The third round of the 2012 FIM Motocross World Championship was held in Fermo, Italy. As well as the slick, hard pack track riders had the warm temperatures to deal with throughout the weekend. The track at Fermo is quite technical, with long, deep ruts running up and down the Italian hillside from where the track had been watered over the course of the weekend. As a whole the entire track kept riders on their toes for the duration of both moto’s, with a few rhythm sections also giving riders fits.
There were a few points on the track which were crucial in making up time on riders in front, most notably the step up before pit lane. Only a few riders had the power beneath them to get on top of it every lap, which was undoubtedly quicker than bouncing off of the face as you spent way too long in the air. This step up ended up playing a huge role along the entire finish line straight, as riders were carrying so much momentum by cleanly jumping on top, they could easily out drag riders that didn’t. Jumps on the track that can separate the riders can only be a good thing, as it generates some passing spots and good racing, it when everyone has to do a jump at the same speed you have to wonder if they need so many in the track.
It seemed as though every rider struggled in one particular section on the track. For example, in the first MX1 moto Gautier Paulin couldn’t get the section with the triple out of the corner (which everyone was doubling) right no matter how many times he tried. Every single lap, he’d slide out, or struggle to even double the triple due to a lack of momentum and it cost him considerably. Finally however, in the most crucial part of the race Paulin managed to get it right on the last lap and that was enough to keep his bid for the win alive.
Although it wasn’t quite enough to collect 25 points as Pourcel managed to keep ahead in what I would call the race of the year (so far)! It seemed as though wherever you looked passes were being made and on the last lap alone, Pourcel and Paulin exchanged the lead multiple times. The interesting thing was seeing the comparison between Pourcel’s Kawasaki (CP377 Monster Energy Kawasaki Pro Circuit) and Paulin’s (Kawasaki Racing Team). Unsurprisingly, both seemed to be similar on the long uphills, despite using different exhausts amongst other things. In the end the overall outcome was affected by the individual rider’s line choice, and technique, rather than the package beneath them.
Despite being extremely quick all weekend, Paulin didn’t even make it up onto the overall podium after being pinched off by Pourcel leading into turn one and going down off the start in the second moto. The Frenchman still managed to claw his way up to sixth, using all of the power beneath him. His 2-6 on the day was still beaten by Desalle’s 4-3 for third overall. It also gives Cairoli a little more breathing room in the point’s standings, as the Sicilian now has a seventeen-point lead over Gautier.
On a track he openly admitted that he didn’t like, Cairoli came away with second overall and a moto win. Just like Paulin, ‘Toni’ had a part of the track that he struggled with. As he seemed to always lose time in the downhill ‘waves’ section pretty much every lap. Prior to the races, there were three things that made me think Cairoli may have a tougher time of it than other GP’s.
Firstly, the steep hillside looked as though it would definitely favour the 450’s over Cairoli’s KTM 350. Secondly, following a crash in the qualifying race, Antonio was forced to start from the middle of the grid and on a 350; there was a chance he might get swallowed up by the time everyone got to the first corner. Finally, he has never completed a GP at Fermo after twisting his knee in 2010, and due to family bereavement in 2011. For some riders, that plays tricks with their mind and seems to get inside of their head a little bit.
In both moto’s however, Cairoli nearly took the holeshot and looked every bit as fast as the riders around him (which isn’t really surprising) on his way to 3-1 moto scores for second overall. I imagine Cairoli’s a lot happier about that because of the increase in his championship point’s lead, but the support for Toni the entire way around the track was amazing. Every single lap, you could either hear screams and air horns or see flags with his face on waving in the wind. The five time world champ is a star in his home country, that’s for sure.
The man that actually won the MX1 class and deserves full props for his win was Christophe Pourcel. Everyone knew he could do it, it seems as though it’s actually doing it, which sometimes is the problem. If only Pourcel had managed a good result at round one, he would be right in the thick of the title fight, however despite two weeks up on the podium he still finds himself playing catch up.
At this early point in the season, it really looks like Kawasaki might dethrone KTM as the dominant force in World Championship Motocross. For the last few years, KTM have had a stranglehold over both MX1 and MX2, and although individual riders have posed threats, not once has a complete manufacturer presented a group of riders as talented and capable as the KTM stable produces. This year, that all might change as yet again Kawasaki’s MX1 team was obviously very strong, as are their MX2 team, although the CLS Kawasaki team didn’t have the GP they were looking for.
