The girls are back on action and for the fourth year running the FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship season started at the Sevlievo track in Bulgaria. This year though all the practice and racing was held on Saturday with 2010’s World Champion Stephanie Laier replicating what she did a year ago and taking the overall win.
The day started with last year’s usual suspects inside the top-ten during the free and qualifying practice sessions with Laier leading the way from Lancelot, Fontanesi and Papenmeier. Maria Franke and Natalie Kane were the most noticeable absentees this weekend with the latter going under wrist surgery this past week.
Race 1 - All against the wind
On the first moto an invisible adversary in the form of a “wind-kick” kept trying to blow away the riders on the highest jumps, greatly affecting their performance, though that couldn’t prevent Red Bull Teka KTM factory rider Steffi Laier of grabbing the holeshot on what was the start of the first WMX race of the season.
The defending WMX Champion instantly positioned herself in the lead but not without some initial opposition from Livia Lancelot who came under pressure from Chiara Fontanesi for the first half of the race. The Italian rider didn’t hold herself back even having two WMX World Champions right in front of her.
This fight for second position actually ended up with both Chiara and Lancelot making mistakes and allowing the German KTM race leader to extend the gap for the second place to almost 18 seconds, lapping everyone up until Marielle de Mol’s sixth position.
In fourth position came Larissa Papenmeier who also had a race of her own after losing ground with the top-three. The German rider who had the pole position in the Bulgarian hard-pack circuit a year ago is still trying to adapt herself to this year’s taller KTM machine; much different than the “compacted” Suzuki she had in 2010.
Race 2 – Increased challenge
For the second moto of the day the WMX riders were already anticipating a worse scenario on the track with a mixture of low sunshine and gusty winds producing some severe clouds of dust.
Laier holeshoted again and managed to stay up front but not without some trouble coming from Chiara Fontanesi who showed this weekend that she’s not going to make it easy especially for the German girls on the KTMs.
It was actually a completely different outing for Larissa Papenmeier as the KTM Sarholz rider kept recovering time on a fast pace passing Fontanesi for second position nine laps after and ending the race a bit more than three seconds behind the leader.
Livia Lancelot didn’t have the best of starts in fourth position and crashed after the finish line with only one lap to go benefiting Francesca Nocera who got fourth spot overall after going fifth on the first moto. The Italian rider will certainly battle her way to the podium in the next rounds.
Fighting for sixth position were Britt van der Wekken and Sara Petterson with the first getting the better of the Swede after recovering all the way through the field up until fifth position from tenth at the start. Marielle de Mol was also stronger in the end pushing Petterson back another position. Seventh overall went to Marianne Veenstra with two solid rides for the Dutch Suzuki rider.
Although it might look like Stephanie Laier is on the good course to take the title again there’s still a lot to race so expect some warm fights for the lead. The FIM Women’s World Championship’s next stop will be on the April 16th weekend in Megalopolis, Southern Greece, now with t0he MX3 boys as spectators.
What they said
Stephanie Laier: “I came back from last year with the red plate and I still have it! It was a tough race, a lot of sun, wind and dust in the air but I’m happy that it ended this way.”
Larissa Papenmeier: “My first race wasn’t that good, I couldn’t find my rhythm and it was bad but the second was awesome; I felt incredible as I had a great start.”
Chiara Fontanesi: “I made a big mistake and crashed on the first moto; I lost a lot of time and hurt my back again. I really like this track where everybody can go fast but it’s harder than last year. Third overall is good for the beginning of the championship.”
WMX Race 1 top-ten: 1. Stephanie Laier (GER, KTM), 24:15.517; 2. Livia Lancelot (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:17.714; 3. Chiara Fontanesi (ITA, Yamaha), +0:41.201; 4. Larissa Papenmeier (GER, KTM), +0:50.760; 5. Francesca Nocera (ITA, KTM), +2:05.855; 6. Marielle De Mol (NED, TM), -1 lap(s); 7. Marianne Veenstra (NED, Suzuki), -1 lap(s); 8. Britt van der Wekken (NED, Honda), -1 lap(s); 9. Elien De Winter (BEL, KTM), -1 lap(s); 10. Sara Pettersson (SWE, KTM), -1 lap(s);
WMX Race 2 top-ten: 1. Stephanie Laier (GER, KTM), 24:48.542; ; 2. Larissa Papenmeier (GER, KTM), +0:03.374; 3. Chiara Fontanesi (ITA, Yamaha), +0:26.694; 4. Francesca Nocera (ITA, KTM), +1:49.183; 5. Britt van der Wekken (NED, Honda), +2:01.013; 6. Marielle De Mol (NED, TM), +2:10.662; 7. Sara Pettersson (SWE, KTM), +2:12.078; 8. Marianne Veenstra (NED, Suzuki), +2:12.632; 9. Elien De Winter (BEL, KTM), +2:13.147; 10. Joanna Miller (POL, KTM), -1 lap(s);
WMX Overall top-ten: 1. Stephanie Laier (GER, KTM), 50 points; 2. Larissa Papenmeier (GER, KTM), 40 p.; 3. Chiara Fontanesi (ITA, Yamaha), 40 p.; 4. Francesca Nocera (ITA, KTM), 34 p.; 5. Marielle De Mol (NED, TM), 30 p.; 6. Britt van der Wekken (NED, Honda), 29 p.; 7. Marianne Veenstra (NED, Suzuki), 27 p.; 8. Sara Pettersson (SWE, KTM), 25 p.; 9. Elien De Winter (BEL, KTM), 24 p.; 10. Livia Lancelot (FRA, Kawasaki), 22 p.