Rockstar Energy Suzuki’s Clement Desalle was one of the three fastest riders in the premier MX1 class of the FIM Motocross World Championship at a hot and sunny Grand Prix of Portugal.
The Belgian finished third overall at Agueda for the sixth round of 17 in the series, in front of 15,000 spectators, after battling with Gautier Paulin and Antonio Cairoli in both motos on his factory RM-Z450. Desalle survived a heavy second moto crash while trying to pass Paulin for second place to be able to spray champagne for the fourth time in 2013.
Agueda was a brutal mix of speed, bumps, ruts and forced concentration. The physical and mental demands throughout the two 35-minute and two-lap motos meant it was one of the hardest tracks of the series so far. Desalle came into the weekend as one of the favourites for victory thanks to success in the previous three visits to Agueda. Signs were positive on Saturday as he secured his first pole position of the season, but the terrain was heavily watered through Saturday evening and it meant a deeper and rougher course for Sunday where a single, quick racing line was prevalent.
Desalle had two good starts and together with Paulin and Cairoli set a frantic pace at the front. The 23 year old was frustrated in the first moto with an inability to overtake and a lack of comfort across the Portuguese dirt. He was able to finish second after Cairoli crashed in the closing stages. In the second affair he trailed Paulin for practically the entire distance as Cairoli led. A valiant attack on the penultimate lap cost him when a longer landing from the table-top nearest the crowd threw him into the braking bumps and pitched him off the saddle. Nursing pain in his back and neck Desalle was able to retrieve the bike and motored around the final lap-and-a-half to take fifth.
Team-mate Kevin Strijbos had a weekend to forget. The Belgian was not able to find a groove with the devilish hard-pack and the combination of mediocre starts and heavy arm-pump problems in the first moto eroded his capabilities for a top-five result. The Belgian struggled to 10th in the initial outing and a change of rear suspension helped improve his feeling for the second sprint. A better placing of ninth meant the same spot in the final MX1 ranking.
Desalle is third in the MX1 table and just 15 points behind Paulin while Strijbos is fifth and three points in front of Tommy Searle.
Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MX1 will now immediately prepare for freight with the factory RM-Z material due to be shipped to Beto Carrero where the Grand Prix of Brazil will entertain round seven of the FIM Motocross World Championship on May 19th.
“What can I say? In the first moto I had good speed but I struggled the whole heat. I wasn’t relaxed and couldn’t find my rhythm. It was not so good, but also not so bad to finish third. In the next moto I was fourth at the start but it was the same thing: I was stuck behind Paulin and found it really difficult to pass. I couldn’t find a way, and Cairoli was just ahead. In the last two laps I said to myself ‘it’s now or never’. I did a good lap-time and got really close to Paulin but had a big crash in the braking bumps and now I have pain everywhere. I picked up the bike and could finish the race but my neck and back is painful. I was in the medical centre and they said I was OK but if tomorrow it is worse then I will go for a scan on Tuesday. I just went into that jump a bit faster than previous laps and the bumps kicked me over the top. I can’t remember if the bike hit me or not. It was a hard track but I liked it. I’m disappointed because I felt like I could win the GP. The two guys were just in front of me. Anyway, I did my best and I can only hope for some more fortune in the next races.”
“A bad weekend overall and I couldn’t get going with the track. Yesterday I had arm-pump and had it again after the first lap of the first moto. I just rode around for the 40 minutes and couldn’t pass riders that I normally would do in one corner. I was so angry after that race. We tried a new shock for the second moto and it was better and I had less arm-pump but couldn’t find any aggression. I really don’t know why. A bad GP: I expected a lot coming here because I’ve had some decent results in the past. I know the track gets rough and I can be good on it, but today was not my day.”