Onto Valkenswaard for the MXGP of the Netherlands.
The third round of the 2019 FIM Motocross World Championship takes place this weekend on the sands of Valkenswaard! The MXGP of the Netherlands is set to get racing only 6 days after the previous round of MXGP across the pond in Great Britain. Last year the dark sand of Valkenswaard contrasted with the white snow blanketing its cold surface however, this weekend, mother nature is a fan of motocross with perfect conditions expected.
The Valkenswaard circuit will be the first true sand race of 2019 with the venue just a stone’s throw away from most of the teams‘ workshops it also serves as a second home and training ground for many riders. The darkened sand of the Dutch circuit will host thousands of fans, family, and friends as they cheer for their favorite riders.
The amazing atmosphere will be furthered by the addition classes of the FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship and the 125 2-stroke class of FIM Europe’s Motocross Championship. Reigning and 6-time WMX Champion Kiara Fontanesi from the MXFONTA Yamaha team will be unable to defend her crown due to health complications but longtime rivals such as BIKE IT DRT Kawasaki’s Courtney Duncan and Nancy Van de Ven are eager to start the new season in winning form. EMX125 presented by FMF Racing will also hold its season opening round at Valkenswaard with 100 entries fighting for a chance to make it into the top 40 before racing for wins.
In the MXGP category it is Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Antonio Cairoli who has taken the first two overall victories of the season with 3 of the 4 individual Race wins to his name. Cairoli has also won at this venue on six prior occasions and with the last coming in 2014 he will be shooting to exchange his 2nd overall finish from last year to 1st for the 7th time.
Team HRC’s Tim Gajser looked menacing at the last round however and the former MXGP and MX2 World Champion from Slovenia was the only rider able to take on Cairoli so far this year. Had it not been for a massive crash in Great Britain, Gajser may have very well taken the win. Gajser has never seen much success here though with his best finish being 3rdin the 6 times he has raced the circuit.
While Cairoli and Gajser may be the most favorited for wins this weekend, many other top competitors are starting to find their flow as the season gets underway. One potential winner is Monster Energy Wilvo Yamaha Official MXGP’s Gautier Paulin who made his way to the podium last week and won his last GP at the same venue in 2017. Paulin was on the podium here in 2015 and 2018 as well with the stop in 2015 being a GP overall win.
Also worth considering for a top showing are the Belgian sand specialists, Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team’s Clement Desalle and Honda SR Motoblouz’s Jeremy van Horebeek. Desalle has raced this event 12 times throughout his career but only finished on the podium twice, 2ndin 2012 and 3rdin 2015. Van Horebeek has also been on the podium twice but raced here 10 times with 5 being in MX2 and the rest in MXGP as opposed to Desalle’s 12 all in the premier 450 category.
2018 MXGP of Europe MXGP top 3
- Jeffrey Herlings
- Antonio Cairoli
- Gautier Paulin
MXGP Championship Top Ten Standings: 1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 97 points; 2. Tim Gajser (SLO, HON), 89 p.; 3. Gautier Paulin (FRA, YAM), 74 p.; 4. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, HON), 66 p.; 5. Clement Desalle (BEL, KAW), 65 p.; 6. Arminas Jasikonis (LTU, HUS), 56 p.; 7. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, YAM), 50 p.; 8. Max Anstie (GBR, KTM), 39 p.; 9. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), 39 p.; 10. Tommy Searle (GBR, KAW), 38 p.
The MX2 class ran without defending champion and round one winner Jorge Prado from the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team in Great Britain after a training crash. The Spaniard’s void left the door open for a new protagonist and the rider stepping up to the plate to make the most of last week was Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Thomas Kjer Olsen. Olsen’s double race wins took not only the overall, but the points lead as well. Olsen is a strong sand rider and has also done well here the last two years finishing 4thin 2017 and 3rdin 2018.
Olsen was however challenged and pressured by German rider Henry Jacobi from F&H Racing. Jacobi’s new team and off-season training have been what he considers the most professional of his career. The change is clear from the outside looking in as well as both of the first two rounds he has fought for a top spot and put in some of the fastest lap times along the way. Historically Jacobi does not perform well at Valkenswaard though with his best finish being 17thin the 3 times he’s raced here.
Turning heads in the class is the young French Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rookie Tom Vialle who managed to make it on the podium in only his second ever MX2 professional race last week. Vialle’s impressive starts have been key to his success while it has been the downfall of many others.
Honda 114 Motorsports’ Mitch Evans is another rookie who started his debut season strong when he made the podium at round 1. Evans suffered a mechanical issue during the first lap of race 1 in Great Britain though which on paper made his second showing needing improvement. The Australian did however hold the pace of the front runners as he reentered the race from pit lane leaving the question of how he could have done unhindered still left to answer.
Prado’s status for Valkenswaard is still unknown but more information on his return will be coming shortly but another week away may be costly with riders such as Olsen building confidence and momentum in his absence.
Others to watch in MX2 this weekend include the Dutch riders of Team HRC’s Calvin Vlaanderen and Team DIGA Procross Husqvarna’s Davy Pootjes. Vlaanderen is one of only three riders who have won a GP in the class and he comes off a strong 4thoverall at Matterley while Pootjes just missed the top five last week and his been inside the top ten in both of his prior entries at Valkenswaard.
2018 MXGP of Europe MX2 top 3
- Pauls Jonass
- Jorge Prado
- Thomas Kjer Olsen
MX2 Championship Top Ten Standings: 1. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, HUS), 94 points; 2. Henry Jacobi (GER, KAW), 78 p.; 3. Calvin Vlaanderen (NED, HON), 71 p.; 4. Tom Vialle (FRA, KTM), 65 p.; 5. Ben Watson (GBR, YAM), 63 p.; 6. Jorge Prado (ESP, KTM), 50 p.; 7. Davy Pootjes (NED, HUS), 50 p.; 8. Mitchell Evans (AUS, HON), 49 p.; 9. Jago Geerts (BEL, YAM), 45 p.; 10. Michele Cervellin (ITA, YAM), 41 p.