The fifth round of nineteen in the 2017 FIM Motocross World Championship delivered stunning scenes at a packed Pietramurata circuit near Arco di Trento in the picturesque climes of northern Italy and close to Lake Garda. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Tony Cairoli satisfied the clamour from most of the 29,500 crowd by riding to results of 1st and 2nd despite a first corner stall in the second moto that left the Sicilian down in 22nd place. Jorge Prado won a ‘battle of teammates’ in MX2 with Pauls Jonass for his very first career success in what was just his eighth Grand Prix, but the Latvian rose to the top of the standings for the second time in 2017 after grasp the red plate with his runner-up finish.
31 year old Cairoli set out his intentions from Saturday by claiming the holeshot in the qualification heat race and riding free to his maiden pole pposition of the year; permitting first pick of slots in the metallic-floored gate and for the slightly uphill drag into the tight first and second turns. On Sunday Cairoli gunned the KTM 450 SX-F to the holeshot and although he had Tim Gajser and Arnaud Tonus for company for the rest of the moto he remained ahead of the pack for his third race win of ’17.
The second moto start was dramatic. #222 fell and was clipped by a large section of the pack. He remounted towards the rear of the field and on a tight, slippery and difficult track for overtaking his chances of victory had all but gone. The former six times world champion then produced a performance for the ages to trawl through to second position – using a lefthander from a step-up jump to remarkable effect and gaining five positions on five different laps from the manoeuvre alone – and sent the spectators (and his team) crazy. The reception for Cairoli and his 79th Grand Prix success was emotional and ecstatic from the vast flock of public that rushed the start straight for a view of the final podium.
Cairoli: “I think this is one of my best races, best GPs ever. I hit the bank on the first corner and almost crashed into the mud but then crashed in the second corner and was hit by a lot of people. I was very p**sed off that I made a mistake and then said ‘I need to put myself on the podium’; I did my best to come back from twentieth place to do that. It was pretty sketchy in some places but I made it happen. When I got to seventh or eighth place I saw the group in front and thought it was possible to catch (Evgeny) Bobryshev for the overall win and kept pushing and pushing and making passes. I had some sketchy moments but that is part of racing: if you want to win you have to take risks. I’m really happy.”
Jeffrey Herlings was riding at the scene of past success in the MX2 division and made his bow on the KTM 450 SX-F around the Arco ruts and bumps. The Dutchman was fourteenth and struggled in the first outing but finally nailed a good start to slot into the top four in the second moto and gained his best finish in MXGP to-date with fourth place by the flag for eighth overall.
Glenn Coldenhoff, who had recovered from his tweaked shoulder after a hefty crash in the Grand Prix of Mexico two weeks previously, started the first moto badly and circulated with Herlings; eventually taking seventeenth spot. #259 stuck with his countryman around the opening turns of the second sprint and completed the race with tenth and fourteenth in the Grand Prix classification.
Coldenhoff: “We had some issues on Saturday, made some changes and then felt much better. We had a problem in the qualification heat and it made me a bit wary but I was hopeful for the motos because if I knew I had the start then I’d be OK. I had to use the clutch a little in the first start and didn’t get away well. I wasn’t comfortable in that moto and couldn’t do what I wanted. I was fighting hard but was stuck behind (Tanel) Leok for a while. I finished seventeenth and was really disappointed. The second moto start was much better and I was in the top four but didn’t have the speed like the top guys; I was a little bit off the pace. Tenth is a solid result but I’m still disappointed.”
As per usual this season sixteen year old Jorge Prado was in direct contention for the holeshot in both motos in the MX2 class on his KTM 250 SX-F. The Spaniard was just pipped by Jonass in the first race and the two teammates set the pace at the front of a static moto with LRT KTM’s Julien Lieber following in third place. Jonass claimed his fifth chequered flag of the year while Prado bagged his third top three result.
The second moto again saw the starting superiority of the SX-F come to the fore; once more #61 and #41 spearheaded the pack into the tight first turns. Prado forged an early advantage as Jonass – who had been searching for speed and comfort on Saturday – chose not to take too many risks. Through the backmarkers the distance between the pair narrowed and the Red Bull KTM team witnessed a tense match-off. Prado eventually held strong to capture the chequered flag and the first GP win for Spain since 2009 and the first ever in MX2; accomplished in the teenager’s eighth Grand Prix. With second position Jonass is now the leader of the MX2 table by 9 points over Jeremy Seewer.
Prado: “I never imagined to have such a good race here and I’m a little lost for words at the moment. I knew a good result was possible after yesterday but to win? That’s really difficult. This is the result of a big pre-season and many years of work: to get to this point that we could win a Grand Prix. Only the best win here (in GP) so I’m really happy with my work today.”
Jonass: “I didn’t feel good on Saturday and during the night I was thinking about the changes I could make on the bike and we made a few little alterations on the suspension and it worked out well. It helped to get the first moto holeshot and then just focus on myself and ride my own lines. In the second moto I was again good at the start but Jorge pulled away in the first laps and I got a rhythm going and managed to catch him. It was really difficult to pass here and I couldn’t make it happen. I also didn’t want to make a mistake. I’m happy with second today because after Saturday I thought a top ten would be good!”
Dirk Gruebel (MX2 Team Manager): “It didn’t look like it would turn out that way yesterday! Pauls struggled a bit with his arm but today he totally turned it around, rode really well and didn’t risk anything in the second heat. About our ‘youngster’: to win his very first GP on hard-pack is pretty surprising and I’m really proud of him. Jorge withstood all the pressure and his riding was outstanding: big props.”
Pit Beirer (KTM Motorsport Director): “Today was for sure one of the nicest race days I’ve seen: Jorge wins his first GP, Pauls takes back the red plate and then Tony – how he showed up yesterday and won the heat, won the first moto and then got up from that crash and won when the GP was lost – just turned everything around. Hearing the Italian anthem on the podium, seeing that crowd and some of the strongest people in the paddock cry: it was such a special moment. It is amazing to see how much energy and power is in a team and then how the release is quite big. It really is an incredible day.”
MXGP barely pauses now with round six of the series taking place this coming weekend at the Eurocircuit, Valkenswaard in the Netherlands for the Grand Prix of Europe.
Next Race: April 23, 2017 – Valkenswaard (NED)
Results MXGP Pietramurata 2017
1. Tony Cairoli (ITA), KTM (1-2)
2. Tim Gajser (SLO), Honda (3-1)
3. Arnaud Tonus (SUI), Yamaha (2-7)
4. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS), Honda (7-3)
5. Gautier Paulin (FRA), Husqvarna (4-6)
8. Jeffrey Herlings (NED), KTM (14-4)
14. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED), KTM (17-10)
Standings MXGP 2017 after 5 of 19 rounds
1. Gajser, 201 points
2. Cairoli, 183
3. Clement Desalle (BEL) Kawasaki, 151
4. Bobryshev, 145
5. Paulin, 145
12. Herlings, 84
13. Coldenhoff, 77
Results MX2 Pietramurata 2017
1. Jorge Prado (SPA), KTM (2-1)
2. Pauls Jonass (LAT), KTM (1-2)
3. Julien Lieber (BEL), KTM (3-5)
4. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN), Husqvarna (5-6)
5. Thomas Covington (USA), Husqvarna (11-3)
Standings MX2 2017 after 5 of 19 rounds
1. Jonass, 192 points
2. Seewer, 183
3. Lieber, 175
4. Olsen, 158
5. Paturel, 147
7. Prado, 117