Agueda, Portugal has been a staple on the FIM Motocross World Championship calendar for a number of years now; the orange soil is a favourite of most riders, as well. The Portuguese track hosted round six of the series on Saturday and Sunday; the race presented a variety of topics worthy of discussion. In my opinion, the racing was better than it has been thus far.
Unfortunately the amount of entrants in the MX1 and MX2 class suffered again, surprisingly. Agueda tends to attract a good amount of riders each year, because of the credibility behind the circuit. However with twenty-six riders in both classes the turnout was poor, yet again. It was slightly better than Sevlievo two weeks ago though, admittedly. Just look at the amount of entrants from a few years ago, there is an evident drop in riders. I think that we are now at a point where we have to admit that something is very wrong. If we don’t change anything, who knows what the series will look like in just a few years time?
Intriguingly, Youthstream are posing an idea to change the face of the series completely. Can you imagine if we had just one class, entitled MXGP? We could see something similar to this, as soon as 2014. I have ranted about this on many different occasions; if we have to alter the format of the sport completely just to fill the gate, then maybe the problem is larger beneath the surface? In my honest opinion, I believe that Youthstream and the FIM should be looking at some smaller solutions to the problem behind the scenes, like altering fees etc. You would then please those old-school fans as well as filling the gate. This would be better than having a full gate, but losing some fans in the process.
Obviously there is still a desire to contest the FIM Motocross World Championship for young riders that are up, and coming. There was a large number of EMX riders entered to take part in the EMX250 and EMX125 series. In fact there were so many riders that the format needed to be altered to accommodate everyone. So what is it that attracts riders to this series rather than the premier MX1 and MX2 division? Youthstream and the FIM need to focus on certain aspects of this series and replicate them on a larger scale, I do believe.
But anyway, let us move onto the hot Portuguese action or more specifically the MX1 class. I would like to touch on Antonio Cairoli, before we get to the overall winner. The Sicilian failed to top the podium for the second round in succession. But, before everyone starts to ponder what is wrong with the reigning champion remember that he could have quite easily finished up on the podium in both of the last two rounds. Toni has not started finishing off of the box each week; I would argue that he should of won both weeks, in fact.
We were privy to something quite rare at Agueda this past weekend: Antonio Cairoli made a mistake, and quite a large one at that. Rarely do we see him tip-over in a slow turn, or make any mistakes at all. Hence why it was surprising to see him go over the bars off of one of the large step-ups featured on the Portuguese circuit. I do wonder what caused the problem; he could have either hit a kicker or hit a false neutral. I think that it was either one of these that caused the issue.
Although the mistake cost him a potential moto victory (if he would have been able to find a way around Gautier Paulin) the way that he rebounded was particularly impressive; I believe this is why he has acquired so many titles over the years. You could see that he did not want to lose any points at all, despite having such a large points lead already. It was interesting to see his mentality and strong attitude shine through.
So which rider beat out the reigning champ? Gautier Paulin took to the top of the box for the second round in succession. It was well deserved, as well; the Frenchman found himself right in the thick of the battles all day long. Admittedly, the results may have ended up differently, if both Clement Desalle and Antonio Cairoli hadn’t of fell late on. But the fact that Paulin was capable of staying up on a track that was challenging is worth acknowledging. I believe that a circuit similar to Agueda would suit Paulin; I would suggest that the circuit this past weekend suited the Frenchman very well, hence why he won.
Now Gautier has won two rounds in a row, and he has made up six points on Antonio Cairoli in these rounds also. So, does this mean anything? I do not think so; I doubt that he will now go on a roll and cut much further into the points deficit. However, confidence and momentum are strange things in this sport; we have seen them influence results a lot in the past. I think that the next two tracks (Beto Carrero and Ernee) would suit the Frenchman more than Cairoli as well. Currently, the difference between the two at the head of the point’s standings is thirty-eight points.
I gave Antonio Cairoli credit for getting straight up from his fall in the opening MX1 moto, so it is only right that I give the same sort of recognition to Clement Desalle. Undoubtedly, that fall of his in the second moto was the worst crash of the weekend. Unfortunately, it came at a time when he was visibly turning up the pace. In the previous three seasons, Clement won the Portuguese GP (held at the same venue), so it was presumed that he would be going for a win again. Although he never really appeared in the battle for the win all day long, Desalle did prove that he could match the pace of the GP winner. Clement, and Paulin were battling all-moto long in moto two; in the dying stages he looked poised to make a pass before that fall. Let us take a look at those lap times prior to his fall:
Obviously, the time that Clement set on the nineteenth lap was easily the fastest of the race. It was even more impressive that he achieved this at the end of the day, with the track at it’s roughest. However, maybe his fall was a result of him upping the pace to a level that was not sustainable? It is also interesting (and slightly strange) that Paulin set a much slower lap time on the lap that Clement fell. Perhaps this is because he realised that he no longer needed to push, as he had the GP victory sewn up barring any major mistakes.
