Loket is one of the most historic circuits that the FIM Motocross World Championship visits, I believe, as the track is very natural; it does not have too many man-made features. It is quite intriguing that not every rider thrives on the Czech hillside, because of this. Admittedly it had undergone a handful of changes for this year (which we will touch on in a second); but it was still the Loket that we have grown to love.
In my opinion the start has always been the defining feature of the Loket circuit; whenever it [the Czech GP] is mentioned, I immediately think of turn one. So, you can imagine my dismay when it was revealed that the start had been moved, to behind pit lane. It seemed as though the riders dreaded the older start straight – it always caused quite a few guys to crash; there was a feeling that anything could happen. However, the new start straight was conventional, as there was no steep incline for the guys to tackle. Anyway the old straight is gone now, and I doubt it will ever return. So what about the new start?
Immediately after walking the track, a handful of riders went to Twitter to vent their concern over the new start straight. Clearly the guys thought the new layout would prompt issues, as it was a high speed, downhill first corner; we did see a few first turn crashes, admittedly. The start led into a small double and then a longer downhill. It was testing with the field bunched together going through the fast sections, obviously. However, with just twenty-two riders on the line in MX1, it was not as much of an issue.
Unfortunately, just twenty-two riders took to the line in the premier division – MX1, which is almost as bad as the twenty we saw in Bulgaria earlier this year. Obviously the fact that Nagl, Boog, Goncalves and Paulin were out with injury did not help matters – the class really lacked something without these guys. However if those four guys had got to the line, the number of entrants would have increased to just twenty-six, which is still lacklustre, at best. It really has to change soon – before we start to accept having just twenty riders out there. Fortunately a few more guys entered MX2, as thirty-one riders took to the track; but that isn’t great.
It is quite hard to believe that this was the first overall win for Clement Desalle since the first round in Qatar, but he has had a turbulent season, with sparse flashes of speed. Recently, he has inched closer to the top step with a few moto wins, but he has struggled to beat Antonio in two consecutive races. But, with the Sicilian off of his game, it was unsurprising to see him capitalise with the GP win. Desalle dominated proceedings, as he led every lap, on his way to the thirteenth overall victory of his career. Honestly, I thought that this digit would be higher than that, as the Belgian has been a contender for victories for quite a while now.
Intriguingly Clement Desalle is now ninety-points behind Antonio Cairoli, which will probably stop the Sicilian from clinching the title next time out in Belgium. It now seems likely that the MX1 title will not be locked up until the British GP at Matterley Basin, which will be a sight to see! Clement edged away from de Dycker as well, in the battle for second in the standings by virtue of his double moto win. The MX1 points chase seems much clearer now, after Loket.
I do believe that the Rockstar Energy Suzuki team would have expected a bit more from their pairing this year, so it was good for them to reap the rewards of their signings by finishing up in first, and second in the overall classification. Kevin Strijbos walked up onto the box, for the fourth time this year after a second and a fourth in the two races. It was the type of ride that we have become accustomed to seeing from him, as it was solid – but nothing flashy. Strijbos seems to have fifth in the series locked up now also, as he pulled further away from Searle.
Shockingly Antonio Cairoli wasn’t fast enough to contend for a podium this past weekend, as he just didn’t gel with the slick Loket circuit, which isn’t surprising. Toni has mentioned quite a lot that he really doesn’t like hard-pack circuits – he prefers a sandy track. Still, he has won there in the past, so a fifth overall is slightly sub-par. Obviously, a few incidents (including a fall and a stall) didn’t help his cause, but usually you would expect him to be on the box despite this. However Cairoli really does not need to win, he is in control of the points, as he has been since the midway point of the year. Surprisingly, this was the first time that the Sicilian has finished off of the overall podium since the GP of Sweden last year!
Tommy Searle failed to make it onto the overall podium again – he had a poor showing, with an eighth and a fifth for sixth overall. Now, there are just three rounds remaining, and one of them is Lierop, a venue where he struggles – Tommy is starting to run out of time to climb up onto the box. I presumed that Loket would be a good round for the CLS Kawasaki pilot; it has served him well in the past. But he never gelled with the circuit for whatever reason. Tommy mentioned that he thought the track was very sketchy following the race, so perhaps he was being conservative? Searle had to overcome bad starts (as per usual) as well, which hurt him in the final classification.
