The Grand Prix of France was fairly mundane as far as on-track action goes, in comparison to the previous event in Great Britain anyway. There were plenty of interesting titbits off of the track though, as contract negotiations for next year begin to heat up, hence why there is plenty to discuss in this regular feature on MX Vice.
1st Jeffrey Herlings (1-1): What more can be said at this point? There is no way that anyone can dispute the fact that he is the best rider in the FIM Motocross World Championship and will be for many years to come. It certainly does not seem like anyone will be able to stop him in the near future. It honestly seemed as though he was going to back it down and accept a second in the final moto, seeing as he faced a ten-second deficit after getting squeezed out heading into the first turn and made a couple of significant mistakes, but he made it happen once again. The lap times below highlight just how consistent he was on a track that made that difficult.
2nd Antonio Cairoli (3-2): Had Antonio Cairoli been content following the Grand Prix of France, it would not have been too surprising. The swollen knee, which is full of fluid, was far from one hundred percent and made it difficult in the left-hand turns. The second turn, which was where he lost the race lead to Jeffrey Herlings in the final encounter, was supposedly the hardest part of the track for him. Cairoli is going to try and get some fluid drained this weekend, then do some training in the sand before heading to the eleventh fixture at Ottobiano. Cairoli defeated Herlings at that venue last year although, based on his post-race comments, it seems that even he expects a different outcome this time around.
3rd Tim Gajser (4-3): Tim Gajser was extremely popular when the Grand Prix contingent last rocked up to St. Jean d’Angely two years ago, as he was winning races and looked like he was going to be a consistent threat in the future. Everyone wanted a piece of the future star, who had plans to head to the USA as soon as possible, but that has disappeared now. It is reflected in the statistics on MX Vice too, as his post-race interviews are now the least popular at most rounds. Does that mean anything in the grand scheme of things? No, not exactly, but it is just an interesting look at how the hype has vanished. There are still some flashes of brilliance each week though.
4th Clement Desalle (2-6): Clement Desalle was actually dealing with a painful knee and shoulder at St. Jean d’Angely, after getting tagged by Antonio Cairoli. The incident occurred in the qualifying race, hence why he could only finish nineteenth, but he was stronger on race day and missed the podium by a single point. Accepting that is something that he has had to master in recent weeks, as he has been fourth overall at every single round since his triumph at the Grand Prix of Russia. Consistency like that has been a strength of his recently, hence why he is clearly the third-best rider in the class, but he is not quite the consistent threat for victories that he once was.
5th Romain Febvre (7-4): It is actually quite confusing that Romain Febvre is just as good as he has been all season, despite the fact that his ankle injury is constantly referenced as a serious issue. Why is that a tad confusing? These results cause some to immediately presume that he will be so much better when healthy, but that just never turns out to be the case. Third to fifth is just where he belongs at the moment and it honestly would not be surprising if he does not progress further than that all season. When he vacated the MX2 division a little under four years ago, no one would have believed that he would be a regular in the top five.
6th Glenn Coldenhoff (5-7): There is a lot on the line for Glenn Coldenhoff. Red Bull KTM have stuck by him for a while now, even when his results did not necessarily warrant a spot on the squad, and now he is paying them back by consistently hovering around the top five. It would typically be safe to presume that these results are good enough to earn him a new deal, but Pauls Jonass has stated that he will probably take that spot. Where would Coldenhoff go? There are not too many open spots on factory teams, especially now that a couple of those have been snapped up by some surprising names, so he may have to look towards one of the elite satellite teams.
7th Gautier Paulin (8-5): Gautier Paulin is a bit of a mystery, much like Romain Febvre in many ways, as it seems to take a lot for everything to fall into place on race day. This would probably be a cause for concern, especially because of how poorly he performed last weekend, but that ride in the qualifying race was fine. It was not phenomenal though nor was it the best that he has been this season. The fact that he is about to drop outside of the top five must be a little worrying too. Reflecting on the way that he performed in France, the one thing that stands out is how off the pace he was at the beginning of moto one…
8th Jeremy Seewer (6-8): It was interesting to hear what Jeremy Seewer had to say about his contract in our post-race podcast. Although he is with Wilvo Yamaha currently, he is tied to the manufacturer rather than the team for next year. It would obviously make sense for him to just stay where he is, seeing as he has made strides forward and is actually performing well, but he admitted that his manager is currently having discussions about where he will be placed next season. Jeremy Van Horebeek is heading towards the end of his current deal, which was only for one year, so there is going to be a seat up for grabs underneath the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing awning.
9th Evgeny Bobryshev (9-9): Evgeny Bobryshev is making huge strides forward and beginning to remind everyone what he is capable of. It was interesting to hear him state that teams have not really taken note of those rides, as he has not spoken to too many people about a deal for next season. Based on the rumours that were floating around the paddock at St. Jean d’Angely, the factory teams are well on their way to finalising all of their plans and certain contracts have already been signed. It seems that he may not return to a factory berth with that in mind. The BOS team are improving with every week that passes, however, and are making it easier for him to battle with those guys.
