Red Bull KTM Factory riders were in a class of their own on Sunday at the MX GPs of Benelux on the deep sand of Lierop and while Tony Cairoli was the undisputed leader in both of the MX1 motos, the main spotlight remained focused on the team’s Dutch teenager, MX2 rider Jeffrey Herlings.
Herlings delivered what can only be described as exhibition races on Sunday in front of his ecstatic home fans who turned out in numbers to see a display of riding that many will remember for years to come. The 17-year-old said before the race that he wanted to win by a minute, already a mind-boggling margin by any rider’s standards. But remarkably he not only did it, he did it twice and his ride in each moto was equally thrilling. In short, he was untouchable.
Herlings made a stunning comeback from a crash in Saturday’s qualifying to secure an impressive win for pole position. He shot out of the gates on his KTM 250 SX-F and from that point on the numbers best tell the story in the opening moto. He was seven seconds ahead after the first lap, 13 after the second, then 25, 28, 33 and still he wasn’t satisfied as he continually lapped riders. When he finally shot over the finish he was 2 minutes 07.39 seconds ahead of second placed teammate Jeremy van Horebeek and sitting behind him after having lapped every other rider in the field.
The second moto was no less thrilling. He finished 2:04.344 in front of van Horebeek and had lapped all riders up to fourth. Factory team boss Stefan Everts perhaps said it best when he remarked during a mid race interview. “He’s an animal in the sand. He is the fastest rider on sand on the planet!” Herlings was simply in a class of his own and took the GP win surging 65 points ahead of Tommy Searle, his only rival for the 2012 MX2 title as the competition caravan head for Faenza in Italy for the penultimate round next weekend. Jeremy van Horebeek, weighed down with the after effects of flu did well to finish second overall and Max Anstie of Britain was overall third. Jordi Tixier, the third MX2 rider in the factory team picked up an 8-7 result for overall eighth and is sixth in the championship standings on a day when the only one being watched on the deep and at times treacherous sand was the remarkable Jeffrey Herlings.
Photos by Ray Archer.
Cairoli continues to dominate MX1 on charge to sixth world title
No one was surprised that Red Bull KTM factory rider Tony Cairoli was the man on the top step of the podium in Lierop after delivering two stunning motos for another 1-1 victory. He lined up for the first moto alongside teammates Ken de Dycker and Max Nagl after the three KTM riders emerged as 1-2-3 after Saturday’s qualifying. But it was Nagl who seized the coveted holeshot and went on to dominate the first phase of the race. Then Cairoli put down the hammer on his KTM 350 SX-F and picked off riders until he was right on Nagl’s tailpipe in the 13th lap. From that point on it was the usual Italian serenade as Cairoli glided over the tricky sand course as though he was taking a Sunday ride. The race ended as it had started: Cairoli was in front by 8.5 second, second was Nagl and Ken de Dycker was third and things were looking good for the factory team heading into the second moto.
The only difference in the next MX1 race was that Tony got away cleanly in the opening phase, went on to win by 15.8 seconds and that it was only teammate de Dycker in second after Nagl came unstuck in the early part of race two. He crashed, was not hurt but broke the foot peg on his bike and had to retire. Nagl’s return to racing has been spectacular and impressive considering his long injury layoff following back surgery.
With the win in Lierop, Cairoli nailed his 52nd GP victory as he charges towards what can be his sixth world title. He now has a 72-point lead in front of Clement Desalle and will be looking forward to wrapping up the title in Faenza next weekend in front of his home fans.
What the Red Bull KTM Factory riders said after Lierop
Jeffrey Herlings (overall first in MX2) “I came out today with a pole position and made two hole shots. The first moto was unbelievable. I just cruised my way to the finish, and lapped up until second, only my teammate Jeremy stayed in the same lap so it was an awesome race. And in the second moto, I took the hole shot again and lapped up to fourth and I got the full 50 points. I’ve extended my points on Tommy so I really happy with that one.”
Jeremy van Horebeek (overall second in MX2): “It was an awesome feeling. I was sick but I managed to put the puzzle pieces together this week. I saved some energy in the first heat and managed to put it together in the second heat, two times second and second on the podium it made me happy about that.
Tony Cairoli (overall winner MX1): “I’m really happy about my riding over all the weekend, it went just the way we had planned in the team. “ Looking ahead to Faenza: “Faenza is not one of my favorite tracks, it’s a pretty easy track for everybody so its important to get a good start, always to come out of the gate well and try to grab the hole shot, – or at least be top three. It’s an important race for me, especially the first moto. I want to close the championship, if it’s possible.”
Ken de Dycker (overall second in MX1: “Its good to be back on the podium. And I’m looking forward to the next races in Faenze where it’s really fast. I hope they water down the track and tear it up a bit so it gets a little bumpy and has some ruts. That will make it better.
Max Nagl (2nd in opening MX1 moto; DNF in second moto): “I was really happy with my second place. Then I had a good start in the second hear and I was second behind Tony. Then I crashed and someone jumped me, and the bike, and the footrest broke off and I couldn’t continue. I was a little bit disappointed because it could have been a podium again. Disappointed, but happy with the first heat.
GP of Benelux at Lierop – Round 14 of the World Championship
1, Tony Cairoli, Italy, KTM
2, Ken de Dycker, Belgium, KTM
3, Tanel Leok, Estonia, Suzuki
4, Evgeny Bobryshev, Russia, Honda
5, Shaun Simpson, GBR, Yamaha
8, Kevin Strijbos, Belgium, KTM
9, Max Nagl, Germany, KTM
13, Davide Guarneri, Italy, KTM
MX1 Championship Standings
1, Cairoli, 592
2, Desalle, 516
3, Paulin, 468
4, C. Pourcel, 452
5, de Dycker, 446
6, Strijbos, 369
14, Guarneri, 190
16, Karro, 112
17, Nagl, 104
MX1 Manufacturers Standings
1, KTM, 642
2, Kawasaki, 571
3, Suzuki, 539
1, Jeffrey Herlings, Netherlands, KTM
2, Jeremy van Horebeek, Belgium, KTM
3, Max Anstie, GBR, Honda
4, Tommy Searle, GBR, Kawasaki
5, Arnaud Tonus, Switzerland, Yamaha
6, Jake Nicholls, GBR, KTM
7, Glenn Coldenhoff, Netherlands, KTM
8, Jordi Tixier, France, KTM
16, Even Heibye, Norway, KTM
17, Romain Febvre, France, KTM
18, Jose Butron, Spain, KTM
MX2 Championship Standings
1, Herlings, 622
2, Searle, 557
3, van Horebeek, 519
4, Nicholls, 387
5, Roelants, 367
6, Tixier, 367
9, Butron, 263
11, Coldenhoff, 238
13, Febvre, 168
MX2 Manufacturers Standings
1, KTM, 665
2, Kawasaki, 627
3, Yamaha, 415