Although Hyvinkää (in Finland) is a new circuit to most, the facility did once host GP’s quite a few years ago. So whilst the riders didn’t really know what to expect heading into the round, I am sure that a handful of team personnel knew exactly what the Finnish GP would offer up. But of course, the venue would have changed considerably since then, so I believe that it can be considered ‘an all-new race’ to the schedule, which is what it has been referred to. After all, it was twenty-one years ago that an event of this calibre was last held there.
Honestly I was a bit sceptical heading into the GP of Finland. Although the Finnish were once a very strong nation when it came to motocross, they have fallen off of the map recently. So, I was unsure how the crowd turnout would be, and what condition the circuit itself would be in. Finland is at the very top of Northern Europe, so it is difficult for the neighbouring nations to make the trip over as well (although the hardcore fans will always find a way). But, it seems as though the crowd was quite strong once again, fortunately.
Originally, the circuit was very fast in the free practice sessions. Although the sand seemingly slowed it down as the day progressed and the track got rougher, the track layout didn’t have too many slow corners (although there was one specifically), as most bends were opened up and did not require you to get too hard on the brakes. I think that this limited your options when it came to making a pass, as everyone was running a similar speed for the most part. So all of the riders that got bad starts throughout the weekend had a tough task ahead of them.
Jeffrey Herlings was a great example of this in the qualifier on Saturday. In the eleven rounds that have been run so far, we have seen that the Red Bull KTM pilot has no problems when it comes to moving through the pack following a bad start. However, after falling in turn one in the MX2 qualifying heat, the Dutchman could only advance as high as ninth at the conclusion of the race. Interestingly, Jeffrey did not have the fastest lap time in the race; he also winded himself in the fall. Maybe this was to blame rather than the short lap times or the fast track?
Luckily, there is one way to determine just how fast the Hyvinkää track was in comparison to the other rounds. In the table below, there is the fastest speed of the MX1 class from some the rounds run this year – these statistics have been pulled from the free practice sessions:
Fastest Average Speed (MX1 Free Practice):
48.213 (Rui Goncalves)
50.004 (Antonio Cairoli)
58.497 (Gautier Paulin)
52.691 (Antonio Cairoli)
51.739 (Antonio Cairoli)
52.208 (Gautier Paulin)
54.011 (Evgeny Bobryshev)
55.231 (Evgeny Bobryshev)
52.114 (Gautier Paulin)
59.664 (Kevin Strijbos)
Interestingly, the only track close to the speed travelled around Hyvinkää was Sevlievo, and that is a hard-pack hillside, so it is a bit more understandable. Clearly the Finnish circuit was abnormally fast, but the riders didn’t seem to complain much, as the main concern for most was the very short lap times (which hovered around the one-minute thirty-second range). It is normal for a circuit on the MXGP calendar to have lap times near to the two-minute mark, so it is clear that Hyvinkää was quite different to the stereotypical circuit. In the races, more laps were complete than usual, which meant that the track got quite rough. Interestingly, in a press conference Harri Kullas stated that the track was much longer, however a handful of sections had to be cut in order to accommodate the infrastructure of the MXGP series.
In the weeks before the Finnish GP, there was not too much information on what the circuit was like. It was clear that Hyvinkää was going to be quite sandy, however the sand was a lot deeper than I expected. It was certainly deeper and rougher than Kegums, but it was not on the same scale as Valkenswaard – it was somewhere in between, in my opinion.
So Antonio Cairoli won again for the third successive week, and in doing so extended his lead in the championship to ninety-nine points, which is nearly an advantage of two full rounds. If you read this column quite regularly you will know that I’ve suggested that this is the time of year that Cairoli excels, as it is the point where riders have to put their heads down and fight through fatigue and various issues to reach the end of the season. Again, the experience that Toni has saw him excel in Finland, as he went 1-1 – he was relatively unchallenged also.
At Hyvinkää we saw some of the fire that Clement Desalle is known for, despite the apparent lack of it in recent weeks. Sure he once again had nothing for the leader, but he was a lot more aggressive, and determined in race two, which led to a written warning from the FIM. Before we get to that though, I would like to touch on his first moto. Clement actually put up a good fight in the opening encounter, as he led for fifteen of the twenty-two laps. But, it seemed as though he gave up as soon as Cairoli put an aggressive move on him, it was as if the pass had spooked him a little bit (for more on this check out ‘The Time Sheets’ on Tuesday).
So, lets move onto the topic that everyone wants to discuss – the move that Clement Desalle made on Tommy Searle in that second moto. If the take out was the only incident, you could maybe pass it off as a mistake or a racing incident. But the fact that Clement had punted him off of the track jut moments before did indicate that the Belgian was trying to get aggressive with Tommy; but, I do not really understand why. It is no secret that some of the established MX1 stars were unhappy with the way the CLS Kawasaki pilot was riding earlier this year, but I have not heard any complaints similar to this recently.
Simply, there is no way to justify the move. It wasn’t as if Searle was holding Clement Desalle up, and was in the way – Tommy was quite clearly the faster rider and the man on the move. Unfortunately, the results do not reflect just how quick Searle was, once again. I was actually surprised to see Searle make the type of progress that he did in the second race, as sand has never been a strong point of this. But despite this he was the fastest man on-track at the mid point of the moto; he has race win potential evidently – his luck has to turn around first though.
