For the second time in a week the very best of MXGP were forced to deal with a bumpy, rutty and demanding course on the hillside of the Ernee valley setting.
Spectators crammed into every space on the opposing incline and watched four motos from both Grand Prix classes around a layout that was tight, narrow, slick and although offered line choice was often difficult for overtaking. Much of the race order depended on the start and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Cairoli made a decent job in the first moto to follow runaway leader and winner for the first time this year – Max Nagl, and Jeremy Van Horebeek. Gunning his KTM 450 SX-F, the Sicilian passed the Belgian with two laps to go to classify second. Later in the afternoon #222 lost the lead on the first circulation to eventual GP victor Clement Desalle and rode to third place behind local favourite Gautier Paulin.
Cairoli: “Overall I’m happy about the weekend because we extended our championship lead and that's what we are here for. I’m a little disappointed by my riding because I know I can do better but I struggled a lot with the track, even with two good starts. So second and third is not too bad but we always aim to win. We’ll go to Russia to do our best and get on the podium again and now it is almost time to look more at the standings and start to control the classification.”
With defending world champion Tim Gajser being forced to withdraw from the event due to a shoulder problem, Cairoli now has a gap of two full motos over Paulin in the points table.
Jeffrey Herlings missed the podium for the first time in four events. The Dutchman was a watchable and attacking force in the first moto and his tussle with Paulin delivered some exciting scenes as the pair fought for track space. The former multi MX2 World Champion had a small slip but set his best time on the penultimate lap to capture fifth place. #84 was held up on first corner of the second moto and recovered brilliantly to recover from the depths of the top twenty to again reach the top five for seventh overall. Herlings is sixth in the MXGP standings and just eight points adrift of Van Horebeek.
Herlings: “It is a shame because I felt like I was one of the fastest here this weekend but I messed up the starts. Two fifth positions are not the results that we want but in two weeks we have another shot. The track was OK and I liked it. I felt good out there. It was important to go home safe. We’re thinking of Russia now and I know with top five starts then we’re in a position to win, it doesn't matter the terrain.”
Glenn Coldenhoff was in the midst of busy top ten disputes in both motos after setting off from a very decent fourth gate pick after Saturday’s Qualification Heat. The Dutchman struggled slightly for rhythm in the second half of both sprints and although was running as high as third in the last race of the day registered a 11-8 scorecard for ninth place in the closing ranking of the French affair.
Coldenhoff: “The results today were a little bit less than yesterday but I had some arm-pump in the first moto and had to slow down a bit. I made many mistakes and the speed was not so good but I proved I have the pace necessary by going from sixth to third in the second moto. I just need to be a bit more consistent and keep that pace even though it is not easy! I got a bit tired in that second moto and some guys passed me. 11-8 is not what we are working for but we are getting closer to our goal.”
Pauls Jonass is on a roll. The Latvian has now opened seven podium champagne bottles from the nine fixtures so far in 2017 and was a picture of speed and championship potential at Ernee. The twenty year old started from Pole Position to record a fair simple first moto chequered flag – his ninth of the year – and then pushed Benoit Paturel hard to the line in the second race, losing out on the double by less than two seconds. Pauls’ fine form on the 250 SX-F means he was able to gain yet more points on principal title rival Jeremy Seewer and has a margin of 42 over the Swiss.
Jonass: “I really enjoyed my riding in the first moto after taking the whole shot and pulling away in the first laps; I was able to control it. In the second race I was not riding that well and Benoit was just a bit better: it is also nice that he can win a moto in front of the home crowd. 1-2 is really good for the championship and I’m really happy because last weekend was also hard-pack and things have been pretty good. I’m glad to have the win in the pocket. The bike was working really good this weekend and now we’ll focus on being 100% for Russia.”
The testing terrain at Ernee was hard to tackle for sixteen year old Jorge Prado and despite several small mistakes through the weekend the Spaniard kept a calm head to leave the crowded paddock with a 6-5 at the end of the day. #61 was sixth overall and is just two points away from Thomas Covington and sixth spot in the MX2 championship for what is his first full term in Grand Prix.
Prado: “I think it was a really good weekend. In the last few races I have had a lot of ups-and-downs and have not been so consistent. I think we are getting better in that respect and I need to get the whole weekend together. I had good start in the first moto from a gate far on the outside and to finish sixth was really good for me. I struggled to pass Conrad [Mewse] in the second moto and eventually did it but with two laps to go my energy level was gone! I was a bit stiff from a crash on Saturday. So sixth overall and I’m pretty happy. We’ll see how things go in Russia and I’ll need to keep on two wheels.”
The FIM calendar now pauses after visits to Germany and Normandy in the past week. A long trek east and to Orlyonok for the first Russian GP since 2012 will take place in the coming fortnight.
Next Round: June 11 2017 – Orlyonok (RUS)
Results MXGP Ernee 2017
1. Clement Desalle (BEL), Kawasaki (4-1)
2. Tony Cairoli (ITA), KTM (2-3)
3. Gautier Paulin (FRA), Husqvarna (6-2)
4. Max Nagl (GER), Husqvarna (1-9)
5. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL), Yamaha (3-6)
7. Jeffrey Herlings (NED), KTM (5-5)
9. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED), KTM (11-8)
Standings MXGP 2017 after 9 of 19 rounds
1. Cairoli, 347 points
2. Paulin, 297
3. Desalle, 289
4. Gajser, 261
5. Van Horebeek, 261
6. Herlings, 253
10. Coldenhoff, 176
Results MX2 Ernee 2017
1. Pauls Jonass (LAT), KTM (1-2)
2. Benoit Paturel (FRA), Yamaha (3-1)
3. Jeremy Seewer (SUI), Suzuki (2-3)
4. Hunter Lawrence (AUS), Suzuki (5-4)
5. Julien Lieber (BEL), KTM (4-6)
6. Jorge Prado (SPA), KTM (6-6)
Standings MX2 2017 after 9 of 19 rounds
1. Jonas, 372 points
2. Seewer, 330
3. Olsen, 291
4. Lieber, 282
5. Paturel, 265
7. Prado, 206