Red Bull KTM Factory Racing are MXGP World Champions for the third time since 2017 as Jeffrey Herlings rode to 1st position overall at the eighteenth and final Grand Prix of the season at Mantova in Italy. The 27-year-old Dutchman picked up his fifth FIM gold medal and his second in the premier class of the sport with the KTM 450 SX-F as teammate Tony Cairoli bade farewell to the series in front of his home crowd.
The sandy and rough, shallow bumps of the Tazio Nuvolari circuit in Mantova, Italy again hosted MXGP for the final round of the year and the second consecutive Grand Prix. In chilly, wintery conditions, all eyes were on the gripping chase for the championship in the premier class with Herlings locked in a close dispute for the title and with Tom Vialle looking to confirm the silver medal in MX2.
Nerves were taut for the last two motos of an epic season. At one stage all three Red Bull KTM riders were in pursuit of the 2021 world championship but the final races of the year saw Herlings in a prime position to bring the gold plate back to the team for the first time since 2018.
In Timed Practice Herlings assumed his usual position at the top of the timing screens and duly recorded his 13th Pole Position from the 17 rounds he has contested. In the first moto he worked his way to the front, passing holeshotter Jorge Prado and then weathered some arm-pump to maintain a gap over main threat Romain Febvre. His fourteenth checkered flag of the year meant he tied on points with Febvre and created a straight shoot out in the second moto for the world championship. Herlings repeated the feat and a crash by Febvre meant he had a small margin over his rival and that of Tim Gajser who was second on the track but ended the day 3rd in the championship.
While much of the attention was focused on the title contest, Tony Cairoli was enjoying his last Grand Prix of a magnificent full-time racing career. Noisily cheered by large sections of the partisan crowd at the venue where he delivered victory for Team Italy only six weeks beforehand, Cairoli signed off with 15th overall and a second moto result of 10th. In the first race he crashed while trying to overtake Jeremy Seewer and had to retire with a broken gear shifter. He was 6th overall in the championship standings.
Still recovering from his lower back injury, Jorge Prado rode to 5th overall. The Spaniard made a 5-7 scorecard after more excellent starts and ends 2021 with 5th in the final ranking.
2021 MXGP consisted of 18 rounds and 36 motos in 11 countries. Red Bull KTM won 12 Grands Prix, 22 motos and banked 24 podiums between their three athletes on the KTM 450 SX-F. With 13 Pole Positions Herlings had 11 more than the next nearest rider.
Jeffrey Herlings: “I’m super-happy but at the same time I feel bad for the other two guys. I want to thank both of them for a great championship. My riding was terrible today! In the first moto I was just so scared to crash that I was riding very tight and got arm-pump. It was really bad but I still managed to bring it in. After four-five laps in the second Romain crashed and that gave me some seconds but at the same time I did not want to go full gas and make a mistake. I stayed in my comfort zone and was thinking and thinking. Tim came a bit closer but I just carried on doing my thing and didn’t look back. I went into training mode. I’m very happy to have made it happen and to go 1-1 today – even though my riding sucked – is really good. This wasn’t an easy championship. All three of us kept charging until the last moto.”
Tony Cairoli: “It’s amazing how my career has been. It’s still hard to believe I was nine times world champion. After so many years I still love to ride and I get so disappointed when I cannot make it, like today and the bad luck out there, I couldn’t make the podium today like I wanted but, overall, it’s been a good season. I was in the fight for the title up until halfway through the year and I think it was one of the nicest championships ever. I was sad I could not join the battle. Congratulations to all of them for making an amazing series. Thanks to all the people who have been involved in my ‘trip’ and all the fans.”
Jorge Prado: “I didn’t feel too bad today but still had to deal with my injury: it’s hard when you can start at the front and know you have to push but then deal with a lot of pain, especially through the corner exits. The other guys catch you quick, they pass and it’s tough to follow. I’m happy the season is over and I have some time to heal-up completely before starting to prepare for next year.”
