The 2021 MXGP World Championship is heading towards a thrilling conclusion after Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jeffrey Herlings rode to victory and to within three points of the red plate at Mantova, Italy for the Grand Prix of Lombardia and the penultimate meeting of the season.
Six weeks after the 74th Motocross of Nations, the Tazio Nuvolari circuit was prepared for the MXGP double bill that would end the 2021 world championship. The shallow sand, with a bumpy hard base, was typically tight and windy and placed extra emphasis on the race starts. The terrain was rough and damp in places under bright but overcast skies.
Jeffrey Herlings rode to his twelfth Pole Position of the season on Sunday morning but a mistake on the first lap of the first moto created a busy race for the Dutchman as he needed to trail all the way back from 13th to 2nd place; a ranking won on the very last circulation. Tony Cairoli gave the fans something to cheer by taking a strong 4th - that was changed to 3rd as Tim Gajser was handed a penalty for cutting a section of the track - and Jorge Prado was 6th.
Prado aced his 16th holeshot at the start of the second moto but Herlings swiftly attacked and rode free of Romain Febvre to lodge his 13th moto win of the campaign. The 2-1 scorecard allowed him to walk the top step of the box and with the same overall points on the day as Febvre, Herlings remains just 3 points adrift of the Frenchman with a maximum of 50 left to win in 2021. Prado resisted the attention of Tony Cairoli in the battle for 3rd for six laps. The Italian eventually moved through and although he was overtaken by Tim Gajser he collected 4th to go 3-4 and fill the third step of the rostrum. Prado, still recovering from his vertebra fracture was 7th overall.
Jeffrey Herlings: “I knew I had to win the second moto because I had my work cut out in the first moto and came up to 2nd even though the seat on my bike was loose. In the second one I passed Jorge and Romain and made a little gap. I did all I could and now it’s down to three points. It’s going to be really interesting. Every point counts right now. I think it is basically down to me and Romain and there is a lot on the line. It will be a good one on Wednesday.”
Tony Cairoli: “I’m happy about the result and I really enjoyed the track. If I can make the podium for both of my two last races as a Pro it would be amazing. The second moto start was not that good and when I got behind Jorge I lost a lot of laps there. I lost the rhythm a bit but, anyway, I’m very happy, especially here in front of this crazy crowd.”
Jorge Prado: “Overall an ‘OK’ day and nothing special. The second moto start was better than the first when I had to come through from the back and lost a lot of time. I’m missing rhythm and the lack of riding and training in the last month means I don’t have the pace of the guys in front…but I always fight 100% and do my best. My goal right now is to try and start first and hold onto the leading positions as much as I can, have good battles and not go too crazy. One race left and we’ll try our hardest to go into the off-season in the best way.”
Rene Hofer earned his first career Pole Position in MX2 Timed Practice and was the lead KTM in the first moto until a small mistake while running behind leader Maxime Renaux pushed him down to 6th. Tom Vialle raced to 3rd to set up a potential tenth podium appearance of the year. Mattia Guadagnini didn’t have the best start after being caught in traffic around Turn 2, suffered a small crash while on his comeback and collected 12th place
In the second moto Hofer was the victim of a collision on the first lap that ditched him from a leading position down to 14th. He recovered to 9th and settled 7th for the day. Vialle struggled to find his rhythm and classified 4th, which ensured his tenth bottle of champagne in 2021. Guadagnini was behind the Frenchman in 5, meaning the Italian was 8th for the Grand Prix
Vialle is 2nd in the championship standings and leads Jago Geerts but just 7 points. Guadagnini and Hofer are battling it out for 4th.
Tom Vialle: “Difficult day. I didn’t feel a good flow on the track. My foot was not bothering me too much but I struggled on this terrain. We’ll work on Wednesday to be a bit better for the last Grand Prix. I’m still 2nd in the championship and that’s pretty nice but we still have a battle ahead.”
Rene Hofer: “It was an unlucky day but I’m super-happy with how I am riding at the moment. In the morning I was able to grab my first Pole Position, which was quite exciting because I put a really good lap together. Both of my starts were fast but it was a shame to fall out of 2nd place twice! The first moto was my fault but in the second one I came-together with another rider and it was a pretty big crash. I still made some solid points today but I think a podium would have been possible, so a pity. Anyway, I’ll enjoy the last race. I’m a bit bashed and bruised at the moment but I should be fine for Wednesday.”
Mattia Guadagnini: “I had a small crash and some arm-pump in Timed Practice. It was tricky to find the rhythm. A bad start in the first race but I passed a lot of riders until I had a stupid ‘off’ and then the arm-pump came again. It was hard to hold on by the end. So, I was 12th in that one. The second moto was much better, I felt fast and was pushing to take 4th. We’ll try to be positive and to enjoy the last Grand Prix on Wednesday. It was great to have the fans back and so noisy here.”
MXGP remains in Mantova and will race across the Tazio Nuvolari circuit once more on Wednesday 10th to bring the season to a close.
Results MXGP Lombardia 2021
1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (2-1)
2. Romain Febvre (FRA), Kawasaki (1-2)
3. Tony Cairoli (ITA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (3-4)
4. Tim Gajser (SLO), Honda (8-3)
5. Jeremy Seewer (SUI), Yamaha (5-5)
7. Jorge Prado (ESP), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (6-6)
Standings MXGP 2021 after 17 of 18 rounds
1. Romain Febvre 661 points
2. Jeffrey Herlings 658
3. Tim Gajser 646
4. Tony Cairoli 534
5. Jorge Prado 532
Results MX2 Lombardia 2021
1. Jago Geerts (BEL) Yamaha (2-1)
2. Maxime Renaux (FRA) Yamaha (1-2)
3. Tom Vialle (FRA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (3-4)
4. Jed Beaton (AUS), Husqvarna (5-3)
5. Kay De Wolf (NED) Husqvarna (4-10)
7. Rene Hofer (AUT), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (6-9)
8. Mattia Guadagnini (ITA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (12-5)
Standings MX2 2021 after 17 of 18 rounds
1. Maxime Renaux 689 points
2. Tom Vialle 570
3. Jago Geerts 563
4. Jed Beaton 513
5. Mattia Guadagnini 512
6. Rene Hofer 501