Having recovered from the opening round of the FIM Motocross World Championship that took place in Argentina just over a week ago, the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP and MX2 teams are back on the road and gearing up for round two of the series that will take place in Sardinia, a small Island west off the coast of Italy, this weekend.
Words: Press Release | Lead Image: Juan Pablo Acevedo
Riola-Sardo is the circuit hosting the second round of the FIM Motocross World Championship. It is a relatively new venue to the MXGP calendar, having hosted only two Grands Prix prior to this weekend. It is, however, a popular destination for the majority of European motocross riders during the off-season due to Sardinia’s drier climate and the track surface, which is deep sand, providing ideal conditions for the riders to improve their fitness and test various settings on their motorcycles, be it engine, suspension, or chassis.
The MXGP of Sardinia will mark the first deep sand race of the season, which is an exciting prospect for all six Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP and MX2 riders, all of whom enjoy riding in sandy conditions.
Spearheading the charge is Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MX2’s Jago Geerts, a rider that is known for his impressive sand-riding skills and is excited about the prospect of racing on such a challenging track this early in the season. The Belgian star arrives with an 11-point lead in the MX2 series after a perfect start to the season in Argentina, where he collected all 60 points on offer.
Arriving with the memory of his first podium finish last year still fresh in his mind, Thibault Benistant is set to line up with renewed determination and a hunger for success. Looking back at his performance in Riola last year, despite missing the entire off-season and first three rounds of 2022 while rehabilitating an ACL repair, the Frenchman put in an impressive ride to secure two third-place finishes and a well-deserved third overall. This season, the ‘198’ is fully fit, and with his natural ability and unwavering determination, there is no doubt that he will be a strong contender for a podium place this weekend. He is currently third in the Championship Standings, 8-points shy of Andrea Adamo in second.
At the same time, Rick Elzinga, the MX2 rookie from The Netherlands, is bracing himself for a gruelling race as he prepares to tackle the deep beach-like sand of Riola. Despite his considerable sand-riding experience, the ‘44’ knows this round will be particularly challenging. He has spent the week leading up to the race mentally preparing for what he predicts will be a “suffer-fest.” Currently seventh in the standings, Elzinga is just four points away from breaking into the top five, and with his tall stature and impressive riding skills, he is poised to make a strong showing this weekend.
With 1080 points left to race for, the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP team is heading into MXGP round two with renewed energy and focus. The team had a challenging start to the season, but they have used the short break to regroup and get back on track.
Leading the charge as the best-placed Yamaha rider in the premier class, Maxime Renaux arrives in Sardinia fifth in the championship standings, just 10 points shy of the championship lead. Although the opening round did not go to plan, the Frenchman is ready to bounce back with a vengeance.
Glenn Coldenhoff, currently placed ninth in the championship standings, is no stranger to the sand and has fond memories of Riola, where he secured a podium finish last season. The Dutchman knows that finding the flow at the treacherous circuit is vital to succeeding; if he can do that, he has a good chance of finishing on the podium.
Jeremy Seewer arrives 10th in the standings and is eager to bounce back after a dramatic start to his 2023 campaign. The ‘91’ made a remarkable recovery from a monstrous crash to finish the opening Grand Prix with a third-place finish in the final race. The Swiss sensation, who spent his youth riding and training in Riola, is in good spirits and ready to put his YZ450FM on the podium.
While this weekend promises to be exciting for MXGP and MX2 fans worldwide, the buzz around the 2023 FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship is also gaining momentum. Ceres 71 Yamaha’s Nancy Van de Ven, the defending WMX champion, will be looking to start her title defence on a high note in the opening round, as will fellow Yamaha riders Larissa Papenmeier and Shana van der Vlist, all three of whom will help Yamaha defend its WMX Manufacturers World Championship crown.
And last but not least, the EMX250 Championship will also kick off this weekend with the Hutten Metaal Yamaha Official EMX250 team on the hunt for another title with its riders Andrea Bonacorsi, Karlis Reisulis and Ivano van Erp.
Maxime Renaux – 5th MXGP Championship Standings, 40-points
“I’m happy to go to Sardinia! It’s a nice place that we all know well as we spend many weeks there in the winter. I’m looking forward to some nice racing there. To prepare, I will be training in Holland and Belgium this week as that is as close to deep sand as we will get. We’re not doing anything different in the program, but mentally we are prepared for a physically demanding weekend, and we know that physical condition will be the key.”
Glenn Coldenhoff – 9th MXGP Championship Standings, 25-points
“Riola is a special track. It is quite difficult to prepare for as there is nothing like it. Over there, it’s important to find the flow because when you do, it’s very nice to ride. I managed to find it last year in the second race when the track was at its roughest, and I got on the podium, so I would love to repeat that performance with another podium this year.”
Jeremy Seewer – 10th MXGP Championship Standings, 24-points
“Riola is my all-time favourite sand track. I love it there. I have been riding there since I was a kid. I have had lots of good memories there, particularly from when I was young, just hanging out there around Christmas with my friends, having lots of BBQs and just having fun. We don’t do anything in particular to prepare for this race because we ride deep sand more than anything anyway. I feel ready for it. I’ve done my hours there this year already, so I am ready.”
Jago Geerts – MX2 Championship Leader, 60-points
“It’s nice to have a GP in Riola. It’s a really heavy sand track so it suits me quite well. Most of the riders do quite a lot of training there during the winter but it’s always different when there is a race or GP. I always like to ride in the sand, so for me, it’s going to be fun.”
Thibault Benistant – 3rd MX2 Championship Standings, 41-points
“I think everyone knows this track, but I’m happy to ride there. It’s one of the toughest races on the calendar, but it will be good to get it out of the way. I rode well there last year, considering I was coming back from injury, so I hope to do even better this year. We’ve been training in the sand this week to get ready for it.”
Rick Elzinga – 7th MX2 Championship Standings, 33-points
“Riola is a one-of-a-kind track. It’s a special kind of sand, more like the beach than a sand track. It’s like literally riding in between the sand dunes so it’s a special kind of place to race. I like riding there. It’s difficult to prepare for a race like that, but I will try to prepare mentally because I know it will be a suffer-fest! When I think of Riola, all I can think of is myself working hard in the winter, trying to survive those big bumps while getting ready for the first race of the season.”