The Route77energy MVRD Honda team has completed its pre-season preparation programme in Spain and topped it off with its first race of the season by signing up for the annual Mantova Starcross in Italy this past weekend.
All three riders qualified for the Sunday’s main event on Saturday afternoon, the team’s MX1 riders Tanel Leok and Jason Dougan comfortably finishing their qualifying race in ninth and twelfth respectively, and MX2 rider Arminas Jasikonis ending just outside the top fifteen in seventeenth.
For Leok, Sunday’s three races were crowned with a podium spot at the end of the day. Whereas in the second race, he led for several laps before finishing in second, he had to make do with two sixth places in the first and final races.
Although Dougan’s day did not go as planned, he nonetheless finished his day in twenty-first with only one race finish under his belt. The first race saw Dougan well on his way into the top fifteen, but a last-gasp pass by Xavier Boog relegated him to fourteenth. Off to a much better start in the second race, Dougan found himself on the losing end of a tussle with Clement Desalle, costing him precious positions. To make matters worse, a hard knock on his elbow sustained at the same time eventually forced him out of the race, and as a precaution, Dougan did not go to the line a final time.
For Jasikonis, the first race was spent battling against older and more experienced Belgian, Italian and Danish competition, ending in thirty-seventh. In the second race, he got off to a much better start and chased after a top twenty position, but a crash half-way through the race put paid to his ambition to end inside the points. The final race ended with a place in thirty-first after another hard battle against seasoned competitors during which Jasikonis briefly touched the top twenty-five.
Commented Gareth Chamberlain: “The weekend went well, we had some good and some bad. Tanel got a third overall; he was in the top ten in qualifying on Saturday, he got the holeshot in the second race and led it until Strijbos squeezed past, but finished a comfortable second. Jason lost a lot of places in his first race when Gonçalves crashed in front of him, but came back to finish in thirteenth. In the second race he gated fourth or fifth on the start, got passed by some of the factory boys, was running in eighth looking comfortable, but then went down when Desalle came past him, which was silly because there was plenty of room to pass. He didn’t go out for the last one because he didn’t have full strength in his hand, and we didn’t want to chance it. Arminas suffered from bad starts against the 450s and being a bit overwhelmed by the first big race of his career. He had a couple of little mishaps but gained a lot of experience.
“We’re very pleased with Tanel and Jason because they’ve only been back on the bikes a short time after their surgeries in the off-season and we’ve had to start from scratch on the new model. We’ve made good progress in the last three weeks, and we’ve got a lot of improvements already that are ready to go onto the bikes. We’re happy with where we’re at, considering the time frame we’ve had. It’s all looking positive.”