It seems that everyone slotted in where they should do in Portugal; there were no surprises in either class. Ken de Dycker finished fourth in the overall classification; however it is worth noting that his finish was hindered by a fall in the first moto. In that moto de Dycker did well to rebound to a seventh; he then finished up third in the second moto after benefitting from the Desalle fall. Clearly, he had podium speed; therefore had de Dycker not fallen in the first MX1 encounter it is not unrealistic to think that he may have ended up on the podium.
Although his results have not really been what he was expecting thus far, you cannot argue that Tommy Searle has not been consistent! It seems as though Searle ends up around fifth each week, the Portuguese GP was no different as he finished fifth overall. However, Searle had to overcome some adversity to achieve that result. On the second lap in the first moto, a rock broke his finger; so obviously he had to overcome that pain barrier in order to post a sixth and a fourth in the two motos. I was quite surprised to see that Kevin Strijbos is ahead of Tommy in the series standings; Searle is sat three points down on Strijbos, in fifth. I think that the CLS Kawasaki rider will acquire that position in the coming weeks though.
Arguably, Max Nagl had his best GP of the season; the German was consistent on his way to his sixth overall. Nagl started fifth and moved up into fourth by the finish; although this was not his best finish thus far this year (he posted a third in Trentino) it was a solid effort, as he showed a flash of speed that has rarely been evident since his switch to the Honda. In moto two, he backed that up with a seventh also. Surprisingly Max has moved into seventh in the series standings now, despite missing round two completely; his climb through the rankings has not been well publicised.
It seems as though Evgeny Bobryshev cannot avoid crashes, unfortunately. I was surprised to see him attempt to ride on Saturday, despite suffering a fractured fibula not too long after. I believe that he was not scheduled to return this early; but the worst thing that could happen was that he would crash again, and what were the chances of that happening? Well it did. In the qualifying heat Bobryshev crashed on a triple and failed to finish. Reports suggest that he did not suffer any further injuries. But still, it cannot be a good thing for Evgeny to hit the dirt on a consistent basis like this; something has to change.
Do you remember when the MX2 class was hard to predict, and full of action? In my opinion, those times are gone. Why? Obviously, the age rule had an impact on this. However, there is no passing going on at the front of the pack currently! In the second MX2 moto, the top four started as they finished. What happened to the MX2 class that featured a load of aggressive, desperate passes from young-guns? It struck me as a bit peculiar to see no movement in the top four at all. Of course you would expect Jeffrey to runaway, however the fight for second place is usually wide-open.
In recent weeks, Jeffrey Herlings has had to overcome a variety of things to clinch the win; a few bad starts and small crashes have made it tough for him. So it is clear that he was due an easy weekend, and that is exactly what he got in Agueda! Herlings led every single lap after taking both holeshots on his way to a sixth double moto victory. In the first moto he had a lead of one minute and eighteen seconds, and in the second moto he had a lead of one minute, and eight seconds. But why was the lead slightly less in moto two? Jeffrey crashed and stalled his bike (in two separate incidents) and still won by that amount. Clearly it is going to take more than one small crash to stop him.
Dean Ferris landed on the overall podium for the second time this year; there is no doubt in my mind that he was the second best MX2 rider, despite not finishing in that spot in both of the motos. The Monster Energy BikeIt Yamaha has admitted that he is back to one-hundred-percent after his collarbone injury earlier in the year. Dean would have had a second in each moto if it weren’t for a small crash whilst running in that position it moto one. Unfortunately, this dropped him to sixth at the finish. But he still finished in second overall after a second in moto two.
Undoubtedly, there is no doubt in my mind that Dean Ferris is the most surprising rider thus far this year. I honestly think that no one expected this from Ferris, except for himself. In my mind at least, he is a 450f specialist. If Dean had not of succumbed to injury at round three, I think that he would be right in the battle for second in the championship. But instead, Ferris is trying to fight through the rankings; the Australian is currently sixth.
Jake Nicholls was the rider that benefitted from Ferris’ crash in moto one, as he ended up in second in that first moto, which was a career best. But again, Jake suffered from bad luck in the second moto. He had to nurse the bike home whilst dealing with a mechanical problem; as a result he finished down in eighteenth in moto two. Nicholls has dealt with various highs and lows already this year, which is unfortunate. If he could have minimized the lows (which are not always his fault) he would be much closer to the front in the series standings.
So at what point do we all realise that the Jimmy Decotis to CLS Kawasaki deal is not working out as it was expected to? Admittedly, it was understandable why the American struggled in the first two rounds that he contested. But, I thought that Decotis would garner a handful of points at least at Agueda for a number of reasons. Prior to the Portuguese GP he had a lot of time on the Kawasaki, and I thought that he would gel with the Agueda circuit. But, he failed to score points yet again. Although his results don’t show it, he was closer to scoring a point. Jimmy certainly has to post some good results pretty soon, before everyone begins to doubt him.
In two weeks time, the 2013 FIM Motocross World Championship will return to the venue of Beto Carrero for the second time. After the race was rained out last year, it will be intriguing to see what the venue has to offer; it certainly seems spectacular.
Words by Lewis Phillips