The first day of the Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations presented by Fiat Professional at the iconic venue of Maggiora Park is already proving to be a true celebration of motocross in its entirety. An enormous crowd of the most passion filled, motocross mad people from all over the world swamped the historic hills of Maggiora to watch the worlds best motocross riders represent their countries in a battle of pride and glory.
The defending champions, Team France, Romain Febvre, Gautier Paulin and Benoit Paturel, are looking good for the three-peat based on todays performances. The trio will go to the line first tomorrow morning as the top Qualifiers. 1 point shy of the French, who had 3 points, was Team Belgium, Kevin Strijbos, Jeremy Van Horebeek and Brent Van Doninck, who chalked up 4 points, while the ever-modest Dutch team of Jeffrey Herlings, Glenn Coldenhoff and Brian Bogers qualified third.
The Italian fans are just like the sun in the sky, both create power, and it was with that power that Team Italy’s own Antonio Cairoli nailed the holeshot despite only having the 27th pick at the gate.
It wouldn’t be a motocross of nations without some drama, although you don’t really expect it to happen in the first race of the weekend, but it can, and it did. It started when Team Germany’s Max Nagl crashed out of the race when he collided with another rider at speed on the first lap, while Team Switzerland’s Valentin Guillod also tipped over on lap one, and cut himself, but he’s tough and he should be on the gate tomorrow.
On the opening laps Team Canada’s Kaven Benoit was running a blistering pace as he held his own against the French captain Romain Febvre. The former world champ managed to make the pass stick on the third lap before Benoit went a little too high on a berm, lost the front wheel and crashed. Team USA’s Cooper Webb was minding his own business in fourth and didn’t see Benoit on the deck. The American tried to wheelie the bike that was laying on the track, but got bucked and chucked out of shape before looping out, off the track and crashing.
At the halfway mark Team Belgium’s Kevin Strijbos dabbled in Real Estate as changed lines every lap and used every inch of Maggiora Park in effort to pass Great Britain’s Tommy Searle for third. Eventually, the Belgian’s creativity paid dividends and got the job done.
Meanwhile, the crowd changed its tone as Cairoli reminded us just how fast everything can change when he hit a slick spot on one of the fastest sections of the track and went down really hard. It was kind of a crazy crash, and he was extremely lucky not to get drilled by his bike that bounced right overtop of him. The Italian star only lost a spot. He managed to finish second behind Febvre while Strijbos landed third place ahead of Searle and The Netherlands’ Glenn Coldenhoff.
MXGP Qualifying Heat top ten: 1. Romain Febvre (FRA, Yamaha), 24:59.780; 2. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:18.065; 3. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Suzuki), +0:22.210; 4. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), +0:33.989; 5. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), +0:53.782; 6. Jose Butron (ESP, KTM), +0:57.615; 7. Todd Waters (AUS, Suzuki), +1:01.120; 8. Lukas Neurauter (AUT, KTM), +1:06.214; 9. Akira Narita (JPN, Honda), +1:07.731; 10. Kaven Benoit (CAN, KTM), +1:08.350
In the small bore class, MX2, Team Spain’s fifteen-year-old sensation Jorge Prado kicked things off with an epic holeshot over Sweden’s Alvin Ostlund and the budding New Zealander Josiah Natzke. Prado is young and ambitious; he has admitted that he gets excited when he’s out front, so it wasn’t surprising to see him flaunt his talent on the opening lap.
While Prado was running a hot pace, he was no match for two of the most distinguished riders in the class, Switzerland’s Jeremy Seewer and Belgium’s Jeremy Van Horebeek. Both of the Jeremy’s were cooking on gas, which was to be expected of both riders who are a lot bigger, stronger and more experienced than Prado.
The Jeremys put on an epic show for the fans as they went bar-to-bar for the Qualifying heat win, and when we say bar-to-bar, we mean it. There is bound to be a few scuffs of Yamaha blue on that Suzuki of Seewer after Van Horebeek got hasty with two laps to go and punted the Swiss rider out of an inside rut on turn two. Both riders almost went down, and it didn’t even work in Van Horebeek’s favor, but he managed to regroup and took a second shot which was cleaner second time around, and he made it stick in time to take the win in MX2 for Team Belgium.
After getting off to a mediocre start, France’s Benoit Paturel had to pick off a bunch of guys on his way to third, while Prado put in a great ride for fourth ahead of The Netherlands’ Brian Bogers and New Zealand’s Josiah Natzke.
MX2 Qualifying Heat top ten: 1. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), 25:15.129; 2. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, Suzuki), +0:01.272; 3. Benoit Paturel (FRA, Yamaha), +0:27.928; 4. Jorge Prado Garcia (ESP, KTM), +0:36.732; 5. Brian Bogers (NED, KTM), +0:37.114; 6. Josiah Natzke (NZL, KTM), +0:45.841; 7. Samuele Bernardini (ITA, TM), +0:46.082; 8. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, Husqvarna), +0:47.753; 9. Alex Martin (USA, Yamaha), +0:48.724; 10. Tanel Leok (EST, KTM), +0:56.321
All year long Jeffrey Herlings has been stressing to the press about how difficult it is to get a good start on an MX2 bike. The Dutchman, riding for The Netherlands, is not a small guy so an extra 200cc underneath him was like Christmas. “I had the 32nd pick of the gate and I got the holeshot, so that was pretty amazing!” he said with the biggest smile on his face.
While Herlings was smiling about turning a bad pick of the gate into a holeshot, the rest of the world was smiling because this kid is incredible and he made it obvious that he will be a match for the reigning world champion Tim Gajser in the premier class next year.
After ripping the ‘holeshot’, Herlings checked out to win by a massive 18 seconds over Team France’s Gautier Paulin. Paulin did what he had to do, although it wasn’t easy as Australia’s Dean Ferris was on his rear wheel the entire race.
With Switzerland’s Valentin Guillod crashing out of the MXGP Qualifying Race, the hope of Switzerland rested on the shoulders on Arnaud Tonus. Tonus got off to a reasonable start in fifth. After passing Spain’s Jorge Zaragoza, who eventually faded back to thirteenth, he turned up the heat and reeled Ferris in. Ferris always ups his game at the Motocross of Nations and managed to hold off the fury of Tonus, just.
Great Britain’s Shaun Simpson rode smooth for fifth. As for Team USA’s Jason Anderson, he went down at turn one and from there it was an uphill battle. Quite literally. All three Americans were fast in practice, so their results don’t reflect their speed. Tomorrow is a new day, and looking on the bright side, both Cairoli and Herlings pulled holeshots from the 27th and 32nd gate picks.
OPEN Qualifying Race top ten: 1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 24:48.756; 2. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Honda), +0:18.823; 3. Dean Ferris (AUS, Husqvarna), +0:21.512; 4. Arnaud Tonus (SUI, Kawasaki), +0:22.024; 5. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), +0:39.090; 6. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda), +0:41.829; 7. Fredrik Noren (SWE, Honda), +0:42.677; 8. Michele Cervellin (ITA, Honda), +0:56.873; 9. Arminas Jasikonis (LTU, Suzuki), +0:59.550; 10. Kei Yamamoto (JPN, Honda), +1:06.217