Round three of the 2021 MXGP world championship saw Red Bull KTM Factory Racing conquer both MXGP and MX2 classes as Jeffrey Herlings and Mattia Guadagnini celebrated their first triumphs of the season at Maggiora for the Grand Prix of Italy.
The steep hills and hardpack of the historic Maggiora Park circuit was able to welcome FIM World Championship racing for the first time since the 2016 Motocross of Nations and for the first Grand Prix event since 2015. Warm and showery conditions created a slick, rutty and finally muddy affair around the narrow and tricky Italian layout.
Jeffrey Herlings ruled Timed Practice for his first Pole Position of the season by almost four-tenths of a second over Tim Gajser. Jorge Prado was 3rd fastest. Winner of the last round in the UK, Tony Cairoli, in 7th. It was Prado who made the better start in the first race and circulated behind leader and winner Romain Febvre in what was a static affair. Cairoli was 3rd and Herlings had to fight back to 6th after he initially lost time removing a stone wedged into his rear brake system.
A brief thunderstorm just before the second moto dumped a lot of rain on Maggiora and ensured the final race of the day would be a ‘mudder’. Herlings made the best start and followed Glenn Coldenhoff for 11 of the 17 laps. He passed his countryman and won by almost seven seconds. The 6-1 scorecard meant he tied on points but the second moto win defined the Grand Prix ranking. Also equal on 40 points was Cairoli who had to deal with broken goggles before finally ditching the eyewear. Despite the disadvantage, Cairoli was able to ride to 3rd and his 3-3 gave him a second consecutive podium appearance. Prado was also running with the leaders but lost two places inside the final two laps and his 2-7 cast him to 4th spot overall.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing have all three of their athletes in the top five of the championship points table and the crew have owned two of the three rounds this year.
Jeffrey Herlings: “The first moto felt like a disaster. I didn’t know what was stopping the rear brake so I had to sort it out and lost places and around twenty seconds. I then had to make a late moto charge. I was bummed about that and really wanted to go for the win in the second race but the rain fell so hard just before the start. It was a bit unexpected, and we had to make a last minute decision about tires and googles. My starts were off a bit today but the second moto was OK and I got into 3rd, where I saved my goggles for a while. I had a little gap to Glenn and I knew coming to the lapped riders would be a moment where you can lose but also gain a lot of time: you have to be a bit lucky. So I attacked at that moment and it led to the ‘overall’. We closed a lot of points in the championship so the day started and finished in an unlucky and lucky way. It’s good to head into Oss with a confidence boost. I want to give-it-up to the Red Bull KTM team and the job they did, the bike was excellent.”
Tony Cairoli: “I’m happy with the podium but not so much with the second moto because I had the speed to ride at the front. My roll-off broke due to a stone and I had to take off the goggles. The guys pulled away and I could not pass. Eventually they were gone. I’ve been training quite a lot in the mud recently, so my feeling was good here. I’m really looking forward to the sand races now. It’s my favorite ground. Hopefully we can use these two weeks to build up some more conditioning and be at the front again.”
Jorge Prado: “Overall P4 and we are not too far away from 1st place in the championship, so from this perspective the GP was quite OK. I was feeling quite good on the track and it was tough with plenty of bumps and ruts. We had a really high rhythm in the first race but the second was just a mudder. I got pushed a bit wide in the second corner. I was riding in 5th for the whole moto but with two laps to go I made a couple of mistakes that cost me two places and I lost the podium like that. I’m really unhappy with my last three laps. I couldn’t get to the point of making the extra step to force a pass. Instead of holding the position I just lost it.”
Dirk Gruebel, Team Manager: “Jeffrey started the GP quite conservatively but then had that issue with the stone in the rear brake and it seemed to get him quite angry! He then found two seconds a lap to close back to the guys and return to 6th, which is where he was until he had the mishap. He pushed hard and it paid-off at the end of the day. The second race was a complete gamble with the weather, the rain, the heavy mud and people struggled with goggles…but Jeffrey rode steady and won that moto. A 6-1 was good enough for the overall win and it’s great for him, his head and the team. We can see that Jeffrey’s confidence is growing and that’s really nice. He started the season in a solid way but this is the first win and it’s important.”
