The third and final race across the stony and hard soil of the Pietramurata circuit saw Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Tom Vialle put in a strong performance to finish 2nd overall for the Grand Prix of Garda. Teammate Rene Hofer won an MX2 moto for the second time this week. All three MXGP riders classified in the top six.
The riders of both the MXGP and MX2 classes had intimate knowledge of the Pietramurata layout by the time of Free Practice on Sunday morning after two events in the previous six days. The only variation for the third outing around the narrow and undulating hardpack was a slightly cloudier and cooler climate. Rainfall on Sunday night had also helped to soften and roughen the course compared to the Grand Prix of Pietramurata on Wednesday.
Jeffrey Herlings entered Sunday’s action with the championship red plate but with only three points separating three riders in the standings. The Dutchman got down to work in Timed Practice by setting his eleventh Pole Position of the season and seventh from the last eight rounds. Tony Cairoli, winner on Wednesday, was 10th fastest while Jorge Prado – still in the recovery process from a small fracture to one of his lower vertebrae – was 3rd.
In the first moto Prado made the best start as Herlings and Cairoli were submerged in the lower half of the top ten. The Spaniard managed to hold on for half race distance until he dropped his speed to finish 7th. Herlings passed Tim Gajser to take 3rd while Cairoli was also in the battle at the front and ranked 5th.
In the second moto all three riders were in the battle for podium spots. Herlings suffered two crashes, one while chasing Gajser for the lead, that put him back to 10th and he needed the help of Cairoli on the last lap as the Italian slowed and let the Dutchman move through to finish 4th for two more precious championship points. Herlings had a 3-4 for 4th. Cairoli was 5-5 for 5th and Prado rode to 7-6 for 6th.
The captivating MXGP contest continues to be divided by 3 points. Herlings is now 3rd behind Romain Febvre and Gajser with 100 points still to fight for. Prado is 4th in the championship and just 4 points ahead of Jeremy Seewer who leads Cairoli by a slender 2.
Jeffrey Herlings: “Where can I start?! The day actually began quite good but then went downhill from there! My start was alright in the first moto but I could not get in my rhythm for the first three laps and at one point I was 4th but lost a lot of time passing Jorge. Basically, Romain and Jeremy had then gone. 3rd place was still OK. In the second moto I really wanted to attack and go for the win. I was into 2nd on the second lap and I thought ‘this is going to be my moto’. I went over the finish line jump and wanted to chase Tim because I felt I had the speed but the bike went left-right and I was shot-off. It was my mistake but the bike was then a bit bent and I needed some laps to get used to it. The rhythm was coming back and I was close to Romain but my hand came off the bar over that same jump and I was shot to the moon. That was a big hit with a big crash. The bike was even more bent! I knew then I would need something special today. I was 10th and I needed to keep pushing because every point counts. To go home only 3 points down, I know it is still in my own hands. I didn’t make it easy for myself and the last two GPs here have been tough but it is all still possible. Thanks to Tony. Only the greatest and the biggest champions would do that. To me he not only showed his loyalty to KTM but helped me a lot because those are two very important points. Only a real team player would do that. Jorge as well, I had to pass him three times in that second moto. It was a real team effort and I cannot thank them enough.”
Tony Cairoli: “Pretty good today. In the first moto I had a good start but made a few mistakes on the first laps and dropped from 5th to 7th. I passed back to 5th but it was difficult to make those moves: sadly I couldn’t make the same excellent start that I had on Wednesday. The guys in front were too far by the time I could get through. I felt a podium was possible, even if a top-five is always good. In the last moto I had the pace to go a bit faster but I did not want to get in the middle of the fight for the championship. Jeffrey made a crash in front of me and again there was a big gap. I had settled for 4th when I saw Jeffrey was coming on the last two laps. For me 4th or 5th was not that important because I knew I wouldn’t have been on the podium so I gave [away] my position. I hope a few points more will help him and KTM for the championship. That’s KTM’s goal for this year.”
Jorge Prado: “I’m happy with 6th. The last two races here have not been very good with my back and it’s been hard to get two consistent motos. It’s been a tough few weeks with both the injuries to my arm and then my back. I’ve missed training and haven’t ridden much. I can feel it. Physically I’m still not 100%. It’s only been one-week-and-a-half since I had the fracture, even if it is slowly getting better. Today was less painful than the other races. I had a good second moto start and I enjoyed the riding. We do this sport because we love it and it’s nice to enjoy your racing. It was a pity to have arm-pump in the first moto. I got a bit tight. 6th was the best I could do in the second moto. Overall, I’m happy.”
