Analysis: MXGP of Europe

Breaking down the Dutch MXGP

· 11 min read

The promoters of the Grand Prix of Europe were put in a difficult position. The Grand Prix of Patagonia-Argentina was simply incredible and, although it was great promotion for the second round, it was always going to be tough to match the action that took place at that event. Valkenswaard may have been even better than that though, despite those miserable conditions.

It is remarkable just how similar the action in the premier division was to what transpired two weeks ago. Jeffrey Herlings further cemented his position as the series leader, just as one should have expected at Valkenswaard, and actually overcame a bigger deficit than he did in the second moto at the opening round. This triumph was not as clear cut in the eyes of some fans though, mainly because Cairoli tipped over whilst leading each moto. Did that really alter the outcome of the race though?

It is going to take a lot to stop Jeffrey Herlings at the moment (KTM Images/Ray Archer)

Antonio Cairoli fell on the tenth lap of the first encounter, after leading from the beginning, and based on his average times lost around five or six seconds. Jeffrey Herlings was gaining a second a lap at least before that crash and even made up two seconds and three tenths on lap eight. Considering that there were seven laps left when Cairoli fell and Herlings was less than two seconds down, it was almost inevitable that the latter was going to catch up and make a move. Making a pass would have obviously been the part that could have taken time, but it was not exactly difficult for him in moto two.

There is one point to consider, however, and that is that Antonio Cairoli dropped his times by a second on the lap following his crash. Two laps on from that he also set a competitive time, so perhaps he would have responded to the charge that Jeffrey Herlings was making had he not crashed? It seems as though Cairoli would have been powerless in moto two, even if he did not topple over, as the times that Herlings was setting were just so superior. The second sector was the biggest reason for that and the table below supports that sentiment.

Jeffrey Herlings

Antonio Cairoli

Difference

Lap 6

0:26.099

0:27.879

-1.780

Lap 7

0:26.098

0:26.482

-0.384

Lap 8

0:26.934

0:27.552

-0.618

Lap 9

0:27.555

0:27.197

+0.358

Lap 10

0:26.705

0:27.720

-1.015

Lap 11

0:27.329

0:27.027

+0.302

Jeffrey Herlings was actually able to explain why he could go so much faster than Antonio Cairoli on that part of the track in our exclusive MX Vice interview, which is not always the case with these guys. "I was just kind of supercross-style going through it and using it as whoops basically," he said. "Just jump all the way through. When I was behind Tony he was trying to go inside, inside, inside on the flat. I think my line was better to just go a little bit more with the flow and keep jumping, jumping, jumping." It would be most interesting to have an opportunity to overlap footage of the pair through that particular part of the circuit.

Antonio Cairoli was never too far behind Jeffrey Herlings, but still lost six points (KTM Images/Ray Archer)

Antonio Cairoli also had a take on why he could not match that pace through that particular section. "Yeah, he was very fast there," he told us exclusively. "I just saw it. When you are in front, this is the problem. You do not really see – that is what happened also in Argentina. You do not really see. After I crashed, when he passed me I saw that I was losing on that spot. I tried to make it a little bit better and it worked because I had a good lap around the end before the mistake. On a track like this, if you just change a little bit one line or something you can gain one and a half seconds quickly. It is really important to know where you lost. It is difficult."

Was the way that Antonio Cairoli assessed the situation correct, did he indeed figure out what he was doing wrong once he lost the lead? The times below highlight the three laps where he was followed Jeffrey Herlings through sector two. Herlings only won by three seconds in the end and did not have an opportunity to settle at this point in the heat.

Jeffrey Herlings

Antonio Cairoli

Difference

Lap 15

0:26.781

0:27.099

-0.318

Lap 16

0:27.744

0:29.025

-1.218

Lap 17

0:27.413

0:27.770

-0.357

RedSand is obviously going to be great – that is not exactly breaking news. The Grand Prix of Trentino, round four, will be the event that shapes this title fight though. Jeffrey Herlings will presumably win again this weekend and carry all of the momentum going into the first of three home events that Antonio Cairoli has. Pietramurata was also the track where Cairoli charged from way down the order in the second moto, clinched the overall and left passionate Italian fans in tears. There is no doubt that he is going to be expected to win on that particular service. Jeffrey Herlings does not exactly have the best track record on the hard-pack either, as both Tim Gajser and Dylan Ferrandis defeated him there in the MX2 division.

The point here is that Pietramurata could be the event where Antonio Cairoli starts to shift momentum into his corner, which is desperately needed at this point in the game. However, on the other hand, just imagine the uproar if Jeffrey Herlings defeats him straight up. It is going to be a fiery weekend and one that will could really shape the following fifteen rounds. It is off to RedSand this weekend though and a circuit that will act as the battleground for part three of this legendary on-track fight.

It is amazing that Pauls Jonass was once an inconsistent figure (KTM Images/Ray Archer)

Switching things up for the MX2 class, here is a run through the top ten finishers from the division in an easy-to-read format.

1st Pauls Jonass (1-1): Pauls Jonass was pushed to the limit at the Grand Prix of Europe and that was very interesting to watch. Mistakes were almost inevitable in the freezing conditions and just one mental error would have allowed Jorge Prado to slip into the lead, but that never happened. Jonass logged thirty-four perfect laps and consequently reaped the rewards. It is that consistency that makes him extremely difficult to beat across a season, as most of his competitors have already dropped out of the top five once or twice. It would not be a surprise at all to see him extend this streak further and remain unbeaten through rounds three and four.

