The Grand Prix of Trentino (Italy) represented round four of the 2013 FIM Motocross World Championship; the title fight is now in full swing as the series tours parts of Europe. Prior to this round, a lot of the riders and teams were busy familiarizing themselves with their hard-pack setting. Arco di Trento was the first old school, hard-pack circuit that the title fight has visited so far this year.
I would like to touch on a bit of news that came out of the Italian facility on Saturday, before we get to what transpired on-track. Unsurprisingly, the Mexican GP has been cancelled. Honestly I think that the race was doomed from the start; although it might of seemed like a good idea on paper, the way that it was executed was very poor. Interestingly, neither Youthstream or the FIM gave a reason for the cancellation; it is all quite secretive really. Personally, I believe that it is better for the series to not visit the facility. The response was so negative last year, which does not reflect well on the sport.
However, a Mexican GP could be on the cards in the future; Youthstream did state that they are already in talks with another promoter for the 2014 season. So although Guadlajara may be off of the schedule, we could be visiting Mexico quite soon. At this point, I do not believe that another GP will be introduced to replace the Mexican GP this year.
Fortunately, the GP of Trentino was much more popular with the riders and fans; the setting of the track was so breathtaking that this alone grabbed headlines worldwide. It seemed the track split the opinions of most, as some aspects were good and some were bad. It was very one-lined and very fast; this was evident in the racing. Particularly, these were the problems that most riders complained about. When you have two riders (Herlings and Cairoli) that are so dominant, you could argue that a track with these qualities makes for some better racing though.
A lot of riders seemed to comment on the ‘fun factor’ that the track had. Although it was not the best if you got a bad start, it certainly allowed some riders to be creative with their lines. The track surface was very hard-pack; despite this a lot of braking bumps and ruts seemed to form. Although this opened up a handful of lines, there was still one prominent racing line all of the way around the track. In places the Arco di Trento circuit was extremely rocky; so that is why most stuck to the racing line throughout the day.
In a piece about the mentality of the MX1 frontrunners, I alluded to the fact that Toni Cairoli could be too strong this weekend; after all, it is his home GP. Antonio was not too dominant on the Saturday; however his times did indicate that he could flick a switch, and sprint away from the competition because of his raw speed. It turned out that the Sicilian actually had it easy, in part thanks to a pair of holeshots. The first moto actually represented how the field has turned out thus far this season, it does not seem as though this is going to change in the near future either.
Whilst Antonio Cairoli was ahead by a handful of seconds, his competitors were involved in a four-way battle for the runner-up position. Although Toni was right there, neither one of the four could find that little bit extra to challenge him; instead, they found themselves locked in a battle with riders that have been fighting to see through the roost of Cairoli in most motos this year. Of course these riders are Clement Desalle, Gautier Paulin, Tommy Searle and Ken de Dycker. Currently, Cairoli has everything going way on and off of the bike; this formula is proven to be key to his success; his rivals just cannot replicate it for whatever reason.
It seems as though his competitors can clock lap times faster than him once or twice over a weekend, but they can not do it consistently; therefore it does not have the desired impact. Ken de Dycker actually set a lap time that was faster than Cairoli in the first moto; evidently de Dycker has the speed. So why is it that when the Belgian started right behind Antonio in the second moto Ken was not capable of challenging him? Despite setting the fastest lap of the race yet again, de Dycker dropped further back as the race progressed. Clearly speed is not an issue. So, what is stopping him?
Lets compare the lap times of Antonio Cairoli and Ken de Dycker from the first moto:
Ken de Dycker
Evidently, Ken de Dycker can match the pace of Cairoli; this was when Ken was in traffic also, whereas Antonio had a clear track. But by the time de Dycker had found a way to match the pace of Cairoli, Toni had already stretched out a gap because of his early lap times. So, Toni could afford to lose that time to Ken without it proving to be too costly.
The GP of the Netherlands was relatively disappointing for Gautier Paulin, hence why it was good to see the Frenchman rebound at the GP of Trentino. Of course you would expect him to land on the podium on a hard-pack track like this, and he did just that. On the day, Paulin garnered a second and a fourth (following a crash in the second moto) for third overall. I do believe that he probably would have captured second overall, if he did not crash early on. Paulin has had a consistent presence on the podium, but he has not shown that he can win yet.
Here is an interesting statistic: Clement Desalle has exactly the same amount of points as he had after four rounds last year. What does this mean? Well, Desalle is clearly just as good as he was last year; however Clement has not really made any massive gains either, evidently. The Belgian ran into Tommy in the second turn, and their bikes were locked together. So he had to work his way up from the back of the pack also. Clement only made it back to eighth in this moto, whereas Tommy climbed back to sixth. However Clement managed to run a pace similar to Cairoli at different points, despite coming through traffic.
I was slightly skeptical about how Tommy Searle would perform after the qualifying heat on the Saturday. You see, most had put a lot of stock into the belief that once Tommy manages to grab a holeshot he will be able to run the frontrunners pace. But in that qualifier he got the holeshot, and the top four in the series were able to pass him relatively easy. The first moto was quite similar to this, as he started second but lost positions to de Dycker, Desalle and Paulin. Still, it was the best that we have seen him perform so far this season; a fifth and a sixth (after a crash early on) for sixth overall was a step in the right direction.
