MXGP remained in Afyonkarahisar for the second Grand Prix in Turkey this season and the second race this week. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jeffrey Herlings and Tom Vialle triumphed again around the Afyon circuit for what was the ninth meeting of the 2021 FIM MXGP Motocross World Championship.
Afyon drew the MXGP series to the midway point with another outing around the fast, flat and modern facility located on the outskirts of the Afyonkarahisar. Hot sunshine and a light breeze guaranteed stable racing conditions for the hard-pack that was rutty and bumpy in sections and slick in others.
Jeffrey Herlings clocked his fifth Pole Position of 2021 in Timed Practice. The Dutchman now has more than double the next nearest rider. Herlings was part of a breakaway quartet in the first moto with holeshotting teammate Jorge Prado holding the lead for 4 of 19 laps until the Spaniard crashed at the beginning of Sector 2 and would remount to finish 21st. Herlings circulated behind Romain Febvre and with Tim Gajser in close company as Tony Cairoli made up a lot of time from 10th to join the trio by the last two circulations. As Febvre made a mistake on the final lap Herlings was there to seize the moment and won the moto from an energetic Cairoli by just half a second.
The second moto was more dispersed. Tim Gajser escaped Herlings’ attentions in the later phase of the race and Cairoli won a close duel with Prado for 3rd place. Herlings’ 2nd place allowed the 26-year-old to win for the second time this week in Turkey and move up to 4th in the world championship, just 34 points behind Gasjer and the red plate. Cairoli made the box with his 2-3 and is 3rd in the standings. Prado was able to recover some points for 4th in the second moto but slips to 5th in the table and 40 points adrift.
Jeffrey Herlings: “I started the day strong with Pole Position and it was important to be on the inside of the gate here, especially against Jorge! The first race was good, and busy! I could not really attack because I had Tim [Gajser] behind me and I had to defend my line but at the same time I had a bit more speed on Romain [Febvre]. It was so hard to pass on this track. I managed to hold second until the last lap but then Romain made a mistake and I had the win handed to me, so it was a bit of a gift. In the second moto I was looking for lines but again I had to defend and attack at the same time with Jorge and Tim. Tim was faster the second moto. I was struggling a bit with grip. The track got hard and slick and I had a few sketchy moments so at one point I decided to settle for second and minimize the risk. I knew I had the GP win, my 93rd. It’s been a good day and two good races here in Turkey. I want to thank Red Bull KTM for the great bike they gave me.”
Tony Cairoli: “Today I felt a bit better from the Timed Practice, which has been hard for me lately and also makes the starts more difficult. I was a bit too wide in the first turn for both motos and had to use a lot of energy to come back. I’m happy overall: the speed is there, the fitness is there and I just need to figure out the starts better and try to stay nearer the front. I found a good flow, especially in the second moto and just a small mistake meant the guys in front got away. It’s good to finish on the podium but I want more. I really like the track in Sardinia. With a one day race it won’t get too rough but it will be hot, which is good for me. I hope we can have some public because motorsport is pretty big there.”
Jorge Prado: “I’m happy I could walk away from that crash. It was a big one. I got kicked by one bump and then went into some others. I took too long to get up and luckily the bike was OK, I tried to come back and take some points but the other guys were too far. In the second moto I knew I needed a great start. Everything was hurting! I was feeling OK on the track and had a couple of nice battles. Tony and myself got into a good rhythm and I did my best laps at the end. I had a small dip around minute 20-25 which was difficult because the guys passed me. 4th was the best I could do. We got some points after losing some earlier on. I was very lucky today.”
Dirk Grubel, Red Bull KTM Team Manager: “Two overall wins in both classes, both times; that is more than we could have dreamt of. Tom has come back from his injury and has been slowly improving but now he showed his true speed again. Jeffrey was strong but has such a desire to win. He finished 2nd to take the overall and he still wasn’t happy. It’s nice to see that fire. Every race the gap to the championship leader is crumbling a bit. There are still some races to come and if he keeps on like this then the margin will not be that big anymore. Rene also had a really nice second race. We spoke a bit before and I just said to him ‘go out and have some fun’ and it looked like he did that and showed some fighting spirit. He signed off on a good note and that’s all we wanted. The crew worked well, the riders performed well and the bikes were on top of their game. We didn’t have to make too many modifications and the heat and altitude didn’t make them or the riders suffer too much. Overall, two excellent race events in Turkey.”