One week after his maiden podium result in his rookie MX2 season, Mattia Guadagnini was not over-awed by the prospect of his home Grand Prix and rode to a strong and steady 2nd position behind Thibault Benistant in the first moto. The rookie was faultless in the second race to lead from the first lap to the last and reached a new career highlight. As well as his superiority on the day the Italian was also able to seize the red plate as the new world championship leader.
Rene Hofer started the first race among the leaders but was hit and then swamped through the opening twisty corners. He then spent the rest of the 30 minute and 2 lap distance trying to enter the top ten, managing 11th by the flag. In the second moto the Austrian was more competitive thanks to a more effective launch. Reaching 6th ensured 10th place overall.
MX2 World Champion Tom Vialle tried returning to competitive action after missing the British Grand Prix the previous weekend. The Frenchman’s fractured right hand had improved but was still too painful for the downhill descents and long ruts of Maggiora and he could not complete more than a few laps of the first moto. With a one-week break between races in Italy and Holland Vialle should be more confident of entering round four in better condition.
Mattia Guadagnini: “This is crazy. I don’t know what to say. It feels really good. I made two good starts and I didn’t want to take too many risks in the first moto. Staying calm and taking 2nd place was enough, although I did wait to see if I could pass Thibault in the last part of the race but he was too fast. I pushed hard to take the lead on the first lap of the second moto and then just rode my race and had fun. I made a gap and enjoyed the last few laps. It’s amazing to win here in Italy and it was also a surprise to take the red plate. Oss is next and I’m pretty good in the sand, we’ll train and be ready to go again.”
Rene Hofer: “Pretty average I would say. I had a decent start in the first race but made a mistake in the first corner and was 15th I think. I struggled a bit and finished 11th. The second was much better and I was 3rd and battling for that position for most of the race; I just couldn’t pass Jago [Geerts]. I almost went through but couldn’t quite execute the move and the two F&H boys went through from the back. Still, it wasn’t a bad race and we finish another GP with an improvement in the riding. I need to deliver two good starts and put two good races together. For sure we can improve on this during the year.”
Tom Vialle: “I had a lot of pain in the practice session. When I was riding quite slowly it was OK but after a few laps of the race it was too much. We will have to see how the hand will be for Holland.”
The Oss Motocross Circuit will welcome MXGP for the very first time as the venue prepares for the Grand Prix of the Netherlands on July 18th. Round four will be the first of four meetings on consecutive weekends with trips to the Czech Republic, Latvia and Belgium following the Dutch stop.
Results MXGP Italy 2021
1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (6-1)
2. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED), Yamaha (4-2)
3. Tony Cairoli (ITA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (3-3)
4. Jorge Prado (ESP), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (2-7)
5. Romain Febvre (FRA), Kawasaki (1-12)
Standings MXGP 2021 after 03 of 18 rounds
1. Tim Gajser 124 points
2. Jeffrey Herlings 118
3. Romain Febvre 107
4. Tony Cairoli 105
5. Jorge Prado 97
Results MX2 Italy 2021
1. Mattia Guadagnini (ITA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (2-1)
2. Maxime Renaux (FRA), Yamaha (6-2)
3. Jago Geerts (BEL), Yamaha (4-5)
4. Roan Van De Moosdijk (NED), Husqvarna (9-3)
5. Thibault Benistant (FRA) Yamaha (1-14)
10. Rene Hofer (AUT), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (30-3)
DNS. Tom Vialle (FRA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
Standings MX2 2021 after 03 of 18 rounds
1. Mattia Guadagnini 113 points
2. Maxime Renaux 111
3. Ruben Fernandez 108
4. Mathys Boisrame 105
5. Roan Van De Moosdijk 99
7. Rene Hofer 79
11. Tom Vialle 50