There are so many stories that emerge from each Grand Prix. It may be tough to look past the Red Bull KTM riders right now, as they are on an incredible level, but here is a run through the top-ten riders in each class with some thoughts attached to each. It is a new format for this feature and one that should make for easy reading, but make sure that you offer up your opinions on social media (motocrossvice on Twitter).
1st Jeffrey Herlings (1-1): The MXGP title fight rages on, but the tremendous races that took place at the first three rounds are drifting further into the distance. It almost seems like a lifetime ago that Jeffrey Herlings was tearing through the field, then sliding into the lead with just a handful of laps to go and shocking the industry. Now, however, he has led sixty-nine of the last seventy-one laps, swept every moto over the last two weeks and extended his advantage to sixteen. There is now no doubt that he is the strongest contender in the premier division. It is not like that is breaking news, admittedly, but the fact that he has now fixed his starts has made it clear for everyone to see.
2nd Antonio Cairoli (2-2): Considering how much the light has changed things for Jeffrey Herlings, which was explained in detail in this column last week, it was surprising to hear that Antonio Cairoli has not thought about installing something similar. Cairoli does not struggle out of the gate and typically claims more holeshot points than anyone else, but installing a similar system to the light would eliminate any doubt that he is not quite on a level-playing field. In a title fight as close as this, where every inch counts, it seems logical. When questioned about that in our exclusive interview, which was conducted on Sunday, Antonio Cairoli misunderstood and instead went in-depth about crossing over out of the gate.
3rd Tim Gajser (3-5): It has almost been forgotten that Tim Gajser missed the first round with an injury and, considering that he only fractured his jaw two months ago, already being on the podium is impressive. However, as a former champion, expectations are high and anything less than a win is considered a slight disappointment. It would just be interesting to see where the Tim Gajser who swept the Grand Prix of Patagonia-Argentina last year up would fare in the current field, because there is no doubt that he has not reached those heights since that point. This could be the first step to returning that level.
4th Romain Febvre (5-4): Out of the last twenty-four rounds, Romain Febvre has finished in either fourth or fifth overall at twelve of the events. So, yeah, it is hardly surprising that he is growing increasingly frustrated with these results. Both Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing riders are searching for more. How about this for a Romain Febvre-related statistic: Febvre is one of just four MXGP riders to score points in every single moto through the first five rounds. When did the premier division, which is supposed to be full of wily veterans, become so inconsistent? If he needs to cling to something, at least this is a solid start that could lead to greater things in the coming months.
5th Glenn Coldenhoff (7-6): Red Bull KTM have the best two riders in each class, which is a bold statement. What more could they want? A third MXGP rider, who consistently hovers around the top five each time, completes the team perfectly. The Austrian manufacturer are not looking for Glenn Coldenhoff to deliver championships or race wins, they just need him to do exactly this. Performances like the one that he recorded on Sunday may even exceed expectations. It is extremely likely that his contract will get renewed in the very near future, as he only signed a one-year extension last summer.
6th Jeremy Van Horebeek (6-8): Jeremy Van Horebeek is growing increasingly frustrated, it seems, as he thinks that he is capable of much more. Perhaps that is true, but then take a look at the riders ahead of him. There are four world champions and, truth be told, Van Horebeek has only actually claimed two overall victories in his career. There were positives that could be extracted from the Portuguese Grand Prix though, as he actually dealt with some electrical problems in the second half of the final moto. Heck, as well as that issue, he also had to start on the far outside in both races! Those starts deserve a lot more recognition.
7th Jeremy Seewer (8-7): It still seems as though Jeremy Seewer is still playing this down a little. Seewer stated that he would be ecstatic with top-eight finishes prior to the start of the season and he has proven that he belongs between sixth and eighth each week. The best signing of the off-season, one could argue, as just imagine how the Wilvo Yamaha MXGP outfit would look without him, especially considering that it is going to be quite a while until Arnaud Tonus hops back onto the YZ450F. There is no reason why he should not land on the podium at some point this season, especially considering he got a bit of a late start on blue.
8th Evgeny Bobryshev (9-9): Evgeny Bobryshev is ramping things at just the right and, hey, HRC are probably beginning to wonder what could have been. It sounds like Brian Bogers is going to need another surgery, so that will knock him out until the final couple of rounds and the Japanese manufacturer are going to need a replacement rider at some point. Bobryshev already turned that offer down in the off-season, but where would he be with a full-factory bike? The RM-Z450 that he is piloting is mostly stock, which is unbelievable, so one would presume that he would be knocking on the door for podiums with that CRF450RW. Silly season should be interesting.
9th Clement Desalle (32-3): Unsurprisingly, Monster Energy KRT are being very vague when discussing the technical issue that Clement Desalle encountered in the first moto. It was clear that it was a clutch issue, however, and it is fair to comment that he was not overly stoked about the situation. It is understandable though, because he lost a considerable amount of points and that is reflected in the current standings. Anyway, excluding that sour point, how about the fact that he could have had four podiums finishes from five rounds to start the season? Five was his final total at the end of the previous season, so this is leaps and bounds better than what he has done in recent years.
10th Max Nagl (12-10): It is becoming increasingly difficult to categorise these performances, as it really depends on how much of a disadvantage each person believes that the TM is. There is not much data to go off of, aside from the results that Davide Guarneri acquired a couple of years ago and they were similar to this. It is easy to think that Max Nagl, who has more potential, should be doing more with the package, but just look at the riders ahead of him. It is not like he was handling those guys last season, so it is unlikely that he would be doing much better with the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing outfit.