Mattia Guadagnini was the fastest KTM 250 SX-F rider in Timed Practice with the 2nd best lap-time, just ahead of World Champion Tom Vialle. It was Vialle who surged to the holeshot in the opening moto and the Frenchman led the opening stages until he was passed by countryman Maxime Renaux. Vialle would complete a lonely race in 2nd place and for his third top-three moto classification in a row. Guadagnini classified in 3rd while Rene Hofer was part of a busy tussle for 5th and eventually crossed the line in 9th with arm-pump.
In the second moto and with the sun at its warmest, Vialle again aced the holeshot and this time controlled a distance over Renaux with a more effective pace. The 2-1 scorecard meant the Frenchmen tied on points but Vialle’s second race success was the determining factor. Rene Hofer rode better and more relaxed to score 5th (and 6th overall) while Guadagnini ran to 6th, which was good enough for the last step of the podium: the rookie’s fifth in 2021 and he sits 2nd in the MX2 championship, 49 points behind Renaux.
Tom Vialle: “I didn’t have a good flow in the first moto and I had some bad lines in Sector 4. That’s where Maxime [Renaux] passed me. For some reason I felt very tired by mid-moto. We had a big gap on 3rd place so I just rode out the race and saved some energy. I gave everything I had in the second moto to try and win. It was good! The title is pretty much done for me this season because of the injury but I still want to come back as high as I can in the championship. That’s my goal and to try and ride as much at the front as possible. I’m really happy to have won both races here in Turkey and I feel good at the moment. Let’s move to the next race!”
Mattia Guadagnini: “I’m not too happy about today. I felt great on the track and set the second-best lap-time in the morning, being very close to the Pole. I still had two good starts and just missed a bit of flow and fast riding in the first ten minutes. I tried to overtake more in the second race but some others were passing me! I was making the situation worse. I didn’t have the pace of the front two today but I’m pleased to be back on the podium, which is also important for the championship. I want to be better and hopefully in the next weeks we can be back fighting for the win.”
Rene Hofer: “It was a little bit up-and-down today. I made a mistake with my fastest Quali lap and that’s why I was only 9th and my last attempt was ruined by another rider. It meant I was quite far outside for the starts and the first one was average. I lost some positions in the second turn and I was battling for 5th and couldn’t quite get past Wilson Todd. I then had some bad arm-pump and lost a few positions. It was a terrible race. In the second moto I found quite a good rhythm. I was close to overtaking [Thibault] Benistant for 3rd a few times and had a nice battle to take 5th again. Three top five results from four so, in general, quite OK but I’m not super-happy. It was another step in the right direction and we are definitely getting closer to the podium places. In the championship we are also not too far from the top five. We’ll keep working to have a good second half of the season.”
The Grand Prix of Sardinia on September 19th will take MXGP to the sandy Riola Sardo circuit for the first of seven consecutive race weekends that also involves the Motocross of Nations at Mantova, Italy.
Results MXGP Afyon 2021
1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (1-2)
2. Tim Gajser (SLO), Honda (3-1)
3. Tony Cairoli (ITA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (2-3)
4. Romain Febvre (FRA), Kawasaki (4-5)
5. Pauls Jonass (LAT) GASGAS (5-6)
10. Jorge Prado (ESP), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (21-4)
Standings MXGP 2021 after 09 of 17 rounds
1. Tim Gajser 355 points
2. Romain Febvre 327
3. Tony Cairoli 326
4. Jeffrey Herlings 321
5. Jorge Prado 315
Results MX2 Afyon 2021
1. Tom Vialle (FRA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (2-1)
2. Maxime Renaux (FRA), Yamaha (1-2)
3. Mattia Guadagnini (ITA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (3-6)
4. Thibault Benistant (FRA), Yamaha (6-4)
5. Jed Beaton (AUS) Husqvarna (12-3)
6. Rene Hofer (AUT), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (9-5)
Standings MX2 2021 after 09 of 17 rounds
1. Maxime Renaux 361 points
2. Mattia Guadagnini 312
3. Jago Geerts 290
4. Jed Beaton 266
5. Ruben Fernandez 261
7. Rene Hofer 244
9. Tom Vialle 227