingent that season as well and, consequently, the track did not develop in the same fashion. There is another similarity though. Jeffrey Herlings crashed out of the qualifying heat that weekend was left with a terrible gate pick for the two motos, but made it work and emerged victorious once again. Is history about to repeat itself? There is no doubt that he can make this work and establish a small advantage in the series standings.

Jeremy Van Horebeek had the quickest time in the MXGP heat (Sean Ogden)

Anyway, Jeremy Van Horebeek deserves to be discussed. The Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing pilot is off to a positive start to the current campaign, which is not too much of a surprise based on how he has started previous seasons, and reaching the chequered flag first will be a major boost. It has been almost four years since he won a qualifying race! The last time that he won an overall was the Grand Prix of the Czech Republic that same year. Most believe that acquiring your second win is harder than the first and Jeremy Van Horebeek is proof of that.

"The track suits me well," Jeremy Van Horebeek said in the post-race press conference. "I feel good. You know on this kind of track you just have to enjoy and ride smooth, because if you ride too aggressive you will not go fast. It was a good day. I had a good start and I think that is the key, just to start in the top three and ride your own race." Van Horebeek ended with an advantage of seven seconds over Gautier Paulin in second place. Tim Gajser, who finished third, was twelve seconds behind the eventual winner.

There were not too many surprises in the top ten, apart from at the head of the field, but Tommy Searle deserves props for his ride. Searle started fourteenth on a track that does not necessarily play to his strengths, but climbed forward to ninth at the chequered flag. This is the first time that he has qualified inside of the top ten in the MXGP class at Valkenswaard! How about that? Romain Febvre was two spots behind him, following a quiet ride, but had to push forward from sixteenth after a small crash in one of the endless ruts.

Thomas Covington rebounded, following some difficult weeks (Sean Ogden)

What is it with the FIM Motocross World Championship producing races that go down to the wire this season? There was yet another pass on the final lap in the MX2 qualification race. Jorge Prado led for the whole twenty minutes, but let the victory slip through his grasp when he dropped it on the final lap. The fall was nothing major though, as he just lost balance whilst navigating his way through the ruts on one of the downhills. There was a chance that he was going to lose pole position anyway, which will probably get overlooked, as Thomas Covington had already cut around five seconds off of his advantage.

Thomas Covington

Jorge Prado

Lap 6



Lap 7



Lap 8



Lap 9



Lap 10



Lap 11



"The starts were so important today," Covington stated in the post-race press conference. "The track conditions were pretty one-lined and, once you get out of that one line, it is pretty deep. I got off to a good start behind Prado, then just followed him for the whole race and tried to stay with him. He was going pretty fast. Towards the end we started running into some lappers and I was able to capitalise on his mistake on the downhill. The last two weeks have not been ideal, as we have been struggling quite a bit. Even the last few days before this weekend, I was actually riding pretty bad. It was nice to turn it around today."

Pauls Jonass was second and, although he did not really feature in the battle for the lead, was certainly a threat. The current series leader was faster than Thomas Covington on four of the six laps that are highlighted above. This was actually the first time that Jonass has not ended a session on top this year, which is rather remarkable. KTM certainly appear to be in a good position to extend their ten-year streak of wins in the MX2 class at Valkenswaard! The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing duo will be their greatest threat – no Japanese bikes appeared towards the front at all during the day.

Ben Watson had a turbulent qualifying race, but still showed potential (Sean Ogden)

Calvin Vlaanderen struggled to find intensity aboard his Team HRC machine, mainly because he is feeling a little under the weather, but still salvaged an eleventh in the qualifying heat. Sickness was a bit of a theme, funnily enough, as Darian Sanayei has been battling that since he returned from that incredible ride at the Grand Prix of Patagonia-Argentina. How about the Kemea Yamaha trio? Ben Watson had a terrible start and crashed twice whilst en route to fourteenth. It was a respectable ride with all things considered. Jago Geerts crashed countless times and could only manage to cross the line in twenty-second, then Vsevolod Brylyakov failed to advance further forward than fifteenth.

Everyone wants to know what happened to Conrad Mewse, as the television crew showed an image of him trudging back to the paddock without his machine. It turns out that there are no health issues there at all though. "Crashed out of the quail race today and bent the bike up so couldn’t finish, ready for battle tomorrow," Mewse wrote on his social media. Some good news to complete our wrap up from day one at the Grand Prix of Europe!

Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Sean Ogden

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