Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team’s Jeffrey Herlings on Saturday night sealed the 2016 MX2 World Championship after a decisive win in the opening moto at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, USA. It was the Dutch rider’s third world title and very well deserved after recovering from a series major injuries in the immediate past seasons.
Jeffrey Herlings went on to take third in race two behind US national champion Cooper Webb, which gave the overall win to Webb. American Austin Forkner was overall third. Fastest other KTM rider was Dutch rider Calvin Vlaanderen who finished fifth with a 5-8 result.
On his way to the title, Herlings won the first twelve rounds on his KTM 250 SX-F, dropping only three possible points with a second place in the opening moto in Italy. He then sat out three rounds (Czech Republic, Lommel in Belgium and Switzerland) to heal a broken collarbone. He bounced back at the next round at home in Assen for another GP win, and on the start of race one at Charlotte he knew he only had to finish in front of closest rival Jeremy Seewer to take the title.
Herlings: “I am super, super happy, especially after everything we’ve been going through with a broken femur, a dislocated hip, two broken collarbones and almost losing my little finger. It’s number three and hopefully many more to come.” Asked to comment about racing against leading Americans, he added: “The two strongest guys from America Webb and Forkner were here. Webb is the national champion and I beat him straight up in the first race and then he beat me in the second. I think the competition is stronger in the US, but we won the championship and that’s what it’s all about.” Speaking about the final round next weekend: “I like the track at Glenn Helen and it should be better than this track. Like always, we will do our best to make it happen.”
Herlings two MX2 factory teammates Pauls Jonass and Davy Pootjes are both recovering from injury were not with the team in the USA. It was a tough two races for the fourth member, Jorge Prado of Spain, new to the MX2 factory lineup, and who took a podium third last week in Assen. He finished 19th overall with a 17-19 moto result. Prado is just 15 years old.
The races at the man-made track in Charlotte were difficult for several reasons for the European riders. Qualification was washed out completely on Friday and they only had a free practice and a timed practice to learn the circuit. Added to this, the races were on Saturday night under lights. For riders and teams struggling to adjust to a six-hour time difference, this meant opening motos were run at 23.00 and midnight, and the second motos at 02.00 and 03.10 hours Central European Time.
Red Bull KTM’s Tony Cairoli went into the opening MXGP moto knowing he still had a small mathematical chance of holding off title contender Tim Gajser of Slovakia. But the new track, the delays, the late races, jet lag, plus the fact that Cairoli was racing with a fever all conspired against him. The Italian only managed to finish 13th in the first moto while Gajser was fourth to wrap up the championship. Gajser finished second overall after a second place to US rider Eli Tomac in the second race, but Tomac was the MXGP winner. Podium third went to Jeremy van Horebeek of Belgium and Red Bull KTM’s Glenn Coldenhoff was disappointed to finish fourth with the KTM 450 SX-F, missing the podium by a single point. Cairoli was overall 14th, regardless of the final round results, he will finish the MXGP championship in overall second after struggling with a series of injuries in the first half of the season.
Joel Smets, Motocross Sport Director, referring to Herlings’ title win, and his past injury difficulties commented: “You could feel the tension in the whole team in the last two GPs because what has happened in the past, so it’s quite normal that everyone is very emotional when the title in finally in the pocket.”
“Of course we all could already see and hear two days ago that Tony (Cairoli) was sick and he could hardly talk. Mentally he is a very strong character, but he’s only human and if the power is not there, that’s how it is. I feel quite sad to have our biggest champion on the team sick. Regarding Glenn, we can be very happy with this result today. We had high expectations for him at the beginning of the season and he was happy to join the KTM family. But it took us a long time to get the bike set up the way he wanted, and we can say it was a real team effort. We found a good setup for him before Lommel and the more he rides, the better he is. He took confidence in Lommel and again in Switzerland and also last week at home in Assen. Today in the first moto he was in a fight with the actual champion (Gajser) and this gives us hope for the future. We’re happy we signed him for two years and we can build on these performances.”
“Regarding Jorge, we were all hopeful after Assen but we didn’t expect a podium. His own goal was to finish top ten. We do have to be realistic because he’s only 15 and we can’t expect miracles. Our boys are all talented and overall we have a good package, and for next weekend in Glenn Helen we expect Jeffrey to do well and Jorge to improve. We hope Tony will be healthy and we know Glenn likes the track. He was the third European there last year.”
The Red Bull KTM factory riders now at least have some days to adjust to time zones as they travel to the popular east coast circuit of Glenn Helen.
Next Race: September 11, 2016 – Glen Helen (USA)
Results MXGP Charlotte Motor Speedway 2016
1. Eli Tomac (USA), Kawasaki (1-1)
2. Tim Gajser (SLO), Honda (4-2)
3. Jeremy van Horebeek (BEL), Yamaha (3-5)
4. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED), KTM (6-3)
5. Clement Desalle (BEL), Kawasaki (5-7)
13. Shaun Simpson (GBR), KTM (14-13)
14. Tony Cairoli (ITA), KTM (13-14)
19. Jose Butron (ESP), KTM (15-16)
20. Dean Wilson (GBR), KTM (16-31)
Standings MXGP 2016 after 17 of 18 rounds
1. Gajser, 693 points (MXGP World Champion 2016)
2. Cairoli, 603
3. Max Nagl (GER), Husqvarna, 565
4. Romain Febvre (FRA), Yamaha, 549
5. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS), Honda, 522
7. Coldenhoff, 382
10. Simpson, 322
Results MX2 Charlotte Motor Speedway 2016
1. Cooper Webb (USA), Yamaha (2-1)
2. Jeffrey Herlings (NED), KTM (1-3)
3. Austin Forkner (USA), Kawasaki (3-2)
4. Thomas Covington (USA), Husqvarna (4-4)
5. Calvin Vlaanderen (NED), KTM (5-8)
10. Brian Bogers (NED), KTM (8-10)
19. Jorge Prado Garcia (ESP), KTM (17-19)
DNS Pauls Jonass (LAT), KTM
DNS Davy Pootjes (NED), KTM
Standings MX2 2016 after 17 of 18 rounds
1. Herlings, 689 points (MX2 World Champion 2016)
2. Jeremy Seewer (SUI), Suzuki, 595
3. Benoit Paturel (FRA), Yamaha, 485
4. Max Anstie (GBR), Husqvarna, 473
5. Jonass, 403
7. Bogers, 372
21. Pootjes, 94