Clement Desalle might have walked the podium at Sevlievo for the Grand Prix of Bulgaria and his third trophy of the FIM Motocross World Championship but his double moto battle with Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MX1 team-mate Kevin Strijbos was the highlight of this fifth round of 17.
Sevlievo was hard-pack, ample and fast meaning the slightest mistake was costly and creating, or eroding, any differences on other riders was extremely tricky due to the closeness of the lap-times. Both Desalle and Strijbos – on their works RM-Z450 – gave an excellent demonstration of the character of the hilly circuit that was crowded by 22,000 spectators.
In the first moto it was Strijbos who slotted into second position and had Desalle as a shadow for virtually the entire 35 minute and two-lap distance. The pair formation-flew until Desalle ‘switched off’ for two circulations, made an error and was victim to an emerging gap to the #22. A renewed effort was finally rewarded with an overtaking move for #25 but Strijbos replied instantly and was then able to control the duel until the finish line for his best race finish in ‘yellow’ and since coming back to the factory set-up.
Desalle had the initiative in the second moto. This time it was the younger Belgian who had to play the role of being the ‘hunted’ in what was a tussle for third spot. Strijbos was handicapped by faulty goggles that affected his vision but still showed his team-mate a front wheel on several occasions. By the chequered flag it was Desalle’s second moto classification that decided the final rostrum as the duo tied on points and Strijbos had to feel content with fourth overall.
Both Suzuki riders pocketed a tidy bag of numbers for their world championship standing. In the MX1 points table Desalle holds third and is six points off second place. Strijbos is fifth. The FIM Motocross World Championship will gather again in two weeks time for the Grand Prix of Portugal at the customary venue of Agueda, south of Porto.
“I’m happy to take my first podium in Europe! I had some bad luck in the last two grands prix and I was disappointed about that so it feels good to be back. I had some good starts and I’m happy about that and was with Kevin for most the day. Some moves were really close and we had to be careful! It was a good battle for sure and we rode together for almost every lap. I tried some stuff to pass him in the first moto but then had two laps of making mistakes and he made a gap. I concentrated again and got close and then passed him but he came straight back; I didn’t expect him to come so close. Anyway, no crashes, good fighting and this result feels good.”
“It was good today. I got most of it right in the first race; at the end my team-mate passed me and I could get him right back, so I was happy with that. In the second race I felt OK, got a good start but Tony ran wide, hit the berm and I had to slow down a little bit so not to hit him. I was fourth and stayed there the whole time! I was pushing hard but on the fifth lap a rock hit my goggle and the lens popped out, and that was about it. I couldn’t get close to Clement and every time I did I had sand in my face and it was flying around when I was going over the jumps. I wasn’t happy about that but overall it has been a good weekend. I had good speed for the podium and now I’ll work a bit more to try and make it happen in Portugal.”