Day One: MXGP of Lombardia

Insight and analysis from qualifying

· 6 min read

A lot of pundits already had the Grand Prix of Lombardia mapped out. Antonio Cairoli would sweep both motos with relative ease, cut the deficit to Jeffrey Herlings down to twelve points and then the title fight would rage on in Indonesia. The qualifying race that was run earlier today serves as proof that anything can happen though.

Antonio Cairoli fell on lap one and had a significant amount of work to do, which cleared the way for there to be a new winner in the premier division. Romain Febvre started off in second behind another Yamaha-mounted rider, Jeremy Seewer, then upped the pace at the halfway mark and established a clear advantage over his competitors. It was a reminder of what he can do when everything is clicking. "I am feeling good. My foot is getting better and better every week, so that is really important," Febvre said in a post-race statement.

A heat win acts as a nice boost for Romain Febvre (Yamaha Racing)

"Today I was okay all day long," he continued. "I qualified in third, then took a really good start and then after a few laps I passed Jeremy Seewer and took the lead. I tried to ride safe and not bring any mistakes. I opened the gap a little bit to secure my place and then held it to the finish. It was hot, but not like crazy or something like last year. It is okay. I was feeling good today, but it was only a twenty-minute qualifying race. When I took the lead I opened the gap a little bit and had two or three fast laps, then slowed down a little bit and cruised to the finish."

This was the first time that Romain Febvre reached a chequered flag first since the Grand Prix of Sweden, which was three hundred days ago exactly. A win like this was certainly long overdue for the former champ. Although he is not the force that he once was, there is no doubt that he will smell blood in the water and realise that this is his greatest shot at returning to the top step of the podium. When is another golden opportunity like this going to arise? Jeffrey Herlings will not be a factor and Antonio Cairoli could potentially be buried on the first lap, seeing as he will have the seventh pick of the gates.

"It was a very difficult qualifying race," Cairoli said after charging through the field. "I had one little crash and one quite big one at the end of the waves at the end of the first lap. That was after a very bad start. I struggled a little bit to come back to seventh. I am really looking forward to tomorrow. I do not think about the championship at all. I want to take the home GP win, like I always do when I ride every weekend, but it is never easy. We try to not make mistakes and stay in front with the start. Hopefully we can be clear on the first laps and then try to start in front in both motos."

All eyes are on Antonio Cairoli at Ottobiano (KTM Images/Ray Archer)

It was most impressive to see just how fast Antonio Cairoli was whilst working through traffic. Although he was constantly being slowed up by other riders, hence why his times were a little erratic, he was still the quickest rider on track at points. The table below compares his times to Romain Febvre and shows just how much faster he can go.

Romain Febvre

Antonio Cairoli

Difference

Lap 7

1:40.759

1:42.134

-1.375

Lap 8

1:41.290

1:39.847

+1.443

Lap 9

1:41.427

1:41.228

+0.199

Lap 10

1:41.268

1:42.378

-1.110

Lap 11

1:42.523

1:42.175

+0.348

Lap 12

1:44.243

1:40.502

+3.741

Jeremy Seewer obviously raised eyebrows with his impressive charge to second. It was actually a surprise that he was so composed at the head of the field, because he had a handful of crashes in practice and looked a little out of sorts. Two of those falls were even in the same corner. It was almost like leading came naturally to him though, as he recorded some of the best times of the race whilst out front and did not look flustered at all. It will be interesting to watch him progress in the coming weeks, as it seems as though a podium finish will occur sooner rather than later. The previous Grand Prix in France was the point where he broke through.

Jeremy Seewer continues to edge closer to a podium (Yamaha Racing)

A final point to consider is that Tim Gajser really fell apart in the qualifying race. Gajser showed great speed in the timed session at midday and sat atop those results, which was a positive way to enter the race programme, but then fell in the first turn of the heat and was left with a substantial amount of work to do. It is not like that crash can be blamed for his poor finish, however, as Antonio Cairoli was actually behind him at the end of the first lap and just dropped him after making a pass. Gajser later blamed his poor showing on a lack of rhythm, which then made it tough to execute passes. It does not bode too well for the motos tomorrow.

Onto the MX2 division then, where Thomas Covington continued his run of good form with a dominant victory in the qualifying heat. Covington claimed the holeshot from the fourth gate in and was then untouchable. It was a perfect race. "Every weekend that is how you plan for a race to go," he commented later on. "It is pretty rare for it to actually go that way. I pulled the holeshot and pushed pretty hard for the first ten minutes, but then tried to relax after that and not spend myself too much.

"I think it is going to be a pretty heavy race physically tomorrow, with the heat and the way that the track is shaping up," Thomas Covington continued. "I am looking forward to it. I think I just need two consistent starts and being strong at the end tomorrow is going to be really important. I think you can win or lose a race in the last ten minutes, so it is going to be really important to find a good rhythm and keep that pace until the end." Covington is no stranger to winning in the sand, remember, as he claimed a moto win at Assen two years ago.

Thomas Covington is going for his first overall win of the year (Husqvarna/J.P Acevedo)

Jorge Prado claimed second, which makes it seem as though he is in a position to steal more points from Pauls Jonass tomorrow, but the results do not tell the full story. Prado started ahead of Jonass, but was caught and passed early on in the heat and could not really respond to that. Jonass later fell, however, hence why he limped across the line in fifth. There is no reason for the reigning champion to worry though, as it seems as though he is in a good spot heading into the motos. The practice times also tell a similar story.

Well, it is getting late and another day of racing is not too far away at all now. There was even more intriguing stuff off of the track on day one at the Grand Prix of Lombardia, hence why this report is a little later than usual, because it was announced that there will be a round in Hong Kong next year. Now that is something different…

Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Honda Racing Corporation

Fantasy MX Manager
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