10th Shaun Simpson (11-13): It is easy to feel sorry for those who are working their way back from injury. This was actually a great result for Shaun Simpson, at this point in his recovery anyway, but some are quick to forget everything that has gone on and place unrealistic expectations on his shoulders. When storms rolled in on Saturday, there were immediately conversations about these being the perfect conditions for him to push towards the front. It is baby steps at this point in the season though and, although tenth overall may not seem like much, it was a step in the right direction. The Grand Prix of Lombardia should provide another opportunity for him to establish some momentum.
1st Jorge Prado (3-1): Although Jorge Prado performed extremely well at the Grand Prix of France and managed to gain twelve points on Pauls Jonass, it is tough to not think of the last month as a bit of a missed opportunity. Prado should have swept both motos in Germany, as he was certainly the quickest rider, and then he could have stood atop the podium again at the following round in Great Britain. The difference is just sixteen points now and that is not much at all, especially with ten rounds left to run, but it could be even tighter. The deep sand of Ottobiano should provide another opportunity for him to slash the gap to just ten measly points.
2nd Thomas Covington (1-3): It is a shame that Thomas Covington is heading home without making a run at a championship, because he deserved to be in that position, but it seems that the opportunity to replace Zach Osborne beneath the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing awning was just too good to pass up. There is no doubt that he has already made his mark in Europe too, so he will be referenced for many years to come. This was common knowledge within the paddock at the Grand Prix of Patagonia-Argentina, but even that was late. A letter of intent was signed on Friday before the MXoN! Covington obviously thought that he would have a full winter to prepare, rather than nursing a torn ACL.
3rd Thomas Kjer Olsen (2-4): This is just what Thomas Kjer Olsen does.
4th Jago Geerts (5-2): There has not been much of a chance for the Jago Geerts hype to build, as it seems that his great rides are often followed by mediocre results. The Grand Prix of France acted as a nice reminder of just how amazing he can be though. Even the first moto was extremely impressive, more so than it seems on paper, as he was running quicker times than the leaders at points and was certainly quicker than Pauls Jonass in fourth, then he kept Jorge Prado honest in the second encounter. An interesting question to explore at this point is: Who has been the most impressive rider on the Kemea Yamaha team this season, Ben Watson or Jago Geerts?
5th Pauls Jonass (4-6): Pauls Jonass should be stoked, but was not thrilled in our post-race podcast. A mudder is a nightmare for a series leader, as they have the most to lose in the championship, so one would presume that he was just freaking out when he tipped over on lap one of moto two. It is also worth bearing in mind that he has been known to lock up in those situations, rather than charge forward in the fashion that most expect from him, so recovering to sixth was great. There is no way that he could have expected more than that. Across the last three events, which took place on circuits that may favour his competitors, Jonass has lost just seven points.
6th Ben Watson (9-7): Another week has been and gone and, once again, Ben Watson recorded results that do not reflect how well he rode. It is better to have it work out like that rather than the other way around! Watson crashed down the start straight in moto one and had more work to do than those in similar positions, so did well to enter the top ten, and then pushed Pauls Jonass through the second half of the final encounter. It is going to be so intriguing to see what happens when he claims his first holeshot in the class, as the speed is there to do incredible things. A win is coming. There is no doubt about that.
7th Michele Cervellin (8-8): Who would have thought that Michele Cervellin would hop onto a Yamaha and immediately improve? It seems as though he was onto something when he parted ways with Martin Racing Technology Honda a couple of weeks ago. Cervellin is so much better than he was with HRC last season, it is unbelievable in many ways, but does not get the recognition that he actually deserves. Although his results have been noteworthy, his quiet demeanour means that he is not quite getting the type of attention that he deserves. It is actually an issue that a handful of riders in the FIM Motocross World Championship face. Additionally, he has not started near the front and had a breakthrough showing like Henry Jacobi has.
8th Conrad Mewse (7-9): What a difference a week can make. Conrad Mewse mentioned that he has had some issues over the last month, although no specifics have been revealed, but those have now been ironed out. The proof is obviously in the pudding at this point in the game. The Grand Prix of France was such a small sample size though and the Grand Prix of Lombardia is going to be the greatest test. Mewse is great in the sand, just look at his results from round two for proof, so he should be able to edge towards the top five. Will we ever find out what problems beset him? Honestly, it is unlikely. It is difficult to pinpoint something specific.
9th Calvin Vlaanderen (12-5): How did Calvin Vlaanderen not crash in that incident with Michele Cervellin? The move will definitely be placed in the highlights package at the end of the year. It is not surprising at all that he struggled to pick up momentum, after escaping what could have been a nasty situation. The HRC-backed South African, who has now claimed three podium finishes in his career, eventually got everything together to salvage ninth overall on what could have been a horrible day. Vlaanderen is quickly building momentum that will serve him well next year, when he will be back with the HRC squad and helped by the fact that some established stars are moving onto pastures new.
10th Hunter Lawrence (6-13): It must be difficult to be sat in the position that Hunter Lawrence occupies. The clock is well and truly ticking now, as he has just ten rounds left in the FIM Motocross World Championship and so much that he wants to achieve. A title is not going to happen, so that dream is over, but he still has not even won a Grand Prix! Whilst trying to achieve these things in a short space of time, he is also attempting to build himself back up following a string of injuries and illnesses. It is all quite complicated. However, the speed that he showed at St. Jean d’Angely is a nice reminder of what he can do when he is on.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: KTM Images/Ray Archer