Herlings takes KTM’s eighth MXGP title at final round thriller

Jeffrey Herlings has delivered Red Bull KTM Factory Racing their eighth premier class FIM Motocross World Championship since 2010, and third with the KTM 450 SX-F, with a tense 1-1 victory at the 2021 season-closing Grand Prix Citta di Mantova in Italy.

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing are MXGP World Champions for the third time since 2017 thanks to Jeffrey Herlings’ stellar 2021 season. The #84, who has been a KTM racer his whole career and emerged onto the Grand Prix scene as a 15-year-old in 2010, has increased his stats with a resolutely fast and strong performance this term in what has been a close and memorable campaign for MXGP.

Entering the final two rounds and the ‘double-header’ at Mantova, Herlings was one of three riders separated by only three points in the MXGP standings. The Citta di Mantova climax across the Mantova sand and under cloudy skies meant Herlings had to combat both Romain Febvre (who he trailed by three points coming into the last motos) and Tim Gajser.

Herlings withstood the pressure aboard his KTM 450 SX-F and went 1-1 in the two outings in Italy to re-enter his name in the record books with his fifth Motocross World Championship title and second in the MXGP division. He also claimed 14 podiums including nine Grand Prix wins and 13 pole positions from the 17 rounds he contested in 2021, which means he stands only two overall victories away from the all-time record of 101 and with another two years ahead as a Red Bull KTM Factory Racing athlete.

With the performances from Herlings, Tony Cairoli, and Jorge Prado in the MXGP class this season KTM also won the 2021 Manufacturers’ Championship.

Jeffrey Herlings: “I’m super-happy but at the same time I feel bad for the other two guys. I want to thank both of them for a great championship. The bad thing about our sport is that only one can win but they have been great, and I have such respect for both of them. To go 1-1 today was special. I haven’t slept for a week thinking about what could happen, what might happen and this-and-that. This wasn’t an easy championship. All three of us kept charging until the last moto, especially me and Romain in these last two races, and the pressure was on. I didn’t break and I made the championship happen. It was the most difficult one ever, so many ups-and-downs, and I’ve needed nerves of steel these last weeks, but we made it.”

Dirk Gruebel, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team Manager: “What a tough season! We went from leading to nowhere because Jeffrey got hurt and then was out of the competition. He came back early, and I think that race he made at Lommel was the difference. He rode through the pain and put us back on track. His pain threshold and his desire is crazy. Other guys would have probably stayed away and healed-up, but he wanted to stay in the game. Now he’s world champion. Today was ‘horrible’ for the whole team! We were tied after the first moto, and it went down to the last race and the best man would win. It looked like Jeffrey wanted it more again. Big credit to him for the first-class job and to all the team for pushing all the way.”

Pit Beirer, KTM Motorsports Director: “This was not a normal season. It was a difficult and special title to win. The competition was incredible so big compliments to them: Tim and Romain produced an incredible year and any one of the guys would have deserved a title, but we also worked really hard for this. Jeffrey was amazing. He had ups-and-downs but was always fighting and coming back for more. It is always an emotional ride with him but, in the end, I feel that he deserved this title the most. I have to thank the whole team because they have made so much effort, but in our motocross ‘world’ the rider is the superstar, and we have great ones in our team. Tony, Jorge, Mattia, Rene, and Tom: the relationship we have is also amazing and makes our work so much fun. We will go home tomorrow to work hard and continue to be strong next year.”