After the deluge of rain at the new circuit of Pangkal Pinang two weeks ago, MXGP found overdue sunshine and a superb but demanding racing track at Neuquen for what was the third visit to the idyllic setting of Patagonia and the Grand Prix of Argentina; the third stop on the 2017 FIM Motocross World Championship calendar.
The soft and bumpy volcanic earth of the circuit in the Bariloche region and close to the Chilean border was a happy hunting ground for Red Bull KTM Factory Racing MX2 duo Pauls Jonass and Jorge Prado as the pair went 1-2 on the day with their KTM 250 SX-Fs and were watched at the packed fences by a 29,500 attendance. Tony Cairoli recovered from bad luck at the start of both MXGP motos to charge back from the nether regions of the pack on his KTM 450 SX-F for seventh overall. Jeffrey Herlings and Glenn Coldenhoff classified ninth and eighteenth respectively.
Slips in the formative stages of both thirty minute and two lap sprints meant crowd favourite Tony Cairoli – winner of the opening round at Losail, Qatar – kept his fans entertained with exciting passes and progress into the top ten…but the Sicilian missed out on a champagne celebration. He guided his 450 SX-F to ninth and a (fantastic) fifth to limit the damage in the championship standings for what could have been a large ‘banana skin’ in his 2017 campaign.
Cairoli: “The weekend was very difficult mainly because of the starts and also the riders were very close together on this track and you could not make the difference; you had to take some risks to pass the others. So I had to come from the back both times and made more mistakes and crashed again. From dead-last in the first moto I came back to ninth; which was OK and I couldn’t do more. In the second I crashed after three laps and went down outside the top twenty, to come back the way I did was very good. I am so disappointed because it should have been another 1-1. The championship is still so long so we have time to get back this lead.”
Jeffrey Herlings rode to a 12th and 7th which actually represented his best so far in MXGP and in just his third GP appearance with the 450 SX-F but the MX2 World Champion was still struggling with full fitness and feeling due to the repercussions of recent injury problems and the race to get 100%.
Herlings: “With my wrist problem and hand injury it has been a tough road and this is perhaps the most demanding class in the world. This was the best weekend we had so far but it still wasn’t good enough so we’ll keep on working and getting better.”
Glenn Coldenhoff showed the starting prowess necessary to repeat his podium result from Pangkal Pinang and was electric away from the gate but the Dutchman lacked the feeling to mark a pace similar to the leaders and crossed the finish line in fifteenth in the first moto. A technical problem curtailed his participation in the second race when #259 looked set for a more promising result.
Coldenhoff: “My starts were great and we’d done a lot of testing: our work was really paying off here and that was the positive part of the weekend because I was struggling here quite a bit. We made some changes [to the set-up] for the second moto which were better and I felt more comfortable and it was a shame we had a mechanical issue. Fifteenth place in the first race really isn’t good and I wasn’t happy we didn’t get the chance to make it better. Anyway we’ll go home and get some good training done for Mexico.”
Cairoli is now ten points behind Tim Gajser in the MXGP rankings. Coldenhoff rests in eleventh position and Herlings is thirteenth.
Pauls Jonass was again eyeing podium prizes on his works 250 SX-F and with pleasant memories of Neuquen as the site of his first rostrum finish as a Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider in 2015. After rapier starts and some fierce action with teammate Jorge Prado – that often had the KTM crew in pitlane nervously watching proceedings through their fingers – Jonass prevailed to own both chequered flags and close to within 3 points of Jeremy Seewer at the top of the MX2 table. Argentina represented the second career success for Pauls and buried the disappointment of his unfortunate ‘DNF’ in the mud of Pangkal Pinang two weeks earlier.
Jonass: “Indonesia was really disappointing for me because I had so much bad luck but here we made things right with a 1-1: I had a good feeling and great starts and was able to ride my own race without pushing too hard. I didn’t make any big mistakes and that was the goal. I took back some points on first place [in the championship] and I hope we can continue the season like this! Together with Jorge we had a few close calls, maybe too close for teammates! But it was racing, and to go 1-2 was awesome for the whole team and I’m also happy for Jorge and his first podium of the season.”
Prado made his competitive debut on Argentinean soil and for what was only his sixth Grand Prix start. The sixteen year old (the youngest member of the MX2 contingent) flew out of the gate to the holeshot in the first moto. A solid third place was matched with the same classification in the second dash later in the afternoon. The Spaniard was able to lift his first trophy of the year and the second of his career after that unforgettable debut at Assen in 2016. Ending the day as runner-up also marked a personal best in his fledgling GP chapter.
Prado: “I am really happy with the day and actually the whole weekend considering that I had been sick for a week and couldn’t really train like I wanted coming here. So I was a bit tired today and I don’t know what happened but sometimes when I am not feeling so good I can still make good results! This is my best result yet and I’m happy I was able to fight from the beginning until the end. Pauls was just a little bit stronger than me but I showed good speed.”
Dirk Gruebel (MX2 Team Manager): “Both guys rode really well and we were keen to ride on that track again; Pauls had a good time here before and was ready to strike back after Indonesia. He found a good groove and was on top of his game all weekend…even with a little resistance from his teammate! Two clean victories and no issues with the bikes so it was a great weekend for us. It was really nice to see that racing up front and I hope they can push each other to the next level.”
Next Round: April 2, 2017 – Leon (MEX)
Results MXGP Neuquen 2017
- Tim Gajser (SLO), Honda (1-1)
- Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL), Yamaha (2-3)
- Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS), Honda (5-2)
- Gautier Paulin, (FRA) Husqvarna (6-4)
- Romain Febre (FRA) Yamaha (4-8)
- Tony Cairoli (ITA), KTM (9-5)
- Jeffrey Herlings (NED), KTM (12-7)
- Glenn Coldenhoff (NED), KTM (15-DNF)
Standings MXGP 2017 after 3 of 19 rounds
- Gajser, 106 points
- Cairoli, 96
- Clement Desalle (BEL) Kawasaki, 91
- Van Horebeek, 84
- Bobryshev, 82
- Coldenhoff, 48
- Herlings, 40
Results MX2 Neuquen 2017
- Pauls Jonass (LAT), KTM (1-1)
- Jorge Prado (SPA), KTM (3-3)
- Jeremy Seewer (SUI), Suzuki (5-2)
- Benoit Paturel (FRA), Yamaha (2-9)
- Darian Sanayei (USA), Kawasaki (6-4)
Standings MX2 2017 after 3 of 19 rounds
- Seewer, 110 points
- Jonas, 107
- Paturel, 104
- Julien Lieber (BEL) KTM, 99
- Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN) Husqvarna, 99
- Prado, 67