The 69th Monster Energy Motocross of Nations will live long in the memory for the duel between Team France and Team USA - won by the French ensuring their second grasp of the Chamberlain Cup for the second year in a row - and for the emotion and intensity of an 80,000 (weekend figure) crowd at the Ernee that created amazing scenes in north west France.
Yamaha Factory Racing Yamalube's Romain Febvre was the standout protagonist to end a phenomenal 2015 season. The MXGP World Champion defeated brandmate Cooper Webb in the first outing riding in the MX Open category and then sent the crowd crazy in the third moto of the day comfortably leading Ben Townley across the line and posting a perfect 1-1 scorecard. Romain was the first of six YZ250F/YZ450F athletes on the rostrum from a total of nine athletes from three countries. His results were the bedrock of a close duel with the Americans (JGR Yamaha's Justin Barcia winning the MXGP class with a first moto success and taking third in the next race) and assisted the French (Gautier Paulin and Marvin Musquin also in the squad) to the top step of the podium.
The Americans pushed the Gallic trio to the limit thanks to Barcia's excellent holeshot to open the day's programme. He then engaged in a thrilling battle with Marvin Musquin and claimed the chequered flag thanks to the Frenchman's mistake halfway through the moto. Webb, riding a Yamalube Star Racing YZ450F for the second time in a week (and after his impressive debut at Glen Helen for the final Grand Prix of the year) was first around the opening turn in the second moto and resumed his Californian battle with Febvre. The pair circulated close together and through the myriad of backmarkers but Febvre was not to be denied.
Webb couldn't nail the same start in the decisive third and final moto - Barcia was also deep in the pack - and the pair had to thread through the Ernee curves and hills and across a track that was rutty, bumpy and technical. The 2015 AMA 250SX West Coast Champ reached sixth spot, which was Team USA's lowest score - the 'joker' classification they could drop - while Barcia was again excellent and passed a host of rivals to find his way to third. The third member of the troupe, AMA 250MX National Champion Jeremy Martin, rode consistently to a pair of fifth positions in what was his second appearance at the traditional end of season spectacle.
Also on the box was Febvre's teammate Jeremy Van Horebeek. 'JVH' was Team Belgium's best performer on his YZ450FM and jumped and scrubbed his way to a 4-7 to classify third overall in the MX Open class behind Febvre and Webb. The 2014 MXGP Championship runner-up and owner of two Grand Prix podiums now has a 100% appearance record in the top three for his country who have not missed the rostrum for eight years in a row. Van Horebeek was joined by Standing Construct Yamaha Yamalube's Julien Lieber. The YZ250F pilot has also sampled Nations champagne for his country and was third in 2014 in Latvia. Lieber managed a best ranking of twelfth in the first race - that saw the MX2 riders battling the larger 450s - despite an injured hip. A bent brake disc in the second race caused a DNF and was the Belgian team's 'throwaway'.
Standing Construct's Valentin Guillod made his YZ450F competitive debut - the basis of the motorcycle he will race in a maiden term in MXGP next year - and assisted the Swiss to fifth overall with a 9-14.
Podiums, victories, red plates, world titles for riders and manufacturers, Women's MX crowns, 125 Junior World Championship, European success; 2015 has been a barnstormer of a season for the Boys (and girls) in Blue and work on 2016 will start with tests in the coming weeks and some winter supercross appearances until MXGP forms up again in Qatar next year.
It has been an amazing year for me and I cannot expect anything more than this. Firstly to win some GPs, then to get the title with two rounds to go was unbelievable. To come here with a lot of pressure from the crowd was something special and I have never had it before. I'm really pumped that we won again. In the second moto Cooper and I were just a bit faster than everyone else and had a nice battle. For me the third race was a little more difficult with Ben Townley because he was riding really good. I tried to get away but he was sticking to my rear wheel. I'm really happy that we won.
Jeremy van Horebeek
It was a tough weekend. Both Ken [De Dycker] and Julien struggled a bit with crashes so it was hard. In the first moto I did pretty good. I was in third position and Marvin [Musquin] passed me; I was riding a bit tight but not too bad. The second moto start was a disaster and I was in seventeenth or something like that and I said to myself 'you have to do some damage now and push hard'. After a few laps I was in sixth and had some good battles with Justin and Cooper and they I was showed [on the pitboard] that we were third overall and I thought 'why take more risks?'. I'm stoked to be on the podium again. I'm happy a tough season is over. We will re-group for next year and make a better season I hope.
Today was my favourite type of racing. It was aggressive and clean and I like Marvin as a person and it was great racing today and it as a challenging weekend. I always come to this race to give 100% heart and to never give up. We came up a little short and France didn't let up. I had a bad jump [out of the gate] in the last moto and maybe things would have been a little different with a better start. I would have loved to have raced with Romain and everyone up front. I caught them towards the end but ran out of time. The track was a lot of fun although it took me some time to get warmed up through the weekend and the traction was challenging. All in all I'm really proud of the whole team. I wish we could have won but we did our best.
Today was a good day and I'm proud of how Cooper and Justin rode. The team gave their all. France were really fast this year. When I got behind Marvin after he fell in the first moto it reminded me of when we were racing in the U.S. but he was on another level this weekend. The Motocross of Nations is a one of a kind. It is something you want to be a part of as a racer. I have never heard fans so crazy. When you were on a French rider then you knew it! I've never heard so many chainsaws in my life.
It seemed like Romain and I just kept going from Glen Helen. I would get a better start…but I knew he would be coming! It was fun to be able to race with these guys and it was a whole new experience, having not really ridden the 450 that much and coming to the Nations for the first time. It was a huge honour and nerves were high. It was good though. We did the best we could and we were fighting. I feel like I learned quite a bit. We don't have anything like that [crowd and atmosphere]. I thought in Glen Helen [last week's Monster Energy U.S.GP] the fans were good there but this was a whole new level. I knew when Romain was on me, for sure! It was extreme and you had to stay calm and push it aside but it was hard when everybody was so loud and behind their team. I knew we had to make moves in that last moto and pass a lot of the front guys. Unfortunately I stalled it, which put me back a little bit. We made it hard for ourselves but that's why we race: for the challenge.
The weekend started badly with a big crash on the downhill when I tried to do the triple. I lost the bike in the air. I rode the whole weekend with pain in both sides of my hip and it was difficult on the rough track and all the bumps. Every time I put my leg on the ground it hurt. It was difficult. In the first race I was eleventh and couldn't ride at my level. In the second race I bent the front disc and the wheel kept stopping in the air. I had to stop. It was a bad weekend but at least we made the podium again. I'm happy the season is finished and I can make an operation and get healthy for next season.
Race 1 – MXGP / MX2
1. Justin Barcia – USA
2. Evgeny Bobryshev – Russia
3. Max Nagl – Germany
4. Marvin Musquin – France
5. Jeremy Martin – USA
6. Ben Townley – New Zealand
7. Gautier Paulin – France
Race 2 – MX2 / Open
1. Romain Febvre – France
2. Cooper Webb – USA
3. Marvin Musquin – France
4. Jeremy van Horebeek – Belgium
5. Jeremy Martin – USA
Race 3 – MXGP / Open
1. Romain Febvre – France
2. Ben Townley – New Zealand
3. Justin Barcia – USA
4. Evgeny Bobryshev – Russia
5. Gautier Paulin – France
6. Cooper Webb – USA
1. France – 14pts – 1,1,3,4,5
2. USA – 16pts – 1,2,3,5,5
3. Belgium – 56pts – 4,7,9,12,24
4. Estonia – 66pts – 8,12,15,15,16
5. Switzerland – 67pts – 9,10,10,14,24