Kevin Strijbos finished up the Finnish GP in third overall, but it was a quiet day for him, as his first podium since the GP of Brazil was overshadowed by the action that went on around him in that second moto. However, it was certainly a breakthrough ride for him – he has suffered from arm pump frequently in the last handful of GPs. Although he had to fight it yet again at Hyvinkää, he pushed through to record finishes of a fifth and a second. Is this going a turning point for Strijbos, or will he succumb to the dreaded arm pump in the final rounds? Time will tell. The results that the Belgian posted in Finland helped his cause in the championship – he now has a twenty-eight point cushion over Tommy Searle in the fight for fifth.
Before I reveal what happened to Steven Frossard at the GP of Finland, I would like to review something I said about the Frenchman in this column two weeks ago:
“Frossard has to focus on building himself back up in the final half of this season, as he hasn’t spent a lot of time on the Monster Energy Yamaha in a while. If he can finish the year and get a bit of momentum on his side it will help him going into 2014, which is surely his main goal.”
Well his season has not gotten any better since the GP of Sweden. In Latvia, Steven Frossard scored zero points, because of a dislocated forefinger. The Frenchman then broke two more bones in the foot that he injured earlier this season during the qualifier in Finland this past weekend; the bad luck that he has had to deal with this year is quite unbelievable. You have to wonder whether his current team (Monster Energy Yamaha) will stick by him, he hasn’t posted any noteworthy results in nearly two full years. I am sure that his bad luck has to end soon; I just hope that Steven will be able to rebound from this and recapture his form of 2011.
Jeffrey Herlings continued his run of excellence at the Finnish GP – despite the torrid time he endured on the Saturday (as stated above). What more can you say about Jeffrey? Following twelve rounds of dominance, it seems as though I am constantly repeating myself here. Over in Finland he led every lap, so it really was a perfect day. Do you expect any less from him? It was sandy – if he didn’t do what he did then we would all be wondering why. Herlings lapped up to fourteenth in both motos, which was a credible achievement also. Now, the Dutchman has a one hundred and fifty-one point lead. So, he will more than likely clinch the title in two rounds time (Loket), astonishingly.
Honestly, I was quite surprised to see Dean Ferris up on the overall podium in second overall at Hyvinkää, as he has fallen off of the map in recent weeks. Earlier in the season there was a lot of hype surrounding him, as he came out of nowhere, and started to post great results. In recent weeks those results haven’t been there though, which has meant that he hasn’t really been noticeable. However, Ferris rebounded in a big way as a third in each moto saw him up on the box. In both motos he moved forwards also; he was clearly one of the stronger riders out there. Hopefully, Ferris will use this momentum to catapult himself back into contention for the top three positions on a weekly basis.
Aleksandr Tonkov continues to impress on his Esta Motorsports Honda; presumably Tonkov has had some interest from greater teams for 2014, as he seemingly has the potential to be a podium contender each week. I’m actually quite surprised that he finished fifth overall, as a tenth and a sixth does not usually equal a result such as this. Clearly inconsistency was rife in the MX2 field at Hyvinkää, because of that big first turn crash that occurred at the start of their second MX2 moto. Still, it was a good way for Aleksandr to rebound from Latvia, where he scored zero points after hurting his elbow.
Now, do we put Harri Kullas’ ride down to the fact that it was his home GP? Surprisingly, the GP of Finland marked the first time that the Finn has finished inside of the top ten in a moto this year, as he finished with a tenth and seventh in the two motos for sixth overall (another lucky overall finish) on the day. It was good for the Finnish fans to have one of their riders at the front, as it makes the whole event much more enjoyable when you have a home rider to support. Honestly, this was the type of result that I have expected out of Kullas all-year long, hopefully he will be able to carry this momentum forward, as he belongs in the top ten.
Quietly, Petar Petrov is on a bit of a roll right now. Although no one seems to have noticed, I have seen a steady rise in his results, in recent weeks. Seventh overall following an eleventh, and a sixth is a solid showing for the Bulgarian – it seems as though he is now starting to find his feet after a disastrous time last year. The Bulgarian is tenth in the championship, which is impressive as he is beating a few Yamaha riders (Mel Pocock and Maxime Desprey) that have a lot more support than he does on the Kemea Reytec Yamaha team.
Glenn Coldenhoff is becoming one of the unluckiest riders in the MX2 class, unfortunately. It is obvious that he has the speed and ability to contend for podiums, however there is always something that stops him it seems. In Finland, there is no doubt that he was the second best MX2 rider behind Jeffrey; this thought is supported by his pole position and his second place in moto one. However Coldenhoff was collected in the first turn pileup in moto two, and the cooling system on his KTM was damaged as a result. I am certain that his moment up on the podium will come; it’s just a matter of time.
Finally, the run of three consecutive rounds is over; I’m sure that every rider is happy to hear that. With the successful Finnish GP in the past, attentions now turn to the GP of Germany in two weeks time, where the riders and teams will visit Lausitzring for the first time. One thing is certain, on this weekend off Antonio Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings are going to be relaxed, as they are both untouchable at the top of their respective classes.
Words by Lewis Phillips