Youthstream have often stated that they are looking to travel to ‘new’ countries in order to give the series the reputation of a true world championship. Hence why the series returned to Russia this past weekend – and it proved to be a good choice. Not only was the crowd one of the largest witnessed all year (45,000 is the figure from Youthstream). But the circuit and infrastructure proved to be a hit with the riders, as most described the circuit as “fun”. Which is quite an accomplishment for the first time the track has hosted world championship Motocross!
Some likened the circuit to that of the 2009 Italian MXoN track, with quite a few jumps, almost like a ‘supercross style’. Except, the softer ground made it extremely technical, with some very rutted take off’s. However, despite this it did prove quite hard to make up time on the track – as in every moto most riders stayed in a similar position to where they started. There were a few aspects of the circuit that proved crucial in making up, or losing time. For Instance, the ‘waves’ section on the far side of the track proved extremely tough – especially for the 250f. If you could find a clean line in, and through them it seemed the best spot to make up a considerable amount of time.
The fact that most of the frontrunners were running similar lap times on a consistent basis proved costly for Tommy Searle. It made it that much tougher for him to creep inside of the top three. As expected, the Brit’s poor gate pick hindered him massively in the points paying races. Despite using his powerful motor to get to the first turn practically alongside his rivals on the inside, both times out he got pushed wide at the last second – making it hard work for the Brit all day long. The reasons for his terrible gate pick? Bad luck. The only type of luck that Searle seems to have at the moment!
Whilst running second in the qualifying race, Tommy caught Tonus’ downed bike, which burst his radiator and resulted in his third mechanical DNF in a row. It definitely would have been interesting to see what Searle could do, if he had got out of the first corner alongside Herlings. As all weekend long he proved to have a similar pace. In both practice sessions on Saturday he was either faster, or just a little slower. When he was working his way through the field, he was sometimes setting lap times up to three seconds faster than second place Van Horebeek, proving he had the speed to win – if only he could have a little bit of luck on his side.
Still, the hard work put in by Searle meant he limited the damage and lost only eight points to Jeffrey Herlings. However, that means the gap now sits at forty-nine points. With just five rounds remaining, the Brit lifting the crown at the end of the year is looking more unrealistic – unfortunately for us British fans. Obviously, the points lost mean Jeffrey Herlings took a double moto victory – his first since round four. You have to give it to Herlings, over the course of both moto’s he was practically mistake free and deserving of the overall victory. Two holeshots made it easier for the Dutchman, but even if he hadn’t of collected those, I don’t think anyone would argue that he wouldn’t of won.
If there will be a time in which Searle will be able to make up a considerable amount of points, it will undoubtedly be in a ‘mudder’. The qualifying race on Saturday took place in very wet conditions. Something that evidently rattled Herlings as he fell three times, and was unable to beat his more inexperienced teammate Jordi Tixier! You have to think Searle, and his team will be doing a rain dance ahead of the remaining rounds. The Red Bull KTM team is so flawless, that it seems extremely unlikely that any freak mechanical issues would strike them.
Jeremy Van Horebeek was the ‘best of the rest’ in Semigorje and looked as confident as we have ever seen him. Clearly riding a wave of momentum from his second moto win one week earlier, a second and a third is good for the Belgian and it seems to be where he finds himself most times. Again he had a chance to battle with the top two, but by the time Searle got to ‘Jerre’ in moto two he seemed to have no more fight left in him, and he couldn’t really do much to prevent Tommy taking second overall from him. Van Horebeek may not be in contention for the title, but he sits just twelve points from Searle in the point’s standings (it seems most overlook this fact) so he is surely trying to steal two, or three points every chance he gets!
After taking his first GP win one week ago, Joel Roelants was never really in a position to challenge for the podium in Semigorje. His fifth and a fourth would have more than likely been a pair of fourths if he hadn’t of pulled into pit lane halfway through moto one whilst running third. Joel pulled into pit lane because he thought there was a problem with his back wheel, however it ended up being a heavy clump of mud that was stuck to the rim that made him feel this way. By the time he got back on track, he had lost six positions and sat in ninth. However, as already mentioned he did manage to work his way up to fifth by the finish. By pulling into pit lane he did make it a bit easier for his teammate, as it made it one less rider that he had to pass.
