Lierop, the site of the GP of Benelux, is a perfect example of just how difficult motocross is. Aside from Jeffrey Herlings and a few others, most detest the track simply because it’s so hard. But maybe this is why Lierop always provides us with excellent racing? In my opinion, it is the GP of the year. In order to really understand what went on at the sandy facility, we need to take a look at some lap time comparisons from the weekend.
Jeffrey Herlings vs. Glenn Coldenhoff – MX2 Qualifying Race:
Jeffrey Herlings (1st)
Glenn Coldenhoff (2nd)
On the Saturday at the GP of Benelux, all eyes were on Jeffrey Herlings – his performance on day one of his home GP would be a great indication of whether or not his decision to contest the season finale was a good one. Evidently, he had enough in the tank to handle the pace at the front, as he won the qualifying heat – although he only won by a relatively slim margin. It is quite clear that the shoulder issue didn’t affect Herlings’ technique in the sand, as the KTM pilot bounced elegantly around Lierop.
Admittedly we are used to seeing Jeffrey Herlings win by more than four seconds, which was his gap over Coldenhoff in the qualifying heat. Presumably, Jeffrey was riding down to the competition in an effort to save as much energy as he possibly could. Glenn Coldenhoff stayed in second for the duration of the qualifier, however he couldn’t run his countryman down evidently. It is remarkable how consistent their lap times were around the rough and tough Lierop track. With the influx of bumps and ruts, mistakes are inevitable. Interestingly, it does seem as though both Jeffrey and Glenn made a mistake on the fifth lap, as their lap times were abnormally high compared to the previous laps.
Interestingly, Glenn Coldenhoff had the fastest lap time of this qualifier – he set a lap time of 2:03.078 on lap two, when the track was relatively smooth. Herlings’ fastest time was almost a full second off of the one that Coldenhoff set, Jeffrey posted a 2:03.994 time on lap one. In the laps highlighted above, Herlings was faster than Glenn on five of the laps – so he was the fastest rider, as you would expect. However in comparison to his pace last year, when he set times three seconds faster than anyone else, these times are a bit underwhelming – clearly he was not feeling as strong.
Shaun Simpson vs. Antonio Cairoli – MX1 Moto One
Shaun Simpson (1st)
Antonio Cairoli (4th)
Wow, I still can’t believe it – Shaun Simpson won a race! The Scotsman was deserving of the win, evidently, as his lap times were competitive for the entire race. Interestingly, the above chart captures the most important lap of the race (the tenth one) – it was on this lap that he [Simpson] and Antonio Cairoli moved into the top two spots. In the latter stages, it was clear that Cairoli was faster – he closed right onto the back wheel of Shaun. Prior to his fall (on lap fourteen) Toni was consistently setting lap times around a second faster than Simpson. So, it seemed inevitable that he would win.
Maybe Antonio Cairoli would have won if he had not fallen? However Shaun Simpson stayed consistent and didn’t take risks, which is sometimes better than pushing the limits on a track as difficult as Lierop. At the end of the race, Cairoli had a mechanical problem – it seemed as though it was an issue with the back wheel, as the factory KTM wasn’t stable, which is the reason for the Sicilian’s very high final lap times.
Interestingly it seems as though Shaun had some left in the tank, as he upped his pace on lap fourteen. But, as soon as he had realised that the threat from Antonio had disappeared, he backed it down to secure the victory. Obviously Simpson just cruised on the last lap to bring it home, but he still maintained a solid pace to ensure that no one could put pressure on him, interestingly.
Words by Lewis Phillips
Image courtesy of Ray Archer/KTM Images