There’s a common saying in motocross and it goes something like this; ‘You can’t win a championship at the first round but you can lose one’. Yeah, I know round two is already in the record books so why am I making reference to winning or losing championships at the first round. Well, after watching the racing today to me it feels like the first round of the World championship was a pre season warm up and today was the day when it really started because let’s be honest if you went on past results Cairoli and Herlings were expected to dominate at Valkenswaard and it seems like most of their competition excepted that fact.
Today however was a lot different. With the exception of Steven Frossard who didn’t start due to a knee injury (which was a real shame for him and us because he would’ve been pushing for the win for sure) all the main protagonists started trading blows for real after a cagey first round and it’s fair to say it’s going to be a right old ding-dong all year by the look of it.
As with any sport and in life in general there’s always sub plots and stories that make up the bigger picture and here’s a few that started turning the cogs in my cue ball noggin whilst watching today.
Kawasaki – What a brilliant effort they have made over the past few years to close the gap on KTM. To be fair all of the Japanese manufactures have , as I highlighted in the commentary booth with Maler two weeks ago but it’s Kawasaki who appear to be seeing the hard work pay off more than the others at the moment. Not just at the sharp end of GP racing but with their stock machinery. The proof is in the pudding. Yeah they have signed some brilliant riders to win races but they’ve also given them the equipment to get the job done and winning all four motos today wasn’t solely down to good fortune, it was by design. And I’m not just giving them credit because of any association I personally have with the brand, credit where credit is due. Like I said, everyone has upped their game in an attempt to knock KTM off their perch and it’s showing, which is great for the sport.
New guard in MX1? – Gautier Paulin is a sublime talent. Fact. You’d have to be new to the sport to not appreciate that he’s capable of winning races in his full debut year in MX1, the question is how many? Can he find the consistency to be in the mix come the end? Clearly due to his body frame he’s better suited to the bigger bike and with confidence growing all the time he has to be a big threat to defending champion Antonio Cairoli and everyone else. Steven Frossard also, and with Christophe Pourcel now deciding to turn up and play AC is going to have to be on his A game all year long to keep any of the French trio advancing and taking his crown. As if he hasn’t got his hands full with Clement Desalle and the rest if them too! It’s hard to bet against Cairoli but if he is to win the championship again this year I reckon he’s going to have to work harder than ever.
The Grudge match! – After Jeffery Herling’s performance today I reckon the battle for the MX2 World title has more chance of going right down to the wire. The fight between him and Tommy Searle is going to turn into a real blow for blow slug fest. Where Tommy and all of us fully expected Herlings to ride off into the distance at the opening round surely not many could’ve expected him to be as strong as he was today, especially after a poor qualifying race. He showed a lot of character today and the disappointment of Saturday could’ve got to him and he quite easily could’ve pushed it too hard but he didn’t, he stepped up to the plate and challenged Tommy. Last year he had the security of Roczen taking all the pressure, this year he’s KTM’s golden boy and that pressure is now firmly laid on his shoulders. I thought he handled that well today, especially with Tommy seeming to be more mentally strong and confident than ever and on a much improved bike. The mind games had already started at round one and they are only going to get more intense like the battle on the track. I really hope these two stay injury free and give us a brilliant battle all year long, the likes of which we saw between Ryan Villopoto and Ben Townley and then Cairoli and Pourcel before that when they were in MX2 those years back. War has been declared, battles will be won and lost and whoever is standing as the conqueror at the end of it will have most definitely earned it, especially if it’s anyone other than these two.
The track – was fast! TV doesn’t do it justice, not just for the speed but also the steepness of the hills and the actual ground conditions. It was hard going out there today, with no room for error. For the best part for those riders who made errors and hit the ground it hurt and if it didn’t hurt them it hurt their bikes. There wasn’t much in it between riders really and margins were tight, unlike Valkenswaard. Did it make for better racing than the first round? You could argue that it did, or maybe was it the fact that Cairoli and Herlings were so dominant at the first round and riders just wanted to get through it unscathed? Remember, you can’t win the championship at the round one but you can definitely lose it!
I really enjoyed watching events unfold today and I for one am looking forward to Fermo because I think today was the real beginning of what’s to come.
For more detail on the FIM World championship go to http://www.youthstream.org/