The MXGP and MX2 divisions of Rockstar Energy Suzuki have channel-hopped this week in their movement from the UK to the west coast of France and St Jean d’Angely for the ninth round of the FIM Motocross World Championship.
St Jean is back on the calendar after a year’s hiatus and when the typically-busy, vibrant and atmospheric French GP moved north to Ernee (the site of next year’s Motocross of Nations). Although the climate in north-western Europe has not been so friendly or dry since round eight at Matterley Basin, bright conditions are forecast for the weekend and across the hard-pack, stony circuit with a natural amphitheatre setting.
The team rolls down to St Jean (not far from Saintes) with Clement Desalle having bagged his fifth podium-finish of the season in Great Britain and staring down a 28 point barrel to MXGP standings leader Antonio Cairoli. Desalle has mixed memories of the hilly venue but having raced much of his youth in France he knows well the level of excitement and expectation that the public will bring to this latest outing for MXGP.
“I’m happy we are going back to St Jean,” he said this week. “It’s quite a nice track and I found Ernee last year a bit too tight. I’ve won a moto and also had some good battles. The last time we were there was just after I had lost my grandfather, so it was not an easy time for me. The French fans like their motocross so it should be a good GP.”
Team-mate Kevin Strijbos made a swift getaway after the British Grand Prix in which he finished sixth overall and lost the chance to post a hat-trick of successive podium finishes after previous success in Holland and Spain. The Belgian has watched his countryman win three out of the last four motos and needs to reach the same level of synergy with the R-Z450 in order to compete again at the front. Strijbos is fourth in the standings and has to chip-away at a 66-point gap to another Belgian, Jeremy Van Horebeek. For Desalle, his fitness, form and happiness with the Suzuki technology is hitting excellent levels. The only blip from the past two Grands Prix was his first moto crash in the UK that arguably prevented him from sealing a third overall victory this season.
“Things are going well in that respect,” he commented. “I’m feeling really good with the bike at the moment and the results are coming. Now the goal is to keep that running. I went to have a check on my neck the other day after the crash in the UK. It had been a bit sore but nothing is wrong and I rode the bike again without any problems, so all OK.”
In MX2 Rockstar Energy Suzuki’s Jeremy Seewer will be looking to erode the 31 point difference to countryman Valentin Guillod to seize a decent 10th position in the standings by the midpoint of his rookie Grand Prix campaign. The young Swiss has impressed across various forms of terrain in his adaptation to MX2-level competition with the works RM-Z250. He now enters one of his favourite locations for racing happy to be fit after weathering illness and the effects of a crash during the British GP last weekend.
“I’m looking forward to France…St Jean is one of my favourite tracks,” he said. “I really like it for the soil and the jumps. The ground is hard-pack and a bit rocky and the way they water it…well, let’s just say it is a bit like some tracks we have in Switzerland!
“I hope I can make another top-10 there. My shoulder is a bit stiff after the crash in Britain but the pain in my wrist had gone by Sunday,” he added.
Julien Lieber had a tough time in England after two very positive races in the sand of Valkenswaard and the inclines of Talavera de la Reina in Spain. The young Belgian is now aiming to evolve the encouraging speed his showed in the second moto at Matterley Basin and get back to the level of his early mid-season promise.
Also reaching the middle of his racing term will be Brian Hsu who will take the RM125 two-stroke into battle for round four of the European EMX125 series. Hsu is fourth in the contest and just eight points from second place.
MXGP Championship Standings (after 8 of 17 rounds):
1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 351 points;
2. Clement Desalle (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), 323 p.;
3. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, YAM), 316 p.;
4. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), 250 p.;
5. Gautier Paulin (FRA, KAW), 205 p.;
6. Maximilian Nagl (GER, HON), 166 p.;
7. Steven Frossard (FRA, KAW), 164 p.;
8. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), 159 p.;
9. Joel Roelants (BEL, HON), 153 p.;
10. Xavier Boog (FRA, HON), 145 p.;
MX2 Championship Standings (after 8 of 17 rounds):
1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 344 points;
2. Arnaud Tonus (SUI, KAW), 305 p.;
3. Romain Febvre (FRA, HUS), 263 p.;
4. Jordi Tixier (FRA, KTM), 253 p.;
5. Dylan Ferrandis (FRA, KAW), 248 p.;
6. Tim Gajser (SLO, HON), 209 p.;
7. Aleksandr Tonkov (RUS, HUS), 197 p.;
8. Jose Butron (ESP, KTM), 184 p.;
9. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), 176 p.;
10. Valentin Guillod (SUI, KTM), 173 p.;
11. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), 142 p.;
14. Julien Lieber (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), 108 p.;