Although Jeffrey Herlings went 1-1 (more on that later) and there wasn’t a single Kawasaki up on the podium. The CLS Kawasaki duo still made an impression. In moto one, despite qualifying first and second, Searle and Roelants both got terrible starts, especially Tommy who was all the way down outside the top twenty. Both riders eventually ended with DNF’s after making good progress, Joel because of a bad crash, which sent him rolling down on of the long hills and Tommy because of a mechanical issue. As it turns out, another rider hit Tommy in the second turn, which smashed his radiator and exhaust. His bike eventually lost all water and came to a stop with four laps to go.
In the time both riders were on track, Roelants secured the fastest lap time of the race serving notice that he is capable of running the leaders pace, and Searle matched the leaders times for the most part whilst coming through traffic, on his way from 25 to eighth. As it turns out Roelants didn’t even make it too the line for the second moto. As he was throwing up during the interval, after hitting his head hard in the moto one crash.
Tommy on the other hand was a lot stronger in moto two, despite another bad start, through no fault of his own. After Herlings pinched Tommy off heading into turn one – again, the two crashed causing a pile up collecting almost a quarter of the field. Although Herlings got up and going considerably quicker then Tommy, Tommy still went after him consistently clocking laps often faster than anyone on track whilst again coming through traffic. Tommy eventually got where he could see Herlings, and although he couldn’t catch him to a point where he was close enough to attempt a pass, he still got extremely close.
Herlings claims to have lost a handful of spokes, as well as his front brake in the first turn crash, which makes his win more impressive, or perhaps it’s more head games between him and Searle. Either way the battle between the two looks to have only just started, and it looks as though it will heat up a lot in the coming weeks! With a 30 point lead over Van Horebeek in the title chase, Jeffrey does have a nice, comfortable margin in the title fight. For Searle, he really just needs to win and start chipping away at the gap before it’s too late.
The surprise and feel good story of the MX2 class in Fermo was Michael Leib. The young American (in only his second outing aboard a Monster Energy BikeIt Yamaha) shocked the world, with two excellent performances. After coming through the pack from 20th all the way to third in moto one, he went out and led virtually all of the second moto. Unfortunately, one of the laps he failed to lead was the final one as the realisation that he was on the verge of his first professional win set in, as did the pain of a twisted knee. With a training program based around twelve minute supercross mains, to lead ninety percent of a forty minute GP moto is a remarkable feat, especially on a bike you’re only racing for a second time.
Jeremy Van Horebeek had, what I would call, a breakthrough ride on his Factory KTM. After the misfortunes of the two Kawasaki’s, Jeremy finished a strong second in moto one and never really lost touch with Herlings. Until, he crashed with five minutes to go, hitting his head hard in the process. That could explain his poor performance in moto two, when, with all of his main competitors on the ground he should have run away with the win. Although, he has claimed that his head was hurting, this is why he had to back off slightly and salvage what he could. Still, a podium finish is a great improvement for the Belgian, as well as moving into second in the point’s standings; he should be carrying a lot of confidence into the next round.
The MX2 class saw quite a lot of inconsistency in Fermo, with riders going 7-5 for fourth (Jordi Tixier) and 9-7 for fifth (Jose Butron). It’s really a testament to just how tough and hard on the bikes the track was with lots of riders crashing out, or suffering DNF’s.
Christophe Charlier made his return aboard the Monster Energy Yamaha, as the team works towards building their riders back up after injury. Considering his limited race time prior to the weekend, a sixth overall is really quite good. Compared to his 2011 results, it’s pretty much on par, which gives me a feeling he’s a much improved rider this year, and one that could play the spoiler when fully fit.
His teammate, Steven Frossard also made an attempt at returning to racing, as he desperately wanted to at least salvage his 2012 season. It proved too much for his injured knee however, as the long ruts were treacherous and could of easily done more damage in the blink of an eye, especially without his knee braces which were stolen! With no points on the board yet again, he is definitely out of the title chase already; the best thing for him may be to just sit out now and return when fully fit. Although it does look as though he will try again in two weeks’ time in Mexico.