Rene Hofer blasted to his second consecutive Pole Position in MX2 Timed Practice but it was teammate Tom Vialle who grabbed the first moto holeshot. The Frenchman ran behind Jago Geerts and kept pace with the Belgian until he over-jumped, landed hard and aggravated his already painful right ankle forcing a DNF. With his hopes of 2nd place in the world championship now erased due to Geerts moto win – and comfortably 3rd – Vialle decided not to risk further damage to the injury and elected not to start the second moto.
Hofer had been 3rd behind Vialle but a mistake out of the chicane section saw him crash and then pursuing teammate Mattia Guadagnini could not avoid the stricken KTM. Both riders recovered their machines. Guadagnini reached the line in 5th and Hofer in 13th.
In the second moto Guadagnini snatched the holeshot and rode steady to finish 3rd. His 20 points brought him to 4th overall. Hofer was right behind in lonely 4th and classified in 8th.
Vialle, Guadagnini and Hofer ranked 3rd, 4th and 6th for 2021. All three aced Grands Prix (9 in total) and gathered 18 podiums. Vialle led more laps, won more motos and Grands Prix than any other rider in the series. He also recorded the biggest quantity of holeshots with 22.
Mattia Guadagnini: “I’m happy with the season. The goal was to be in the top five and we made it but I didn’t expect to win GPs and have the red plate! Today was a good way to finish the after a tough couple of rounds. I finally took another holeshot and missed the podium by just one point. I had a good feeling and was happy with my riding. Finishing 4th in the championship was not so bad!”
Rene Hofer: “It’s nice to have made it through the whole season and it’s my first full year in the championship and in the factory team. Now I know what it is like to be a Pro motocross athlete at this level! It’s quite a nice feeling to be together with the team the whole year. We got off to a bit of a slow start and in the middle of the season I was still struggling from the lack of racing in 2020. The last few GPs were great. I had a few Pole Positions, a few podiums and a GP win. For sure it brought me a bit closer to the goal and was a confidence booster for the winter preparation. I think a lot is possible next year. I have shown what I can do and if I can be there consistently then I can fight for moto wins again. It’s been a long season! We’ll take a bit of time off and focus on 2022 in a month or so. I just missed out on P4 in the championship but we know our goals for next time.”
Tom Vialle: “It has been a season of injury and comeback. After Russia, and then my broken hand, I returned very strong and won a lot of races and took a lot of holeshots. I had good stats, except the one – the points - to take the title! At one moment I thought I could push pressure on Maxime [Renaux] for the championship but that meant winning almost every moto and that’s a different kind of season. In Arco I pushed too much and I hurt my foot. I went all-out and it didn’t work. I came here only 80% and the track is difficult. It wasn’t enough to fight with Jago [Geerts] and in the first moto I had quite a big impact from a jump so I decided to stop. We were quite comfortable in the championship and there is not a big difference between 2nd and 3rd. Overall I think I made another ‘step’ this season. I won a lot and we did well.”
Results MXGP Citta di Mantova 2021
1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (1-1)
2. Tim Gajser (SLO), Honda (3-2)
3. Romain Febvre (FRA), Kawasaki (2-3)
4. Jeremy Seewer (SUI), Yamaha (4-4)
5. Jorge Prado (ESP), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (5-7)
15. Tony Cairoli (ITA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (DNF-10)
Final standings MXGP 2021
1. Jeffrey Herlings 708 points
2. Romain Febvre 703
3. Tim Gajser 688
4. Jeremy Seewer 566
5. Jorge Prado 562
6. Tony Cairoli 545
Results MX2 Citta di Mantova 2021
1. Jago Geerts (BEL) Yamaha (1-2)
2. Maxime Renaux (FRA) Yamaha (3-1)
3. Kay De Wolf (NED) Husqvarna (2-6)
4. Mattia Guadagnini (ITA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (5-3)
5. Mikkel Haarup (DEN), Kawasaki (4-7)
8. Rene Hofer (AUT), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (13-4)
DNF. Tom Vialle (FRA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (0-DNS)
Final Standings MX2 2021
1. Maxime Renaux 734 points
2. Jago Geerts 610
3. Tom Vialle 570
4. Mattia Guadagnini 548
5. Jed Beaton 540
6. Rene Hofer 527