Jeremy Van Horebeek has seemingly dropped off a bit in recent weeks, as he had a tough go of it in Germany, and then struggled in the first moto at Loket, because the front wheel kept locking up, which eventually caused him to DNF. Obviously, with just twenty-riders on-track, he still ended up in the points despite this, which did help his cause in the final classification. In my opinion, moto two was the best that we have seen him ride this year – it was certainly his best finish, as he grabbed a second behind his countryman. I do think that Van Horebeek is going to have a breakthrough ride before the end of the year, he has the speed – he needs to put it all together now though.
Shaun Simpson is quietly beginning to pick up some momentum on the JK SRS Yamaha, as he has finished inside of the top ten in the last three races. In Loket the Scotsman finished ninth overall, which was his best result since switching teams, also. So it is looking positive for him, at the moment, as Simpson could potentially move into the top ten in the series standings at the next round. It was not all easy for him though, as he was trapped beneath Tommy’s back wheel at one stage – he was actually lucky to escape that without any injuries.
Well, he finally did it. Jeffrey Herlings now has a second world title to his name, despite the fact that there are three rounds left. It is hardly surprising, as most considered it to be a foregone conclusion. The Dutchman cannot afford to relax however, as he has his sights firmly set on winning every GP overall this season, which is quite likely. Jeffrey has led three- hundred and eighty laps whilst on his way to the world title, which is just remarkable, as the next closest guy to him in MX2 (Jordi Tixier) has led just forty-nine, which is a small amount, in comparison. Obviously, Herlings was deserving of the title – that isn’t up for debate!
Overall, it has been a very difficult year for Honda as a manufacturer, as they haven’t been in the battle for wins at any point, which is where everyone strives to be. In many ways, the GP this past weekend was a step in the right direction for them – they had a rider on the podium in each class, as Aleksandr Tonkov grabbed his maiden MX2 podium. It has been quite a long time since Honda last had a podium contender in MX2, so the manufacturer must be overjoyed to have their bike up on the podium. However, they have already lost the Russian to Husqvarna for 2014 it seems – that deal is supposedly done. If Tonkov can stay injury free, and continue to progress, I do believe that he will be a star of the future.
Alessandro Lupino has had a very up and down season, however he had a good showing this past weekend, which was a good way to rebound from a terrible time in Germany last week. In race one, Lupino had a pretty easy time of it, as he finished a strong second. But, race two was very testing for the Italian, as he started tenth and then crashed on lap three – he fell to twenty-first as a result. Alessandro clawed his way back to eighth at the finish though, which says a lot about how well he was riding. In the end he finished fourth overall, so he really limited the damage in the second moto.
Jake Nicholls looked more like his old-self in moto two, as he was desperately trying to find a way around Jordi Tixier for fifth. I do not feel like we have seen that type of performance out of Jake in quite some time – as he has had some bad luck with an illness among other things. Seventh overall might seem like a lacklustre result; but it was a sign that things are picking up for Nicholls. Hopefully he will return to the podium before the end of the season.
It was a tough day for both Elliott Banks Browne and Max Anstie, as neither rider scored any points following crashes. Max could not even line up for moto two, as he had to travel down to the hospital in order to get a gash in his arm (which was supposedly down to the bone) all cleaned up. However, it doesn’t seem to be an injury that will stop him from competing next time out in Belgium. Elliott Banks Browne had a high-speed get off also; he only completed a few laps of moto two, as a result. It was unfortunate – I’m certain that they are hoping to get some momentum on their side before the British GP, in less than three weeks time.
So, the riders and team will embark on a week off now before a stretch of two GP’s at Bastogne and Matterley Basin, which are two of the better GPs on the schedule, I believe. It seems as though both classes are pretty much sewn up, as everyone is quite spread out in the top three. Despite this, I expect the on-track action to be fiery, as some riders still need to prove their worth for next year.
Words by Lewis Phillips