For David Philippaerts, another member of the Monster Energy Yamaha squad, Fermo marked another consistent ride as he attempts to recapture his form of recent years. In front of his home fans, an eighth overall isn’t close to the standard he set for himself back in 2008, but it’s consistent as he works his way back to full fitness. That seems to be his goal for the first part of the year at least, be consistent and avoid further injury.
Following the Bulgarian GP, I commented that Ken De Dycker must be looking at the possibility of further support from Factory KTM. On the Friday prior to the Italian GP, KTM held a press conference presenting Ken as an official member of the team for the remainder of 2012. Although this immediately prompted questions about the progress of Max Nagl’s recovery, it’s a good signing for KTM. Ken is clearly a rejuvenated rider, and even on the hard pack of Fermo (where in the past he hasn’t been much of factor) he posted good results with a seventh and a fourth. Even better news for Ken is that he will now get the same bike that Ryan Dungey has been riding stateside, rather than the outdated model he has been on so far this year. With the newer, more capable bike beneath him Ken could get on the podium in the coming weeks, which will be a great achievement for him as he has failed to climb up on the podium since 2010.
In a sport which seems to be mostly dominated by the factory teams, it was astonishing to see three factory riders battling for fifteenth early in the first MX1 moto. As it really proved the struggles each riders are facing at this point in the season. For Tanel Leok (Rockstar Energy Suzuki) and Rui Goncalves (Honda World Motocross team) a lot more would have been expected of them, but as both struggle with niggling injuries it might be a while before we see both riders at their best. As Rui struggles with a pulled groin muscle, it is just another blow for the Honda World Motocross team, as both he and Bobryshev are struggling to regain their pre-season form.
The Brits had a bad day in Italy, as all riders struggled with crashes, injuries and left with minimal points, although there were a few positives to take from the day. Jake Nicholls again showed good speed aboard his Nestaan JM Racing KTM. After a fourth in moto one, it looked as though it would only be a matter of time before Jake scored his first podium at world championship level, although as the chance opened up in moto two, disaster struck. Without even crashing, Jake suffered a hematoma of a ligament in his wrist after simply over jumping one of the downhill jumps and landing in the braking bumps. Whether or not Jake will be fighting fit again in two weeks’ time remains to be seen.
Despite a terrible gate pick in both moto’s, Max Anstie ended up top Brit on the day with an eleventh and an eighth. He’s showing flashes of brilliance at every round so far in 2012, but Max hasn’t been able to put it together for a podium finish, which is undoubtedly where he and the team expects to be. Last year, Max seemed to excel in the deep sand however he seems to be a more well-rounded rider this year, and capable on all surfaces.
Mel Pocock’s day could have turned out a lot better had it not been for a misfortune in the second corner of the first moto, when Julien Lieber caused a pile up which resulted in Pocock having to pull out with bent bars and a damaged bike. His second moto was his best performance since the first round in Valkenswaard however, as he once again rode within the top ten before finishing in eleventh. It seems as though Mel’s GP journey has now ended for 2012, as he focuses on the British Championship and the European series. It’s definitely been successful as he has bettered his career best results consistently.
For Elliott Banks Browne, he didn’t even make it to the start of moto one after tearing ligaments in his left thumb during the qualifying race. Once again, EBB just can’t buy any luck in the GP’s this year. One day, he’s surely going to get the results he’s deserving of as his speed is right up there with the top ten. He should be up to speed again in time for Lyng next week, as he continues his fight for his number one priority, a British Championship title.
In MX1, Shaun Simpson’s consistent season took a blow when he crashed out of the second moto after a strong eighth in moto one. Despite his zero points from the second moto, Shaun sits just outside the top ten in eleventh with only four points separating him from Tanel Leok in tenth. Apart from the second moto in Fermo, Shaun has mostly met his goal of top ten every race. It seems he’s been struggling with starts slightly, and if he can get them sorted out he may start clawing away at the top five.
With the first three rounds in the books, it looks as though all the normal championship contenders are now at the front of the pack once again. As the South-American tour begins in two weeks’ time, it will be an even playing field as no one will have any previous experience on either circuit in Mexico or Brazil. It will be the riders that can adapt to their surroundings the best who will end up at the front of the pack leaving South America.