Faenza, Italy hosted the penultimate round of the FIM Motocross World Championship this past weekend, but before we get to the results, or the track – let’s put the spotlight on the 2012 Motocross World Champions. As expected Jeffrey Herlings (MX2) and Antonio Cairoli (MX1) claimed the titles they have sought after all year long. However neither of the pair simply rode around in order to avoid the possibility of mistakes or a crash. Normally when a rider is in a championship-clinching situation, they’ll check up and do what is necessary to see them collect the title.
However, both riders went about the European GP as if it were business as usual. On a track that neither rider particularly favored, Cairoli stated that the Italian GP tracks of 2012 have been the toughest for him. Whilst Herlings called it “the toughest GP of the year for me”, but that didn’t deter them. Particularly, Cairoli had some adversity to face as he had to start down in fourteenth gate pick followed a torrid qualifying heat on the Saturday. Following his gate bouncing up, things didn’t get much better for the Sicilian in the qualifier, as he tipped over trying to make a pass and a rock also broke his goggles. All of that resulted in him starting a lowly fourteenth on the grid – which is nowhere near his usual standards.
Amazingly on a track that heavily favors the gates on the far right Cairoli somehow managed to get away in the top three in both moto’s. It was only a matter of laps (or in the case of moto two a couple of corners) before the Italian managed to get into the lead and as soon as he did so, he never looked back. It was an amazing ride for Antonio at his home GP, especially as the last few home GP’s haven’t gone too well for ‘Toni’. In fact, the last time he won a GP on home soil was Mantova at the beginning of 2010 – which is a surprisingly long gap for the six-time world champ.
The GP of Europe victory makes it six overall wins in succession, and eleven out of the last twelve moto’s won for AC. In a season that was supposedly the most competitive in quite a while, Antonio has been making a mockery of his competition these last few weeks. Despite virtually missing a round with his non-points scoring ride in Sweden; he still managed to clinch the title three moto’s early. The rate in which he is racking up the title begs the question – can he beat Everts record? I took a look at those stats earlier in the year, if you’re interested in seeing the comparison, go and have a read of that elsewhere on this site.
A huge part of Jeffrey Herlings 2012 title success was the way he improved on the hard-pack tracks over the winter. Last year, he wasn’t exactly bad on tracks like Faenza, but he wasn’t running a pace consistently capable of winning. Of course, the way in which he won Faenza, arguably one of the slickest and most hard-pack races this year signalizes just how much the Dutchman has improved, and become a better all-round rider. A 1-1 this past weekend was thoroughly deserved, as despite taking both holeshots Searle was never too far behind him on the first lap; it was a straight up victory over his competition.
On the Saturday despite taking pole position, Herlings didn’t look like he was the fastest of the top four, which made most presume he would have his work cut out for him in the points paying races. Especially considering the three riders that chased him across the line in that qualifier had faster lap times than him. Still, perhaps he was just playing it safe to ensure nothing would go wrong ahead of Sunday. Once Sunday did come along he was the best undoubtedly – setting a lap time two seconds faster than anyone in moto one, and a second faster in moto two. Those seconds soon add up in Motocross!
Of course, as Red Bull Factory KTM drowned the two World Champions in champagne, the title aspirations of two other riders went up in smoke. As the realization set in for both Tommy Searle and Clement Desalle, the pair looked dejected on the MX1, and MX2 overall podium. However ahead of Teutschenthal Desalle has secured his position, as runner-up in MX1, and Searle needs just eight points to clinch the spot in MX2. For Desalle, it has been evident for a while that he would not be the 2012 champ, but for Tommy he has pushed as hard as possible ever since his double DNF in Kegums, including in Faenza. But on the day he just had nothing for Herlings.
