Round two of nineteen in the 2017 FIM Motocross World Championship saw the new venue blasted by frequent showers and thunderstorms on what was the series’ first visit to the country in exactly twenty years. The second MX2 moto was cut short with seven minutes still on the clock due to the perilous nature of the track and in the wake of another bout of rainfall. A decision was made by officials to cancel the second MXGP outing and the results from the first race served for the overall classification.
With the fences and grandstands packed with eager fans and a keen audience for MXGP (official figure of 36,000) the premier class began on a drying course but with the mud still very soft and difficult to judge. Practice and qualification on Saturday had been reduced to just one session because of the conditions and as the 30 minute and 2 lap race on Sunday ticked down areas of the 1600m layout became extremely rutted and sticky. One section in particular turned into a quagmire and would catch out MX2 World Champion Jeffrey Herlings as the #84 machine became swallowed from a potential top ten finish and the Dutchman was classified in 17th. Glenn Coldenhoff made a fantastic start to lead the first five laps of fifteen and although he could do little about the speed of Shaun Simpson the ‘Hoff’ was steady, picked his lines and came through to a superb second spot.
Coldenhoff: “It was a great moto. I had a great start – thanks to the team for that because we changed a few things and now I’m really happy – and got into the lead. I rode easy but there was one part of the track that was really difficult; I got through it every lap and this was the key. I put all my energy in that one section. I’m really happy with second place and the team have done a great job; I have a lot of confidence in the bike and I’m looking forward to Argentina already.”
Cairoli: “I’m really happy actually because the track was really difficult and it was easy to lose a lot of points. I didn’t have such a good start and managed to make some good passes while others got stuck. I ended up with fourth place which is good for the championship and we still have an eight point lead. We were happy that the Jury decided to stop the second race because the track was becoming very tricky and very dangerous. We’ll go home now, reset and do some training and tests to be ready for Argentina which is a track I really like and one of my favourites.”
Herlings: “It was a gamble and some riders won and some lost; it is pretty devastating to be in sixth-seventh position and to then get stuck. I’m already fifty points down in the championship but I still believe we can make it happen. It has been a tough start and we expected that because of my injury but the weather here meant it was out of my hands! We’ll have to take this and work from here. At least my hand was much better than last week. I hope I can finally be up front in Argentina and it is a track that suits me well. A podium there is realistic.”
The MX2 competitors were the first to wade into the ooze on race day and not only had to battle a terrain that could dump them into the mud without warning but also high temperatures and a humidity reading of 98%. Pauls Jonass used his confidence gained from victory in Qatar last weekend to head the field for ten of fifteen laps in the moto but became a victim of the same pre-take-off zone of the track that was already turning into a bog. The Latvian could not retrieve his KTM 250 SX-F and disappointedly made the finish in 14th place. Jorge Prado also struggled and placed out of the points. A crash at the launch of the second moto and then a DNF while coming back through the pack ended Jonass’ plight for a decent score – he was 25th – while Prado banked just two points for 19th position. The race was red-flagged with seven minutes to go and points were ultimately not awarded towards the final GP score but it was still a weekend that the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing duo will swiftly want to forget.
Jonass: “The race did not go as hoped or planned. I had so much bad luck. The track was not really well prepared and there were already cancellations on Saturday. I was leading the first moto almost the whole way until I hit a mud hole and just couldn’t get the bike out for a full lap. In the second moto a guy crashed in front of me and I ran over his bike. I started from last and came back to fourteenth again but then we had a problem. I made a mistake and couldn’t restart after that. I’m disappointed but it is only the second GP.”
Prado: “When we came here and saw it was raining every day we knew the track would be tough and when we had a look it was under water! Saturday was already tricky for me and I had to start from 28th place and I was too far along the gate. I was around fifteenth in the first moto but then got stuck in the mud and lost a lot of laps. I was not happy about missing the points and was motivated for the second race. I almost got stuck in the second moto again but made a start that allowed me to be near the top five. The track was getting worse and the bike so heavy. It was really difficult. When I was eighth I then couldn’t help being stuck. Some others were stopping and breaking but thanks to KTM I was able to keep on riding and got some points: better than nothing. I’m pretty happy that we were able to finish.”
KTM were present on the final MX2 rostrum thanks to Julien Lieber in third place; the Belgian has now picked up two trophies in a row.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing will now be able to head home to Europe and adjust to a familiar time zone before jetting west and to Neuquen in Patagonia for the third Grand Prix of Argentina this century. The popular course is forged from volcanic earth and will again be flanked by a busy and passionate crowd. Cairoli has scored MXGP podium finishes in the two previous editions while Jonass finished second in MX2 in 2015 and the team were victorious with the KTM 250 SX-F and Jeffrey Herlings twelve months ago.
Next Round: March 19, 2017 – Neuquen (ARG)
Results MXGP Pangkal Pinang 2017 (only one moto)
1. Shaun Simpson (GBR), Yamaha, 36:06.712 min (15 laps)
2. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED), KTM, +7.725 sec
3. Clement Desalle (BEL), Kawasaki, +12.501
4. Tony Cairoli (ITA), KTM, +39.427
5. Rui Goncalves (POR), Husqvarna, +43.580
17. Jeffrey Herlings (NED), KTM, +2 laps
Standings MXGP 2017 after 2 of 19 rounds
1. Cairoli, 68 points
2. Desalle, 60
3. Tim Gajser (SLO), Honda, 56
4. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS), Honda, 44
5. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL), Yamaha, 42
6. Coldenhoff, 41
17. Herlings, 17
Results MX2 Pangkal Pinang 2017
1. Jeremy Seewer, (SUI), Suzuki (1-2)
2. Samuele Bernadini (ITA), TM (8-1)
3. Julien Lieber (BEL), KTM (3-4)
4. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN), Husqvarna (6-5)
5. Davy Pootjes, (NED), KTM (2-14)
14. Pauls Jonass (LAT), KTM (14-25)
21. Jorge Prado (ESP), KTM (21-19)
Standings MX2 2017 after 2 of 19 rounds
1. Lieber, 78 points
2. Seewer, 72
3. Benoit Paturel (FRA), Yamaha, 70
4. Kjer Olsen, 67
5. Jonass, 57
14. Prado, 27