2021 MXGP ventured into the deep sand of Riola Sardo for the first Grand Prix of Sardegna and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing watched Jeffrey Herlings and Tom Vialle win the MXGP and MX2 classes for the third fixture in a row. The Dutchman and Frenchman both took 1-1 results with their KTM 450 and 250 SX-Fs respectively at round ten of eighteen.
The island of Sardinia welcomed MXGP officially for the first time but the sand of Riola Sardo is a familiar challenge to many teams and riders as the course is a popular draw for testing and training in the winter and pre-season months. The normally steady climate of the Italian territory remained in place for the tenth GP of the season – with mostly sunny skies and high temperatures - and the sand was rough, demanding and technical.
A sixth Pole Position was gathered by Jeffrey Herlings in morning Timed Practice. Teammate Jorge Prado was only half a second adrift in 2nd. Tony Cairoli made the 8th quickest time but suffered a crash and then had to be lifted from the sand and taken to the Medical Centre. He was thankfully given the all-clear but could not take to the gate for the two motos due to a painful neck and back.
In the first moto Herlings seized the holeshot and escaped with the race, finishing some 42 seconds of Jorge Prado in a solitary 2nd place. With an injured Tim Gajser out of the points, both the Dutchman and the Spaniard made a substantial gain in the standings.
For the second moto an exciting chase between Prado and Herlings for the lead took place throughout the first half of the distance. Herlings made a close overtaking move to demote his rival and then assumed control. The 1-1 was Herlings’ first perfect score of 2021 and his eighth podium walk. From being over 40 points adrift of the world championship lead at one stage, the former #1 now has his hands on the red plate for the first time this season and with a slender 1 point advantage over Gajser.
Prado’s 2-2 permitted a fourth podium of the year and third from the last four races. The 20-year-old is 4th in the standings but only 12 points behind Herlings. Cairoli remains 5th despite his non-score.
Jeffrey Herlings: “With the injuries to Tim and Tony it is a sad way to take this red plate. It means nothing at the moment. I know what injury is like, so hopefully they will get healthy before the next GP. I was fast in Timed Practice and that first moto holeshot was a big surprise! I led the whole way. In the second I started behind Jorge and tried to overtake him but it was tough. Many times I tried, and with five-six laps to go I managed it and pulled a gap. It was a perfect week and now we’ll keep charging and keep going. We made some improvements on the start and happy for the team and the work we’ve done.”
Jorge Prado: “It was a very good day and I’m super-happy. The last round was difficult so I knew this weekend would be important. I was expecting to do what I did today. Two solid motos. I was aiming for that holeshot in the second race and managed to keep ‘The Bullet’ behind me for quite a long time. My heart went a bit when he moved past! I gave everything I had, and he just made a very quick pass. I’ll take the positive things and look towards the hard-pack in Germany now.”
Tony Cairoli: “A very bad day today. I was hoping for a good race because I like this track a lot. It was a small mistake that cost a lot of energy and affected me. When I was on the ground I didn’t feel everything so well. I was pretty scared. With the check afterwards, it was a relief to know everything was OK but the impact meant I could not race. It would have been good to take some points today but that’s part of racing. We’ll focus on getting healthy again and enjoying this last part of the season.”
Rene Hofer set the 5th fastest time in Timed Practice (on his first sighting of Riola Sardo) and was the quickest racer from the Red Bull KTM crew with the KTM 250 SX-F. All three riders started in the top five of the first moto but it was World Champion Tom Vialle who broke away and then deflected some late pressure to win the race from start to finish. Mattia Guadagnini was a comfortable 3rd while Hofer paid the price for a mistake and a small crash and finished 8th.
In the second moto Vialle again set the pace from the start line for his seventh holeshot of the season. The Frenchman showed expert speed around Riola - for what was his first visit to the track - and claimed a more relaxed win for his second 1-1 of the campaign and his second since dominating the opening event of the season in Russia.
Guadagnini became unstuck on the first lap after a slow run-in with another rider caused a crash and the Italian was briefly winded after the handlebar hit him in the abdomen. He continued the race but fell again and could not restart to finish. Hofer was also facing adversity on the first lap. The Austrian tangled with another competitor on the start straight and was one of the last to get going. He recovered to 14th.
In the championship standings Vialle has made up ground from 9th to 6th while Guadagnini is still 2nd but 71 points from the red plate.
Tom Vialle: “This was my first time racing here and I really enjoyed the track. Many others spend the winter training here. I had two good motos. The first was tough because Maxime was fast and coming very close but I started well again in the second and I felt great on the track with good flow. It’s really nice to make a 1-1 again. Thanks to the team; we have good speed and we’re building some momentum.”
Mattia Guadagnini: “Not the best day for me. I was feeling great on the track but with eight minutes to go in the first moto I lost some rhythm and 2nd position. 3rd was still OK. In the second moto I tried to pass quickly but had a crash on the first lap and had to fight back all the way. Then we had a problem and I could not restart the bike. I was disappointed about my mistake and also losing those points for the championship. We still have some races to come and, of course, the Nations next week. Thanks to all the supporters there today and for the team for their work.”
Rene Hofer: “In general I’m happy with my riding today. I think I had the speed for the podium. I pushed up to 3rd with about ten minutes to go in the first moto and then had a crash and lost quite a lot of time. I was pretty angry with myself and was pumped-up for the second moto but unfortunately on the start straight I came together with another rider and had his bike stuck in mine. I was dead-last and had to push all the way to get those points, even with another crash. The results were not so good but I’m proud of my riding and of the progress we have made in the sand. It was not bad speed for an Austrian guy! Next weekend will be another cool experience at the Nations, and I’ll be looking to do as well as I can for the Austrian team.”
MXGP is briefly interrupted next weekend for the 74th Motocross of Nations at Mantova on the Italian mainland. The annual contest will see Jeffrey Herlings (Team Netherlands), Tony Cairoli, Mattia Guadagnini (both Team Italy), Tom Vialle (Team France) and Rene Hofer (Team Austria) in action for their respective countries. The Grand Prix of Germany at Teutschenthal will represent round eleven on October 3rd.
Results MXGP Sardinia 2021
1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (1-1)
2. Jorge Prado (ESP), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (2-2)
3. Romain Febvre (FRA), Kawasaki (3-3)
4. Calvin Vlaanderen (RSA), Yamaha (4-4)
5. Jeremy Seewer (SUI), Yamaha (6-5)
Standings MXGP 2021 after 10 of 18 rounds
1. Jeffrey Herlings 371 points
2. Tim Gajser 370
3. Romain Febvre 367
4. Jorge Prado 359
5. Tony Cairoli 326
Results MX2 Sardinia 2021
1. Tom Vialle (FRA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (1-1)
2. Maxime Renaux (FRA), Yamaha (2-3)
3. Kay de Wolf (NED), Husqvarna (4-4)
4. Jago Geerts (BEL) Yamaha (8-2)
5. Isaak Gifting (SWE) GASGAS (6-6)
11. Mattia Guadagnini (ITA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (3-24)
12. Rene Hofer (AUT), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (8-14)
Standings MX2 2021 after 10 of 18 rounds
1. Maxime Renaux 403 points
2. Mattia Guadagnini 332
3. Jago Geerts 325
4. Thibault Benistant 290
5. Jed Beaton 290
6. Tom Vialle 277
8. Rene Hofer 263