2nd Jorge Prado (2-2): Moving awnings was a positive choice for Jorge Prado, for a variety of reasons, and Sunday acted as confirmation of that. The on-track battles between him and Pauls Jonass got heated on a few occasions last year and those feelings surfaced again in the second moto. "I was a bit unhappy," Jorge Prado told us exclusively. "We jumped the jump before, like probably I was just a bit faster than him in the corner before that. We jumped together that jump, then on the finish line just before the takeoff he just came to my side, and I was already completely on the right side of the track. I could not move. I could not do anything."

Jorge Prado also confirmed to MX Vice that he'll be staying in Europe (KTM Images/Ray Archer)

3rd Thomas Kjer Olsen (3-3): It is so difficult to determine whether or not Thomas Kjer Olsen is exceeding expectations. Olsen was expected to have a consistent presence up on the box this year, but he only managed to secure a position on the overall podium once last year. It is a statistic that is almost unbelievable. This is an extremely promising start to the season, with that in mind, but it still seems as though some raw speed is needed in order to contend for victories. Finishes like this will serve him well down the stretch though and he will undoubtedly be in a position to pick up the pieces when his competitors run into issues.

4th Conrad Mewse (5-4): An answer to this question will never truly be determined, admittedly, but would Conrad Mewse be doing this well with the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing outfit that he spent two seasons with? From the outside looking in, it seems that Mewse has found a support group that he can click with each weekend. These finishes were not surprising at all, as his rides in Argentina were better than they looked on paper, and the only way is up from here. Prepare to see a Union Jack hoisted above the podium in the not-so-distant future, as Ben Watson and Adam Sterry are also right on the verge of breaking through.

Thomas Covington could return to the podium this weekend (Husqvarna/J.P Acevedo)

5th Thomas Covington (7-5): Expectations of Thomas Covington increased significantly on Saturday evening at Valkenswaard, as he was rather perfect in the qualifying heat. The same spark was not there on Sunday, thanks in part to some mediocre starts, but this was still fine. This is a building process and he has seemingly made drastic improvements since the season opener. The fact that he is already fifty-six points down on Pauls Jonass must sting a little, but there is a lot of racing to do and this will come together soon enough. Covington seemed more than happy with the progress that he has made recently and that is the important thing. Watch this space.

6th Hunter Lawrence (6-6): Where do we stand on Hunter Lawrence in the sand? There were no breath-taking performances on the softer soil last year, but he did defeat Pauls Jonass in the sand of Riola Sardo during the pre-season event. Solid points were secured on a weekend where he clearly was not feeling too good, which is a positive point to cling onto, but there is not much else that can be catapulted into that category. Oh, by the way, Lawrence is riding with a full GEICO Honda engine and technical support from the team. There were some wild rumours spreading through the paddock at the previous round, but there are no problems and sights are set firmly on the world title.

7th Jago Geerts (4-13): When Jago Geerts first signed with Kemea Yamaha, there was no doubt that he had the speed to deliver noteworthy results. Consistency has always been a problem, however, and that has been clear across two rounds. The fact that he possesses the speed to run comfortably inside of the top five is extremely positive at this stage though and the rest is going to come with time. Locking Geerts into a three-year deal may end up being the smartest decision that Yamaha have made in a while, as he is just seventeen-years-old and still attending school. This may take some of the shine off of that, admittedly, but how about the fact that he is eight months older than Jorge Prado?

Jago Geerts will be a star for many, many years to come (Monster Energy Media/Ray Archer)

8th Ben Watson (7-10): How quickly things can change. This would have been considered a great finish for Ben Watson a year ago, but he is no longer happy with racing in the lower half of the top ten. These finishes were simply a matter of circumstance, however, as poor starts really restricted him. Twentieth was the position that he ended the first lap of moto one in and then was outside of the top ten again in moto two. There is no reason to think that the ride that he had in Argentina was a fluke or anything, this was just impressive in a different way. There were not many riders making that much progress on the gnarly track.

9th Davy Pootjes (9-9): Davy Pootjes needs consistent finishes like this. There is no doubt that he is capable of more than this, as he has already showcased some of that raw speed, but he just needs to back it down and get results on the board. Will this lead him to the level that most expect him to be at? Based on how he performed in his EMX125 days, some expect him to claim a title one day and that is just too much of a stretch. Pootjes can put his LRT KTM up on the podium once or twice this year though, especially when the field thins out a bit. The problem is that he is usually one of the guys moving onto the sidelines.

10th Adam Sterry (10-8): This was definitely a bit of a surprise. Adam Sterry struggled with his finger in Argentina, which was hardly a surprise, so most presumed that Valkenswaard would be even tougher. The track is obviously much more taxing. However, despite that and the fact that he stated that his finger did not like the cold much, he recorded some consistent rides and left some questioning what is coming up down the line. The British battle between Conrad Mewse, Ben Watson and Adam Sterry is extremely intriguing. It is almost impossible to predict who will be the first to land on the overall podium.

Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Monster Energy Media/Ray Archer

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