Evidently, the top four are a level above the rest of the MX2 field. But, in my eyes at least, Jake Nicholls is the fifth best rider in the class at the moment and once again he got as close as he could to the podium, without actually getting on it. In the second moto he was in third for a large portion of the race before Tommy Searle finally got up to him, and passed him in the last handful of laps. Much like the riders before him, and Van Horebeek after him once Tommy had got past there wasn’t really much he could do. But still, despite that overall podium escaping him yet again, the bright side is he matched his career best moto finish, finishing fourth in moto one.
Quietly, Glenn Coldenhoff has had two very good grand prix’s in a row. I say quietly because no one really talks about, or notices him. Perhaps overshadowed by his teammates run for the world championship podium. Glenn had three races where he was consistently in that fifth to eighth range, which is really where most would expect him to be. In the second moto, he was looking to again finish in the top ten until a handful of mistakes dropped him down to thirteenth. Which obviously hindered him in the overall classification as he ended the day in ninth spot. Still, with these impressive rides a few top-level teams might be looking to snatch him up for next year when three of the elite riders step out of the class.
Unfortunately, Max Anstie suffered his fourth DNF in four GP’s in the first moto in Semigorje, as his holeshot device was stuck for a lap in moto one. Then his bike started steaming before being instructed by the team to pull in, and save his bike for moto two. It proved to be the right decision, as Max managed a seventh in moto two and hopefully, this is a sign of things to come. The last few GP’s have been pretty disastrous for the Brit, and it has cost him over fifty points to the two riders he was ahead of in the championship not too long ago (Tixier and Nicholls).
The Monster Energy BikeIt Yamaha duo of Arnaud Tonus and Zach Osborne had their troubles over the course of the weekend, and both seem to be struggling since returning from their injuries. Which is to be expected, as we have seen time and time again just how hard it is jumping in mid-season with everyone at their peak. Zach Osborne was struggling with some niggling back issues that caused him some discomfort on the rough terrain, as he battled to eighteenth and an eighth. Arnaud Tonus has also been struggling with his wrist and could only manage a ninth and a tenth on the day. However he will be going in for surgery in the break following Semigorje to remove the pin in his wrist, which should see his comfort level rise when the series resumes in Loket.
Ever since his disastrous time in Sweden two rounds ago, Antonio Cairoli has been fast, smooth and confident – qualities that make him seem unbeatable at the moment. It seems as though the Swedish disaster has had no affect on Cairoli mentally, and perhaps it has even made him stronger. As the determination and drive witnessed from the Sicilian in Latvia and Russia is something we are yet to see from his competitors. Good starts and a little help from his teammates saw his day go relatively smoothly, with the exception of one fall early in moto two. The crash spiced up the action slightly, and stopped MX1 from becoming a complete runaway. The fact that the Sicilian fell directly on his wrists that he hurt one week earlier immediately sparked some concern, however it seems there are no further problems.
Interestingly, it seemed as though Ken de Dycker let Cairoli past whilst leading MX1 moto one, as if team orders were perhaps in place. It definitely seems weird that KTM would order this, do they not have enough faith in there five time world champion to know that he could pass a rider who has just one podium to his name this year, straight up? De Dycker is having his best season in quite a while, but is still not on the same level as Cairoli. Perhaps this sort of instruction was put in place following Sweden, as the realization that truly anything can happen set in. But still, it’s racing at the highest level – is there truly any situation where team orders are accepted?
The patience shown by Antonio whilst shadowing Desalle in moto two proved he is confident in his ability to end up ahead of the Belgian. Obviously he was right to be, as he did indeed finish ahead of Clement to cap off a double moto victory – despite the fall. Over the last two rounds Desalle really hasn’t seemed to have the raw speed to compete with Cairoli – which I do find quite surprising. Whereas before he would challenge Toni, in the first moto the Sicilian simply rode past Desalle and pulled away. The second moto was more of a representation of what Clement can really do, but it does make me wonder. Is the difference between the two we are witnessing at the moment a case of Cairoli being too strong, or Desalle feeling the pressure?