When the pair started 1-2 in moto one, most got excited at the prospect of another battle similar to the one witnessed at the British GP. However, despite starting on Herlings rear wheel within a handful of laps he was no longer a threat, and had to be more concerned about the battle raging behind him. From what I saw, the biggest difference between himself and Herlings was Jeffrey seemed to attack the track more; also, Tommy’s lap times dropped off much more than Herlings. However, some days you just don’t have ‘it’ and a 2-2 is a remarkable result for any rider.
Onto the track, which had changed quite a bit since the last time the series visited in 2009. Rather than shoot up the hill following the first corner, riders went back on themselves, which made the start a little fairer in my opinion. However, it still massively favored the first three gates on the far right. These were almost directly in line with the apex of the corner, whereas if you were further out you had to move over to the right to get to the corner. How much did the start favour these gates? The pole-setters (Herlings and Seb Pourcel) used these gates to their advantage and holeshot both moto’s in their respective classes. I’m not really a fan of when the start favors a particular gate massively, as it always makes it a bit predictable, but this seems to be a case with most GP tracks rather than just Faenza.
I was surprised at how rough and choppy the track got, as well as how deep the ruts ended up. On a soil as hard baked as Faenza, I definitely didn’t suspect that would be the case, however that coupled with the heat made it one of the toughest GP’s of the year for most riders. The GP as a whole was so physically demanding that Cairoli looked completely spent following moto two, which was a rare sight indeed as I don’t think I have ever seen the Sicilian that tired following a GP!
Although the change in layout did slow the track down slightly, it was still very fast which made it hard to make up time for most. Of course if you are exceptional compared to the riders around you it was possible, but even Cairoli could only advance to fourteenth in the qualifier following the minor problems mentioned earlier. As the track became choppier the track got slower, and more lines emerged which made for better racing. However, there always seemed to be one prominent racing line that not many dared to go off of in a normal situation.
Some parts of the track were particularly treacherous when combined with the fast nature of the circuit and the choppy soil, as evident by the number of casualties that took place over the course of the weekend. Dylan Ferrandis most notably went out with a broken hip, which is a huge blow for the young Frenchman who seemed to be picking up more and more momentum by the second. On the section of jumps prior to pit lane Dylan went down hard during the qualifier, and unfortunately had to be taken to hospital. In my opinion, it was key that he finished this year out consistently and carried momentum to 2013 where he will definitely be a consistent podium, and race win contender.
However, that is all ruined now and he’ll have to take some time to heal, and then get back up to speed which should leave him pushed for time to prepare for the first GP of 2013. I’m not sure on Dylan’s contract situation for next year. However I presume he will be sticking with the Bud Racing Kawasaki team, seeing as they have supported him throughout his professional career thus far.
Rui Goncalves was also sent to the hospital following a concussion suffered on lap seven of moto one. He should be back on a bike in time for Germany, or at least the MXoN – however that has to hurt him slightly in contract negotiations for 2013. It’s a shame, as after a torrid start to the year he was just picking up speed and consistency the last few weeks. He is in a pretty comfortable position in the championship, as although there isn’t really an option for him to move further up than ninth, Shaun Simpson in tenth is over fifteen points back. Max Nagl didn’t line for moto two after a hard bang to the leg in moto one; however there is no injury there so he should be one hundred percent for his home GP in two weeks time.
What about the Pourcel brothers? Seemingly, the pair comes to life around the Faenza circuit, especially Sebastien. After a very average year with not much to shout about, Seb arrived at the site of his first GP victory and goes out and takes his first pole position in a number of years. The rider that chased him across the line in that qualifier was of course his brother Christophe. Back in 2007 (the day of Seb’s first GP win) the two made history at this very circuit by becoming the first brothers to win MX1 and MX2 on the same day. Although they weren’t quite as successful this time around in the points paying races, it was still a massive improvement on Lierop.
Sebastien despite getting the holeshot both times out could only manage a tenth and a fifth for seventh overall. Perhaps the pace at the front got to him a little bit, as well as the heat and track conditions. But, he dropped backwards into the depths of the top ten at a steady pace in both motos. Christophe’s 2-2 day seemed to be fairly quiet, until the closing laps of moto two when he actually turned up the pace and closed in on a tiring Cairoli. However, backmarkers and other incidents kept him behind the Sicilian. But if there was one more lap, perhaps he could of spoiled Cairoli’s perfect day.
