The 2017 FIM Motocross World Championship continued globetrotting with the fourth meeting of the year landing into the hot and windy climes of Leon, Mexico for the fourth year in a row. The flat, hard-pack but heavily-rutted, cactus-surrounded layout in the city park drew a 35,000 crowd (weekend figure) for what was MXGP’s second visit to the Americas in the past two weeks. On this stage Tony Cairoli was best placed in the premier class with his Red Bull KTM 450 SX-F while Pauls Jonass just missed the box in MX2 with fourth place overall.
The high altitude of the Guanajuato region meant some careful tuning of the four-stroke engines was needed for maximum performance and Tony Cairoli matched the growling output of the KTM 450 SX-F by pushing Gautier Paulin hard for third position in the first moto that also saw Jeremy Van Horebeek and Evgeny Bobryshev part of the warring group. The former world champion couldn’t squeeze past the Husqvarna and classified 4th. In the second outing Cairoli was closer to moto one winner Gajser and was a clear runner-up.
Cairoli: “I’m really happy because this is one of the tracks on the calendar where I always struggle to find a rhythm. The second moto was a little better, even if I was a bit tired with asthma, and I could stay with Tim and we pulled away from the others. I couldn’t make a pass in the first moto and the result today could easily have been a 2-2. We still have to improve something to be closer to Tim. I’m confident and I know I can ride well but the goal is always to start at the front and that’s very important in MXGP at the moment.”
Reigning MX2 World Champion Jeffrey Herlings is still searching for an improved blend of fitness and confidence after starting the season with a broken hand. The Dutch star survived the bumpy terrain to place 12th overall with a 14-9.
Herlings: “I don’t know what happened today. I want to thank Red Bull KTM because they have supported me so much and through all those days when we went 1-1 but now we need to keep on working and we will keep fighting and soon be up with the front-runners. We’ve had a couple of top tens so now we have to look to top five, top threes and up to the front.”
Countryman Glenn Coldenhoff suffered a spectacular crash in Saturday’s qualification heat while set for his best classification of the season so far. #259 then struggled with a sore left shoulder in Sunday’s motos and gritted his teeth to secure 15th overall with 17th and 11th positions.
Coldenhoff: “I’m quite happy to go home in one piece. I felt bad yesterday and had a lot of pain this morning and was quite worried the shoulder would pop out. I saw in the first moto it was OK to have solid pace but not my normal speed. I got a bit more confidence that my shoulder was strong enough. Eleventh in the second moto was quite good damage control and now I’m really looking forward to Arco which is one of my favourite tracks.”
Pauls Jonass was part of an exciting battle for fourth position in the first MX2 moto on his KTM 250 SX-F. The Latvian had aced the holeshot but several stitches in his left arm after a crash in warm-up meant the twenty year old was suffering with numbness that affected his riding. He scored fifth place and then banked more points with second position after another excellent getaway in the second moto that saw him front the MX2 field for seven laps.
Jonass: “I was really disappointed about my crash on the last lap of warm-up and had to have some stitches and aesthetic so in the first race my hand was a bit numb. I made a few mistakes and it was difficult to ride. I had a really good start in the second race and led for a while. So fourth overall and it could be better but I salvaged some points.”
Pauls is still second in the championship standings and just 8 points behind Jeremy Seewer.
Spanish teenager Jorge Prado didn’t gel with the Mexican dirt and was impeded by a stomach infection that meant he wasn’t able to repeat his sensational pace from the Grand Prix of Argentina two weeks previously. #61 took a scorecard of 19-20 for 21st overall.
Prado: “I came here with more confidence than ever because I had some great days of practice in the U.S. I was riding so well and physically I was feeling great but this weekend a few different things happened. I couldn’t get on with the track and was tight on the bike and I also had a stomach problem – but that’s not an excuse because I wasn’t performing like I wanted. I was lucky I was riding a KTM because it was the fastest bike on this type of track and at this altitude. I was slow but the other guys still couldn’t pass me on the straight. I need to put things together better because if you are not 100% then it is hard to be at the top.”
Julien Lieber guided his privateer KTM 250 SX-F to an excellent third position for his third podium appearance of the year.
The Grand Prix of Trentino at the compact and scenic circuit of Pietramurata in northern Italy will instigate the European phase of the MXGP calendar and will take place on Easter weekend.
Next Round: April 16, 2017 – Pietramurata (ITA)
Results MXGP Leon 2017
1. Tim Gajser (SLO), Honda (1-1)
2. Tony Cairoli (ITA), KTM (4-2)
3. Gautier Paulin (FRA), Husqvarna (3-3)
4. Arnaud Tonus (SUI), Yamaha (6-4)
5. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL), Yamaha (5-5)
12. Jeffrey Herlings (NED), KTM (14-9)
15. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED), KTM (17-11)
Standings MXGP 2017 after 4 of 19 rounds
1. Gajser, 156 points
2. Cairoli, 136
3. Clement Desalle (BEL) Kawasaki, 119
4. Van Horebeek, 116
5. Paulin, 112
13. Coldenhoff, 62
14. Herlings, 59
Results MX2 Leon 2017
1. Thomas Covington (USA), Husqvarna (4-1)
2. Jeremy Seewer (SUI), Suzuki (1-4)
3. Julien Lieber (BEL), KTM (3-3)
4. Pauls Jonass (LAT), KTM (5-2)
5. Benoit Paturel (FRA), Yamaha (2-8)
21. Jorge Prado (SPA), KTM (19-20)
Standings MX2 2017 after 4 of 19 rounds
1. Seewer, 153 points
2. Jonass, 145
3. Paturel, 139
4. Lieber, 139
5. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN) Husqvarna, 127
11. Prado, 70
Photographer: Ray Archer