Rene Hofer was full of confidence for the Grand Prix of Garda after making history on Wednesday as the first Austrian victor in the principal classes of the FIM Motocross World Championship since 1987. The 19-year-old rode to 3rd place in Timed Practice while Mattia Guadagnini was 5th and Tom Vialle, dealing with some pain and discomfort in his left ankle from his second moto crash on Wednesday, was 6th.
Vialle made the best launch in the first moto for his eighteenth holeshot of the season but was swiftly passed by Hofer on the opening lap and the 19-year-old disappeared for his second race win in a row. Vialle dropped back to 4th and Guadagnini had to retire after a poor start and a crash that saw him tweak his left knee.
Hofer was running near the top five in the formative phases of the second moto but a fall entering the downhill section behind the pitlane meant he had to throttle from 18th back to 8th. He just missed out on a podium trophy. Vialle rode to a quiet 2nd place behind Maxime Renaux and the result helped ensure his status as runner-up on the day. He moves to 2nd in the championship, 16 points ahead of Jago Geerts. Guadagnini had a mediocre start and managed 9th to go 14th overall. The Italian rookie is 4th in the standings while Hofer is closing fast on the top five.
Tom Vialle: “It wasn’t a bad today. I hurt my ankle in the crash on Wednesday and I wasn’t sure if I could ride. Practice in the morning was OK but during the races it was painful on the landings of the jumps. The first moto start wasn’t so bad but I couldn’t follow the rhythm and had arm-pump. It was a tough one! My feeling during the second moto was better. I just tried to ride the best I can. I tried everything and I’m quite happy to have 2nd. Today was a good for the championship and we’ll try to stay ahead of Jago now.”
Rene Hofer: “Still a pretty good day I’d say with my second MX2 moto win. I’m pretty overwhelmed by all the things that are going on right now. Two wins from six motos here. Unfortunately, I missed the podium because of a crash in the second moto but my riding was good to come back to 8th. I’m doing well and we’re also performing good in the championship: we are only three points behind 5th, and 4th place is also not far. We’ll give it all in the last two GPs to try and improve my standing.”
Mattia Guadagnini: “Not much luck today. I had a good feeling in qualifying and was motivated for a strong race but had a bad start in the first moto. I was riding strong and regaining positions but had two crashes. In the second one I hit my knee and I was last by a long way so I stopped For the second race I wanted a good start and almost had it but for a small mistake in the first turn. I was not feeling 100% and the laps were not coming easy. I took what I could. We’ll reset and look towards Mantova.”
Only ten days remain in 2021 MXGP. The championship now makes the short journey south to the Tazio Nuvolari circuit in Mantova for rounds seventeen (Sunday 7th) and eighteen (Wednesday 10th).
Results MXGP Garda 2021
1. Jeremy Seewer (SUI), Yamaha (1-2)
2. Tim Gajser (SLO), Honda (4-1)
3. Romain Febvre (FRA), Kawasaki (2-3)
4. Jeffrey Herlings (NED), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (3-4)
5. Tony Cairoli (ITA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (5-5)
6. Jorge Prado (ESP), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (7-6)
Standings MXGP 2021 after 16 of 18 rounds
1. Romain Febvre 614 points
2. Tim Gajser 613
3. Jeffrey Herlings 611
4. Jorge Prado 502
5. Jeremy Seewer 498
6. Tony Cairoli 496
Results MX2 Garda 2021
1. Maxime Renaux (FRA) Yamaha (2-1)
2. Tom Vialle (FRA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (4-2)
3. Ruben Fernandez (ESP) Honda (3-3)
4. Rene Hofer (AUT), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (1-8)
5. Wilson Todd (AUS), Kawasaki (7-4)
14. Mattia Guadagnini (ITA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (DNF-9)
Standings MX2 2021 after 16 of 18 rounds
1. Maxime Renaux 642 points
2. Tom Vialle 532
3. Jago Geerts 516
4. Mattia Guadagnini 487
5. Jed Beaton 477
6. Rene Hofer 474