Max Anstie was several metres away from his first podium result in Rockstar Energy Suzuki Europe colours after a spirited performance on his factory-backed RM-Z250 resulted in fifth position overall at Sevlievo for the Grand Prix of Bulgaria.
The fifth round of 17 was played out in front of 22,000 spectators surrounding the wide, fast hard-pack: Anstie had to enter the gate in 15th place on Saturday and his mid-gate position didn’t help with his starting prowess. The two 35 minute and two-lap motos were a test of overtaking skill and technique for the Brit as the grippy but flat terrain permitted few clear-cut passing opportunities and saw an elevated average speed.
Anstie worked his way from 21st to ninth in the first race; the highlight being an excellent double overtake on Dean Ferris and Mel Pocock. He slotted into the top 10 at the launch of the second sprint and pushed up to fourth position. Anstie circulated on the back wheel of Alessandro Lupino and gave all he had to try and relegate the Italian. Moving up to third would have allowed a spray of champagne but it wasn’t meant to be on this occasion.
Julien Lieber had to return home on Saturday afternoon after catching his foot on the ground and twisting his right knee. The young Belgian will head to the advanced Ortema facility first thing tomorrow morning for scans on the joint and for a full diagnosis.
Anstie has 128 MX2 World Championship points; just nine from Christophe Charlier and the top five of the standings. The Grand Prix of Portugal at Agueda is the next major appointment for the Rockstar Energy Suzuki Europe team and will take place on May 5th.
“I felt strong. Each week we are improving and I’m learning about the bike and the team and they are learning about how I feel. We are getting better and stronger but we just need to figure out the gate. We got out of it in Qatar and Thailand but I had a poor qualification position and we paid the price for it today and had to push through. It made it a little bit difficult. I’m really looking forward to Portugal and also Brazil. It is about time we got on the podium now.”