Max Nagl is back! Well, not quite; but it was still a good showing for the Honda rider. Nagl is struggling: but there are definitely some good things that he can take from his performance at the Arco di Trento circuit. In the first moto, he came back from last to eleventh; Max then landed on the podium in third in moto two. It is not as if he started there either, Nagl moved up from sixth to third early on in the second moto. I do believe that he has more to give still, but it was the best he has looked since he jumped on the Honda World Motocross team.
When Jonathan Barragan started inside of the top five in the second moto, I sat up and took notice. I have criticised Barragan because of his dip in form in recent years, but this was the first time in years that I have seen him upfront off of the start at a GP. So, I felt that this was his opportunity to make his presence known and get some momentum rolling. The Spaniard dropped to ninth eventually, which was his best result this year. But I still thought he would stay closer to the front; how times have changed.
Jeffrey Herlings could go undefeated, he really could! Herlings has had to overcome a lot of adversity on his way to eight moto victories, including injuries and disqualification. So, if he can fight through these issues to win the first four rounds, why can he not go undefeated? It should have been hard for him to win the GP of Trentino, but after hitting the gate in moto two he still took the win in a convincing fashion on a track that was particularly hard to pass on.
In both moto one and two Jeffrey started outside of the top ten, he did look vulnerable for the first time because of this. But yet again, the Dutchman took two moto victories. Of course, for him to go undefeated he will have to get lucky; however, he has already overcome bad luck. Honestly, the only time that I can see Jeffrey losing a moto is in exceptional circumstances.
After the disappointment of having both of their MX1 riders bow out with injury, it was good to see Christophe Charlier post some solid results for the Monster Energy Yamaha squad. So far this year, the Frenchman has been very quiet; he has not really grabbed any headlines. A third and a fifth on the day meant that Charlier finished up in fourth overall;, it was a good day for him. I have to wonder what the Monster Energy Yamaha expected when they signed Charlier before the 2012 season; he has not really delivered anything more than a handful of podiums thus far. You would think that the factory Yamaha squad would want to be on top of the podium occasionally, at least.
Dylan Ferrandis had his best result of the year at the Arco di Trento circuit; the Frenchman is slowly getting back to where he was at this point last year. I expect he is still recovering from his broken femur that he sustained at the tail end of 2012. With that in mind two sevenths is a good showing for him and the Bud Racing Kawasaki squad. Really, the whole team has had a terrible start to the season. I will be quite interested to see if he progresses from this point onwards or not, that will indicate whether he feels ready to start pushing for better results.
All of the momentum that Jake Nicholls has built in the last two weeks came screeching to a halt at the GP of Trentino, when he was forced to pull in during the second moto. Nicholls is in a position where he could separate himself (mentally) from the riders like Coldenhoff. He cannot do this in the points, as he is buried down in ninth. But, he could get in the heads of these riders so that they think that he is better than them. Tixier has already done this, and so had Febvre (prior to his injury). Realistically, Jake should have finished up on the overall podium again; however he pulled in during the second moto, as his bike was very close to suffering a mechanical failure.
Unfortunately, the CLS Kawasaki struggles continued in Arco di Trento. I am sure that when they brought Jimmy Decotis over from the USA, thirty-first overall was not the type of finish that they envisioned. Obviously, he is much better than this and should be finishing around the top ten. I think that he will find everything a lot easier next weekend, as he now knows how the format and the team works; this should make the experience a lot more enjoyable for him.
There were a number of riders that were missing in action at the GP of Trentino, namely Joel Roelants, Steven Frossard, Elliott Banks Browne, James Dunn and Evgeny Bobryshev. A lot of people asked where these riders were over the weekend; here is all of that information:
Steven Frossard: Steven Frossard missed the GP of the Netherlands two weeks ago, because he was going in for surgery on the foot that he injured a few days prior to that GP. It seemed as though he was expected back at Arco di Trento, and he did try and ride. But after practice it was apparent that the niggling injury was too much of an issue, therefore he elected to sit out the GP of Trentino. I suspect that the Frenchman will try again in Bulgaria next weekend. However, how much progress can an injury make in the space of a week?
Joel Roelants: Aside from the rejuvenated Christophe Charlier, the GP of Trentino was awful for the Monster Energy Yamaha squad. Joel Roelants crashed during practice, and injured his shoulder as well as banging his head. Obviously, with a head injury sitting out is the smartest option. Currently, the extent of these issues has not been revealed; whether or not Roelants will line up in Sevlievo in one weeks time remains to be seen.
Elliott Banks Browne: Elliott Banks Browne crashed hard mid-week and injured his shoulder, and his back. Although the pain began to ease, he was not comfortable enough to line up at Arco di Trento. Right now, his shoulder seems to be the main issue. But, at the moment the plan is for him to line up in Sevlievo in one weeks time. It seems that his bad luck from last year is still following him, unfortunately.
James Dunn: There has not been much talk about the brand new 108% rule in recent weeks. However the rule claimed another well-known victim at Arco di Trento, as James Dunn could not compete after missing the cut by less than a second in the pre-qualifying practice. This is why you will not have seen his name in the results on Sunday.
Evgeny Bobryshev: During the week, the Internet was rife with rumours that Bobryshev had broken his leg. At first, the injury was thought to be nothing more than a twisted ankle. But, it was uncovered last in the week that he had fractured his right fibula. This is just more bad luck for the Honda World Motocross team, as Evgeny will probably not be on the line at the fifth round either.
Now, all riders and teams will head straight to a track that is actually quite similar to what the riders just experienced at Arco di Trento. Sevlievo, Bulgaria will host round five of the 2013 series next weekend.
Words by Lewis Phillips
Image courtesy of KTM Images/Ray Archer