The new replacements had a very solid first showing in Faenza, as one sets out to end his career and the other looks to make an impression for upcoming years! Most notably, Josh Coppins made a very welcome return to the GP paddock aboard a Monster Energy Yamaha. The 2012 Australian Motocross champion went 9-13 for twelfth overall; it was a solid showing considering he has been racing the shorter Aussie motos thus far this year. I would definitely expect him to be a firm fixture inside the top ten in Teutschenthal. No matter where he finishes the opportunity with Monster Energy Yamaha is a great chance for Josh to wave goodbye to his many, many fans in Europe.
Probably the most impressive rider of the day for me was Loic Larrieu. The last memory I have of the Frenchman is getting on the podium in Ernee back in 2009. However, since then his career has gone downhill and has left him without a steady ride this year. With the injury to Joel Roelants, and then Maxime Desprey the Floride Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki team were looking for a rider to fill the spot. Larrieu seemed like a perfect fit, but I’m sure no one expected him to be this good. Anyway, Loic went 8-9 after running further towards the front in both moto’s. Of course, jumping into two forty minute motos was never going to be easy. But if that ride doesn’t get teams knocking on his door I don’t know what will.
Romain Febvre once again proved he would be a force to be reckoned with in the future. The Frenchman (who has already inked a deal with Nestaan JM Racing KTM for 2013) backed up his excellent ride in Loket after a few average GP’s – sometimes, doing it for a second time is harder than the first. All day he was mixing it up with guys like Nicholls, which is where he should be frequently next year. 9-5 saw him finish sixth overall once again; on slick track conditions that evidently suit his style.
Jake Nicholls had his worst GP in quite a while, as bad starts hurt his day. As mentioned above, the fast nature of the circuit makes it extremely hard to make up time, something that played against Jake all day long. His seventh in the first race, was where he started however he was in a race long battle with a number of riders, namely Larrieu. His thirteenth in moto two was mainly prompted by a crash, as he winded himself badly in the fall. His sub-par day means he is just eight points above Tixier in the point’s standings, so there will be some pressure on him in Teutschenthal to secure the fourth spot in the championship. It will also be his final chance to grab his first overall podium in 2012.
I’m sure we were all hoping Lierop was a sign Max Anstie, and his machine would finish the season strong. However, that was not the case as just one week after his podium appearance he wasn’t capable of breaking the top ten. On such a fast track, his underpowered Gariboldi Honda was clearly a disadvantage. Unfortunately, moto two featured a far too familiar site, as Max pulled into the pits with a mechanical issue, once again. For those counting, that’s his sixth DNF in the last eight GP’s. I’m sure once he gets on the Honda World Motocross machine at the MXdN we will really get to see what he is capable of, which I’m sure is similar to what we saw in Lierop.
We may not have an MX2 world champion with Tommy Searle; but Britain does have an international champion in 2012! Mel Pocock finally claimed the championship he has dominated since round one. After starting third in moto one, he quickly made his way to the front as per usual. But he suffered a rear brake malfunction, which was quite obviously treacherous on the slick Italian hillside. Still, Mel salvaged a fourth which was more than enough to secure him the title of 2012 EMX250 champion! With the golden number one planted firmly on his bike, Mel ended the championship in the best way possible, winning moto two and the overall!
Despite all championships now being claimed, there is still plenty to look forward to in two weeks time. When the series returns for the 2012 finale, not only will riders be competing with the pressure of the title lifted from their shoulders, a familiar face will be returning to the starting gate. The #94 of Ken Roczen will be piloting a KTM in the MX1 class in front of his home crowd, with the hope of climbing on top of the podium. That alone, will make it worth watching.
Photography courtesy of Youthstream