The Bitci Grand Prix of Turkey and the eighth round of the 2021 FIM MXGP Motocross World Championship reactivated the series after a three week break and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing were able to seize victory in both MXGP and MX2 for the first of two back-to-back races at Afyonkarahisar.
After missing the Grand Prix calendar in 2020, Afyonkarahisar arrived back on the MXGP trail and with two consecutive events: Sunday and Wednesday 8th September. The paddock encountered sunshine and warm temperatures for the first meeting and became reacquainted with the wide and quick layout that frequently mixed hard-pack with bumpy and rutted sections.
Jorge Prado was four-tenths of a second quicker than the next nearest rider to confirm his second Pole Position of the season after MXGP Timed Practice. The Spaniard used the power of his KTM 450 SX-F to claim two holeshots and extend his total for the year to seven.
It was Jeffrey Herlings though who seized overall honors in Turkey. He worked his way through to 1st place in the opening moto and then pushed up to 2nd spot in the next race. The Dutchman gathered five more points than his teammate, Prado, who went 2-3. Prado fronted most of the first moto and half of the second: his battle with Tony Cairoli for 2nd later in the day was exciting and only ended when Cairoli could not avoid a haybale that had fallen onto the racing line. Herlings, who had been lingering in 4th, attacked Prado on the last lap to ensure his 1-2. Cairoli was fifth overall after taking a top five classification in the first moto.
The MXGP championship standings are incredibly close with all three Red Bull KTM Factory Racing athletes in play for the title. Prado is 2nd and just 13 points from the red plate. Cairoli is 4th and 26 away while Herlings holds 5th and is 36 adrift.
Jeffrey Herlings: “Today was a good day. I picked up the pieces and got the second place in the second moto for the overall. Our starts need to be better, so we know where we need to improve when we go again here. I had to pass a lot of guys and really work for this win. It was a bit sketchy watching Tony and Jorge racing! The competition is super-strong. I’m doing all I can and the championship is so tight. I’m already looking forward to Wednesday.”
Jorge Prado: “I think it was a great day. I had two good starts and that made things a lot easier. I led a lot of laps and that was a positive. I’m learning from that. I had a good rhythm, even if the others were pushing really fast. I could see a couple of things where I can improve for Wednesday and it was a bit of a pity to lose that position to Jeffrey on the last lap. Still, we got some solid points and there is a lot of racing left. I think Wednesday can be much better."
Tony Cairoli: “Overall I’m quite happy because the speed was good. I came back to 5th in the first moto after a bad start. We know that the start is so important on a track like this where it can be difficult to pass. I had good pace but couldn’t get higher than 5th. I was better at the beginning of the second moto and caught the leaders with Jorge and Tim. I was trying hard to overtake Jorge but it was pretty tough. At one moment I was really close but unfortunately when I jumped I saw someone had knocked some haybales into the track and there were in the middle of the way. I crashed pretty hard and lost two places, back to 5th. Not the best day but I’m not hurt and there is still a lot of racing ahead.”
For only the second time in 2021, defending world champion Tom Vialle took to the start gate fully fit after a delay recovering from a fractured right hand. The Frenchman signaled his intent from the morning with his first Grand Prix Pole Position. He proceeded to win the first moto by a comfortable distance from teammate Mattia Guadagnini. Rene Hofer had led the opening three laps and only a bout of arm-pump caused him to fade back to 5th.
Vialle charged after Maxime Renaux for the second moto win. He made a mistake with two laps to go that allowed his countryman to break free. Vialle didn’t give up though and the gap was only 1.6 seconds at the line. With his 1-2 the KTM man was able to scale the top step of the podium once again in 2021. Guadagnini also made a slip while in his pursuit of Jed Beaton for 3rd position and his 2-4 for the day dropped the Italian away from the rostrum (he tied on points with Beaton but the second moto ranking was the decisive factor). Hofer was 5th once more for the same position overall, and the best set of results for the MX2 riders in 2021 so far.
Tom Vialle: “Back on top! I felt really good on the bike. I made a small mistake trying to push and catch Maxime in the second moto but I’m really happy to win again and after all the time we had to wait for the injury on my hand to get better. I think I’m back to a good speed like I was before. I want to thank the team and all the people around me.”
Mattia Guadagnini: “I was feeling really good today and my riding was strong because of my rhythm and the line choices. I was happy to finish 2nd in the first moto. My start wasn’t great in the second and I lost time at the beginning but then I spent so much time trying to pass Jed for 3rd. I couldn’t make it and was a bit disappointed to miss the podium but the important thing is that I felt fast and we’ll try to keep this for Wednesday where we’ll hope for even better results.”
Rene Hofer: “In general it was a really good day. It was nice to finally lead some laps again. Unfortunately I suffered some arm-pump in the first moto but I came away with 5th which wasn’t that bad. My start wasn’t too hot in the second moto but I passed some riders right away and I stayed in 5th. My riding was actually really good in that second race so we can build from that for Wednesday.”
MXGP remains in Afyon for round nine and the Bitci Grand Prix of Afyonkarahisar in three days’ time.
Results MXGP Turkey 2021
1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (1-2)
2. Jorge Prado (ESP), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (2-3)
3. Tim Gajser (SLO), Honda (6-1)
4. Romain Febvre (FRA), Kawasaki (4-4)
5. Tony Cairoli (ITA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (5-5)
Standings MXGP 2021 after 08 of 17 rounds
1. Tim Gajser 310 points
2. Jorge Prado 297
3. Romain Febvre 293
4. Tony Cairoli 284
5. Jeffrey Herlings 274
Results MX2 Turkey 2021
1. Tom Vialle (FRA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (1-2)
2. Maxime Renaux (FRA), Yamaha (4-1)
3. Jed Beaton (AUS), Husqvarna (3-3)
4. Mattia Guadagnini (ITA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (2-4)
5. Rene Hofer (AUT), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (5-5)
Standings MX2 2021 after 08 of 17 rounds
1. Maxime Renaux 314 points
2. Mattia Guadagnini 277
3. Jago Geerts 262
4. Ruben Fernandez 239
5. Jed Beaton 237
7. Rene Hofer 216
10. Tom Vialle 180