Dry, hard, restrictive, challenging and polarising: St Jean d’Angely was this and more for the Grand Prix of France and the ninth MXGP round of the FIM Motocross World Championship where Rockstar Energy Suzuki’s Clement Desalle performed superbly to claim both motos and toast his third overall triumph of the season in front of 32,000 spectators.
Back on the calendar after the French fixture had de-camped to Ernee in 2013, St Jean was busy and appreciated by the fans that lapped-up the summer temperatures and generous sunshine close to the west coast. For the riders the tight hillside terrain was either a tricky and demanding prospect or ultimately a frustrating one through the search for lines and overtaking spots.
Desalle came to France after winning three of the last four MXGP motos. He marked the fastest lap on this RM-Z450 in Timed Practice and rode to a confident second position in the qualification heat race on Saturday to set him up nicely for Sunday’s 30 minute and two-lap motos. Race day was all about a duel with World Champion Antonio Cairoli as the two principal rivals for the 2014 title dictated the pace. The ‘#25’ shadowed the Italian in both sprints and bided his time, applying pressure for a mistake. Remarkably Cairoli erred in the closing stages of both outings. Desalle pounced on an awkward line by his peer in Moto1 and then fended off Cairoli’s renewed threat before the chequered flag; less than a second divided them at the line. With two laps to go in Moto2 Cairoli was unsighted by a backmarker and crashed, leaving Desalle with a clear track to extend his run to five moto wins from six and two GP triumphs from the last three.
Never a fan of St Jean, Kevin Strijbos struggled to gel with the circuit on Saturday. The Belgian experimented and tweaked his race set-up and found some improvements and an effective speed and rhythm on race day. His start was not the best in the first moto but he reacted quickly in the opening phases to reach fourth. His luck deserted him in the second affair when he had nowhere to go to avoid the fallen David Philippaerts on the second lap and hit the ground himself. From last place Strijbos reached 13th for sixth overall.
With over half of the season now consigned to stats sheets and results pages Desalle is still second in the MXGP standings with a gap of just 20 points to Cairoli. With 25 points awarded for a moto victory the championship chase is still close. Strijbos remains fourth with a distance of 82 to the top three.
Grands Prix in Italy and Germany will form the next successive stint of the MXGP calendar. The journey to Maggiora will begin in over a week with the race taking place on June 14-15 and Teutschenthal occurring seven days later. Desalle won a moto last year at Maggiora and at Teutschenthal he was part of the victorious Belgian Motocross of Nations team in September.
“It is always great to win! I saw after the qualification moto that it would be very complicated to pass here and the start would be ‘more’ than important. I had a great one in the first moto, made some mistakes and dropped back to fourth but was soon into second and trying to stay with Tony. He is a very good rider so my plan was to stay as close to him as I could until the end of the race and it worked out like this in both motos. It is a really great feeling that the strategy worked. I wasn’t hoping that he [Cairoli] would make a mistake because I never want a rider to crash but to have an opportunity to pass was the goal.
“I try to improve each year and to be better and I’m happy today that it worked out. It was easy to hit stones and make errors. I am disappointed that the landing was not well prepared on the big downhill jump; I took a lot of risks on this part and I think there was time between the motos to flatten it for what was such a critical area. You have to focus so much on a track like this and it is not hard to lose concentration, especially when you are pushing at the front. It was an intense few laps in both motos and I’m definitely very happy. I would like to dedicate this win to my grandfather who passed away two years ago yesterday and there are still some important memories for me.”
“This is not my track! I never seem to ride well here but today I had good speed and not much luck. Fourth was OK in the first moto but I don’t know what happened at the start of the second. I shut off too early on the first corner and then the first laps were pretty difficult. I couldn't find my rhythm and Philippaerts lost control in a rut in front of me. The bike went sideways and I hit his spinning rear wheel. I went over the bars and my bike was then stuck on his handlebar! It took a while to get free and I knew the race was finished. I don't know where I was but I tried my best. What more can I say? We have a weekend off now and our schedule is not fixed yet. I’m happy with our set-up for the hard-pack so we’ll see in Italy.”
1. Clement Desalle (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), 33:48.880;
2. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:00.602;
3. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), +0:34.663;
4. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), +0:37.158;
5. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda), +0:41.290;
6. Steven Frossard (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:45.568;
7. Xavier Boog (FRA, Honda), +1:01.240;
8. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), +1:06.237;
9. Dennis Ullrich (GER, KTM), +1:08.293;
10. Davide Guarneri (ITA, TM), +1:15.518;
1. Clement Desalle (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), 33:47.790;
2. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), +0:01.575;
3. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:01.774;
4. Steven Frossard (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:06.786;
5. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda), +0:42.302;
6. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), +0:53.826;
7. Rui Goncalves (POR, Yamaha), +0:55.634;
8. Matiss Karro (LAT, KTM), +1:09.383;
9. Davide Guarneri (ITA, TM), +1:13.164;
10. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), +1:13.964;
13. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), +1:38.394;
MXGP Overall result:
1. Clement Desalle (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), 50 points;
2. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, YAM), 42 p.;
3. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 42 p.;
4. Steven Frossard (FRA, KAW), 33 p.;
5. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, HON), 32 p.;
6. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), 26 p.;
7. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), 24 p.;
8. Rui Goncalves (POR, YAM), 23 p.;
9. Matiss Karro (LAT, KTM), 23 p.;
10. Davide Guarneri (ITA, TM), 23 p.;
MXGP FIM World Championship Standings (after 9 of 17 rounds):
1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 393 points;
2. Clement Desalle (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), 373 p.;
3. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, YAM), 358 p.;
4. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), 276 p.;
5. Gautier Paulin (FRA, KAW), 205 p.;
6. Steven Frossard (FRA, KAW), 197 p.;
7. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), 183 p.;
8. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, HON), 168 p.;
9. Maximilian Nagl (GER, HON), 166 p.;
10. Xavier Boog (FRA, HON), 159 p.;
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