1st Jorge Prado (1-1): Hey, look who has all of the momentum! Some in the paddock are hesitant to put too much stock into these performances, as they are just waiting for him to blow up. Prado has made a handful of mistakes in his career, which have been well-publicised, so most believe that he does not possess the consistency to make a significant run at the championship. It is hard to argue against those claims, but he has been faultless since the second round at Valkenswaard. Confidence is a powerful thing too and, just as he said in an exclusive MX Vice interview, he has never felt this good. Not even in the EMX125 days!
2nd Thomas Kjer Olsen (4-2): This is just what Thomas Kjer Olsen is going to continue to deliver. Consistent results, which will put him on the podium frequently, but he is just missing a little something that would make him a contender for wins each week. If Olsen had finished fourth in the second moto in Trentino though, which is an average result for the two-time moto winner, he would still be ahead of Jorge Prado in the series standings and just twelve points down on Pauls Jonass. It just goes to show that a rider like Olsen, who is remarkably consistent and does not necessarily steal headlines, can prosper in the long run.
3rd Jed Beaton (3-4): Jed Beaton raced in Australia, travelled over to compete in EMX250 and is now in MX2. So, taking all of that into consideration, he has to be old, right? Not at all. The F&H Kawasaki rider only just turned twenty, so has another three years in the class and will undoubtedly reel off some wins in that time. Beaton gained a lot of fans, mainly Austrian, with this performance and taking that previous point into consideration, it is just a matter of time until factory teams begin knocking on his door. This result was big for Kawasaki too, which was overlooked a little, as Austin Forkner was the last guy to put them up on the MX2 box.
4th Ben Watson (5-2): It is incredible how far Ben Watson has come in such a short space of time. This is not even a surprise anymore! Had there not been a big rut in the final turn, which stopped him from really putting the squeeze on Thomas Kjer Olsen, he would have landed on the podium. It was too big for him to cut over though and he missed out by just a tenth. It is coming though, there is no doubt, and it would not actually be too much of a shock if he wins one of these things before the season ends. After all, he is only going to get better from this point on.
5th Pauls Jonass (2-8): It would be easy to panic about these results, but it is important to put things into perspective. The season started in an incredible fashion, which no one envisioned, and that caused expectations to climb, but his competitors did come in behind the eight ball. Jorge Prado was nursing an elbow injury, Hunter Lawrence was on a new bike and Thomas Covington was coming off of a torn ACL. The only contender who had no hurdles to speak of was Thomas Kjer Olsen. Could the weekend off between rounds three and four really have made that big of a difference? It is unlikely, but there is no doubt that he can no longer win on his worst days.
6th Vsevolod Brylyakov (8-5): This is another great step forward for Vsevolod Brylyakov, but a shame at the same time. How is it possible to feel sorry for a rider in sixth overall at the highest level? Brylyakov is making great steps forward, following the devastating injury that he suffered twelve months ago, and will challenge for podiums before the season ends, so imagine what he could do with another year in the class. The age-restriction rule will force him to move up to the 450F at the end of the current season though and he will never get to fulfil his potential on the smaller bike. There is a chance that he could sneak a win in though.
7th Adam Sterry (6-9): Although these results do not seem too noteworthy, this is such a huge leap in the right direction. This is just the second time that Adam Sterry has ever finished inside of the top ten in both motos at a Grand Prix! That statistic is incredible and says a lot about the problems that he has encountered throughout his career. Poor luck threatened to spoil things in the first moto, as he lost his rear brake and encountered electrical problems, but he kept it together and recorded a career-best sixth. The same result was acquired in moto two in Indonesia, of course, but this is a finish that no one can question.
8th Henry Jacobi (9-8): It is hilarious how quickly things can change, but races like this are just as encouraging as the podium finish in Italy. The Grand Prix of Portugal was not a great event for Henry Jacobi, as he never really stole the spotlight and was lacking those raw bursts of speed that have raised his profile significantly. If he manages to just hover in the lower half of the top ten on his worst days though, much like he did at Agueda, then he will fare well in the final standings. There is no doubt that this was a poor event for him, as his lap times were really off in both motos.
9th Calvin Vlaanderen (18-6): Calvin Vlaanderen has had a turbulent time of it lately, which is reflected in his scorecard. A crash in the first turn at the Grand Prix of Trentino left him with a sore shoulder, an injury that he was still nursing on Sunday, and then he crashed again in race one. The shoulder was only strong enough to go at full speed for ten or fifteen minutes, so that second race was actually quite impressive. There is no need to panic about the HRC star, with that in mind, as he keeps knocking out respectable results that indicate there is more to come. This small break should do a lot for him.
10th Ruben Fernandez (12-13): How about this? F&H Racing Kawasaki did not really have any noteworthy results to speak of before this season begun, but now they have put three guys in the top ten! Pulling the KRT MX2 team has proven to be a wise move, at this point in the season, as the F&H guys have massively outperformed what they did last year. Anyway, Ruben Fernandez showed plenty of speed when he first stepped up to the MX2 division and, before this past weekend, there had not been much of that. It would not be much of a surprise at all to see him feature inside of the top six in the coming weeks.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: KTM Images/Ray Archer