Ken De Dycker again followed his teammate to the podium for the second time this year as he continues to prove himself whilst silly season talks are in full swing. At the beginning of the year, Ken was on the verge of climbing up onto the podium. But prior to Kegums he seemed to have tailed off a little bit. Still, the lanky Belgian has clearly been back on form in recent weeks, performing perhaps the best we have seen him in years – since his Factory Suzuki days! A second, and a third – racing in the midst of title contenders all day long proved Ken to truly be ‘the best of the rest’ in Semigorje.
Does anyone else feel as though Gautier Paulin is slowly losing touch with the leaders? Ever since the second moto in Bastogne he just hasn’t seemed to have the same level of intensity that he had at the beginning of the year. Which has been reflected in his results. There is surely an underlying issue there, or perhaps just the grind of his first year on the 450 is getting to him. A pair of sevenths for seventh overall is definitely not what we have come to expect from the Frenchman. With rides like this becoming consistent, he has virtually eliminated himself from championship contention – and is now losing touch with the top three! If he wants to finish out the championship higher than fourth in the points he is going to have to find some of that magic from earlier in the season.
Christophe Pourcel didn’t seem to have the speed over the course of the two moto’s to challenge the leading duo of Cairoli and Desalle yet again. In moto one, he seemed capable of passing Desalle, but never really got close enough to make a challenge. However, in moto two after he inherited the lead following Cairoli’s fall most presumed he would flick a switch and start setting some very fast lap times. Except, he never did. Eventually, a mistake that saw him run wide meant he lost the lead, and then just a handful of minutes later Cairoli found a way through. In my opinion the door was open for Pourcel to perhaps regain the position. Instead, he just stood up on the pegs and really looked as though he had no intention to do so. The tales of the very “hot and cold” Frenchman continue.
The GP of Russia was an important one for the Honda World Motocross team. Not only is one of their riders the most successful rider to come out of Russia for quite some time, the Russian “Investtradebank” also sponsors them. In Latvia it was already evident both Goncalves and Bobryshev were nearing full fitness as both posted consistent results – similar to how it played out for the duo in Semigorje. No matter where Bobryshev was on the track you could hear thousands of cheers. Evgeny got to live like a true superstar all weekend, as it sounds as though he was practically mobbed by his fans. Bobryshev posted a sixth and a fifth across the two moto’s after not so great starts. The result was a little off his goal of a podium, but still after his results so far this year, the fact that he posted two results inside the top six is an achievement in itself.
Once again, Shaun Simpson was the sole rider representing Britain in MX1, and he ended the day twelfth overall. Shaun’s goal at the beginning of the year was top ten every week and he fell just short of that goal this week with twelfth overall, after a thirteenth and an eleventh. However, a second turn fall in moto one didn’t help his cause and he was right in the mix dicing for places inside the top ten in moto two. Following Sweden, most were excited about what Shaun could do on the works Yamaha, however he hasn’t quite gotten as close to the podium as he did on his maiden outing on the bike, yet.
Once again, we had a British GP winner in Semigorje – as Mel Pocock continued his dominance of the EMX250 series. The first moto proved to be the toughest of the year so far, as the final result was decided on the last lap as the Brit had to put a very aggressive pass on Stefan Kjer Olson for the moto win. However, moto two was more of what we have come to expect from Mel as he led every lap, and collected his sixth moto win from six starts. Already after three rounds he has a twenty-six-point lead in the series, and every week it seems more and more likely he will lift the crown at the end of the year.
With the first Russian GP since 2002 ending a success (even though some were sceptical at first), the series will now take a week’s break before returning to the more historic circuit of Loket, in the Czech Republic. The fast, old-school layout should once again play host to some great racing and possibly see the points standings in both classes tighten up a bit.
Photography courtesy of Youthstream