Day One: MXGP of Trentino

Analysis and insight from qualifying

· 7 min read

The qualifying heats at the MXGP of Trentino did not exactly stray from what is considered normal, with the exception of Pauls Jonass, but the plot continues to thicken in what is an exhilarating era that fans will reflect on for many years to come. It is easy to claim that nothing can be taken from a qualifying race, but it is a nice indication of what is to come.

Where do we begin? Jeffrey Herlings received those improvements that he discussed in our post-race podcast from the Grand Prix of La Comunitat Valenciana and, well, it certainly made the difference. Antonio Cairoli, who was five or six gates on the outside of him, pinched him off entering the first turn, but it took less than a lap for him to slide through. There was not much of a battle after that. Is this a sign of things to come? Is he going to get out of the gate towards the front a lot more now? It seems that this battle could be entering a second phase that could shape the title fight moving forward.

Jeffrey Herlings has made some big improvements out of the gate (KTM Images/Ray Archer)

"Gate pick is not that important, because you can take a holeshot from anywhere," Herlings said in the post-race press conference. "This is still good for the confidence. I felt good on the track all day. It is an honour to be here and we have had a lot of fun. To go fastest in the free practice, time practice and also win the qualifying heat is a good beginning to the weekend. It still does not mean anything. It is all about tomorrow and the two motos, so we will see how it goes.

"I feel good. We made some changes to the bike, which I already mentioned at RedSand, we were waiting on some things to change," Herlings continued. "We did a lot of testing with the suspension, so I think we improved a little on that, and also with the motor we changed some things. It has been positive but, like I said, a good Saturday does not bring a good Sunday. It is still good to start off this way."

An interesting point to consider is that, although Jeffrey Herlings had the heat well under control in the second half, he still managed to up the pace and find another gear. The quickest that he went all race was on the eleventh lap. The time that he set at that point, a 1:47.715, was not the best of the race though, as Antonio Cairoli nabbed that right at the very beginning with a 1:47.585. What does that mean? Cairoli can clearly run the pace that his rival is going, although admittedly the track was smoother when he did that lap, so did he just sit back, take stock of the situation and gain valuable knowledge for tomorrow? There are many angles to explore. The times below are from the beginning of the race.

Jeffrey Herlings

Antonio Cairoli

Difference

Lap 1

1:49.997

1:50.923

-0.926

Lap 2

1:48.406

1:50.600

-2.194

Lap 3

1:48.009

1:47.585

+0.424

Lap 4

1:47.876

1:48.840

-0.964

Lap 5

1:48.140

1:48.852

-0.712

Lap 6

1:47.854

1:49.581

-1.727

Antonio Cairoli seemingly has more in the tank for tomorrow (KTM Images/Ray Archer)

"It is always nice to be here in Italy, race here in Arco and be here with a lot of fans and media," Antonio Cairoli said. "It is really important for us to show that motocross is important and that we have a lot of supporters in Italy. Today was good, I know that it is only Saturday. We will try to get a good start also tomorrow and fight for the win, which is always our goal, keep it safe and be on the podium. There is a lot of pressure at an Italian GP. I really like the track and atmosphere here, so we will do our best to be on top and have a good weekend overall.

"I tried to follow a little bit. I had some good speed in the beginning and after I saw that he was pushing all of the way," Cairoli continued. "It was kind of sketchy in some places and I made two mistakes, so then I just tried to find some other lines. It does not really matter about the starting position, as there is a lot of choice, so it is really good and I hope that tomorrow we will have a good race with the other guys and put on a good show for the public."

The action was fairly stagnant behind the lead duo, as the top six riders finished in the same position that they ended lap one in. A statistic like that is to be expected at this scenic track, however, as places to pass and gain time are not necessarily easy to come by. A lot of riders have commented that the track is in particularly good shape this time around though, as there are deeper ruts that have made it more technical. It is not like that necessarily creates passing opportunities though. Sand was added on one of the downhills to spice things up a little, additionally, but that quickly got pushed to the side and became irrelevant. It is still great to see new additions at a venue such as this.

Gautier Paulin will contend for a spot on the box tomorrow (Husqvarna/J.P Acevedo)

Benoit Paturel did well, further down the field, and actually qualified one position higher up than he did in the MX2 class at this race last year. Paturel started where he finished, much like a majority of the field, but that was actually quite impressive. After missing a fair amount of time and never having raced in the premier division before, it would not have been a surprise if the pressure got to him. The Marchetti KTM rider fared well and should hover somewhere between tenth and fifteenth tomorrow. It will be particularly interesting to see how he fares once we get off of the slick hard-pack.

A final note from MXGP is that Tim Gajser deserves props for pulling through from dead last to seventeenth. There is no doubt that he made more progress than anyone else and when you compare him to Pauls Jonass in the MX2 class, who struggled to make similar ground, it was particularly impressive. "I'm a little bit disappointed with today: it was hard work after the crash, because I found myself dead last and had to push hard to get the best gate pick for tomorrow," Gajser said in a team statement. "I was able to finish seventeenth – which is obviously not the best but it surely better than last – so I hope to get a good start tomorrow, try to stay on two wheels and ride consistently in order to score a good result."

Tim Gajser had a turbulent first day at the MXGP of Trentino (Honda Racing Corporation)

Speaking of Pauls Jonass, he had a small crash with another rider early on in the MX2 race and then found out just how hard it is to pull through the field on a stereotypical European track. There were no other issues there, thankfully, and he is ready to race. Will his streak stay intact tomorrow? It would be quite the statement if he pulls off another sweep, but the odds are obviously stacked against him. Fifteenth may not be too much of a disadvantage, however, as all of the riders above mentioned that it is possible to grab a good start from pretty much anywhere on the grid.

Jorge Prado will almost certainly stop his competition from grabbing a holeshot, although he has not quite been as dominant in that category this season. Things are heading in the right direction for him though, as he was simply dominant in that qualifying heat. "I started first, made a twelve-second gap and then the last two laps I just kind of cruised around to make sure I finished first not like in Valkenswaard where I crashed on the last lap," he said after the race. "The points are tomorrow and we will see how that goes."

Jorge Prado claimed the overall win at this venue just one year ago (KTM Images/Ray Archer)

What else occurred in the MX2 division? Thomas Kjer Olsen was solid in second, but still lacked the edge to get him to the front of the field. Olsen is the complete package in many ways, as it is difficult to point to a fault that he has, but just seems to be missing that final piece of the puzzle that would make him a consistent contender for race wins. Once that clicks and he figures out that piece, he could be dangerous and start to give the established guys trouble. However, for now, one can rely on him to record consistent finishes and appear on the box frequently.

Calvin Vlaanderen actually had a race that was remarkably similar to his teammate, as he crashed with another rider early on and then had to charge through the field to seventeenth. A damaged disc made that particularly difficult, as he was unable to use his front brake from that point. Another Honda-mounted rider, Hunter Lawrence, withdrew at the halfway point for reasons that have not yet been determined. Marshal Weltin also pulled out due to a mechanical issue. That is all from day one on the hard-pack.

Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: KTM Images/Ray Archer

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