MXGP hurries to a conclusion on European shores in the next two weeks with the Grands Prix of Lombardia and the Netherlands representing rounds 15 and 16 of 18 and the final two fixtures before the FIM Motocross World Championship heads overseas to Mexico and the USA.

The shallow sand of Mantova will host the race this weekend and stage a Grand Prix for the first time since 2010 when Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MXGP’s Clement Desalle took second place overall.

The Belgian is convalescing after surgery on his left shoulder and will miss the remainder of the season so it is left to team-mate Kevin Strijbos to fly the flag for the Lommel-based crew on his works RM-Z450. Strijbos has used the break effectively to re-charge batteries and keep his race speed up by winning the Keiheuvel International at Mol-Balen last weekend. The 29 year old has plenty of previous race experience at Mantova and boasts a best finish of fourth place overall in 2007 and at least two victories of the ‘Starcross’.

“Mantova is always a pretty good track with a lot of grip but I’m not sure what it will be like in hot weather. Anyway, I’m looking forward to going back as it’s been a few years since we went there for a Grand Prix,” he said. “I had a good race last weekend and the goal will be to start having fun as soon as possible in Italy.”

Mantova is somewhat unique on the MXGP calendar thanks to its setting in a park located close to the centre of the town a short distance north of Bologna. The sand is surrounded on three sides by small spectator banking, giving the circuit a ‘stadium’ feel. Although compact the track layout normally gets rough and boasts a decent number of jumps on what is predominantly flat ground. The facility is well known to most Grand Prix runners as Mantova has been the site of one of the tradition pre-season opening meetings – the Starcross – for a number of years. The weather forecast for the weekend predicts sunshine and bright conditions with temperatures creeping near the thirties. Mantova will represent the third visit to Italy for MXGP this year after the meeting was pencilled in late to replace the cancelled Grand Prix of Brazil.

New 2015 ADAC MX Masters Champion Glenn Coldenhoff is savouring the prospect of a return to Mantova. The Grand Prix of Latvia winner clinched the German crown last weekend at Lichtenvoorde with a double moto victory and now heads back to a familiar sandy setting. “I rode the Starcross many times for pre-season preparation and I really like the track,” the Dutchman said. “I won the MX2 class in 2013 and I was smiling when they filled that date on the calendar with a trip to Mantova. The track is so much fun to ride.”

Coldenhoff had to conquer near flooded conditions at Lichtenvoorde to wrap up the MX Masters title and can add the accolade to his triumph at Kegums and ninth position in the MXGP championship standings to demonstrate a positive first term on the RM-Z450. “It is a big series and with good international riders so I was happy to take my first overall win on home turf and then also confirm the title,” he said. “We had so much rain though; it was almost like Enduro! It was cool to get two wins on the day.

“The season has gone to plan so far,” he assessed. “Latvia was a surprise for me but it looks like I am close to my goals for the year.”

Rockstar Energy Suzuki Europe team-mate Jeremy Seewer is part of a fascinating tussle and a six rider group disputing the top three in the MX2 class. The Swiss is only 38 points from the red plate as world championship leader with 200 points still to win and currently lies fifth – in line with his ambition for the 2015 campaign.

“I want to be as fast as possible and see where I can end up. It seems like many things can still happen to any of us,” the 21 year old commented. “I have raced in Mantova a lot even if this will be my first GP there. I did my first ever EMX125 European Championship at the track in 2010. Then the Starcross for a couple of years and also some practicing during the winter. In the past it was a spectacular track with a lot of huge jumps and wave sections – I can remember them well as a kid – but it seems to have calmed down a bit in the last two years and become more ‘normal’. I hope they will change it again for the Grand Prix.”

Seewer is also chasing second place in the MX Masters with one round to go, quite a feat on his RM-Z250 against the larger 450s. “Two weeks ago in Ried I finished third behind Coldenhoff and Gajser which was a strong result with the 250. At Lichenvoorde I had a bit of bad luck in the sand and didn't get great starts. It was a raining a lot and heavy mud. I was 6-5 and it means I can still get second place in the championship…but my goal with the series was to use it as means for testing and practice and it has been good so far.”

One week after Mantova MXGP moves north to Holland and Assen with the fabled road racing circuit set to stage its first motocross Grand Prix. The Dutch appointment will also bring to a close the EMX250 European Championship with Brian Hsu and Bas Vaessen set for their final outings in the competition.

MXGP World Championship Standings (after 14 of 18 rounds): 1. Romain Febvre (FRA, YAM), 547 points; 2. Gautier Paulin (FRA, HON), 463 p.; 3. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, HON), 423 p.; 4. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 416 p.; 5. Maximilian Nagl (GER, HUS), 360 p.; 6. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), 356 p.; 7. Clement Desalle (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), 331 p.; 8. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, YAM), 324 p.; 9. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), 290 p.; 10. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), 287 p.

MX2 World Championship Standings (after 14 of 18 rounds): 1. Pauls Jonass (LAT, KTM), 433 points; 2. Tim Gajser (SLO, HON), 429 p.; 3. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 423 p.; 4. Valentin Guillod (SUI, YAM), 408 p.; 5. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), 395 p.; 6. Jordi Tixier (FRA, KAW), 393 p.; 7. Max Anstie (GBR, KAW), 387 p.; 8. Julien Lieber (BEL, YAM), 340 p.; 9. Petar Petrov (BUL, KAW), 262 p.; 10. Benoit Paturel (FRA, YAM), 259 p.

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