A fourth consecutive weekend of racing brought Red Bull KTM Factory Racing to Kegums: the staple venue for the Grand Prix of Latvia. Jorge Prado and Jeffrey Herlings walked away from round seven of seventeen with 2nd and 3rd positions overall.
Kegums provided a cool, overcast and changeable climate with the sandy terrain – and hard base – proving to be rough, slick and difficult to manage as the motos wore on across the one-day format. Jeffrey Herlings sealed his fourth Pole Position of the season during Timed Practice as the Dutchman again set the pace on his factory KTM 450 SX-F.
Jorge Prado was victorious two races previously in the Czech Republic and was 3rd quickest in Timed Practice. The Spaniard used the decent gate position and his renowned capacity for rapid starts to vie for the lead in the formative stage of both motos. He was passed by Herlings on the first lap of the opening race and rode to 4th after a frantic battle between four riders for the final slot in the top three. In the second race Prado was unwavering and controlled proceedings, even if Herlings applied pressure in the last laps. Prado went 4-1 on the day for 2nd overall and now has five top three moto results from the last seven starts, including two wins.
Herlings dominated the opening moto by opening a strong lead ahead of Tim Gajser. The Dutchman clinched his second checkered flag from the last three by more than seven seconds. He pursued Prado closely in the second moto but the 26-year-old – still recovering from his left shoulder blade fracture – tipped over with a few corners remaining. He crossed the line in 4th and sacrificed the overall win for a fifth podium appearance of the season in 3rd place.
Tony Cairoli, currently 4th in the championship standings and already a winner this year, relegated Prado in the first moto for 3rd spot. The Italian crashed out of the top four early in the second moto and his 3-6 for the GP meant 5th overall.
Jorge Prado: “It was a great day. In the first moto I couldn’t get a rhythm and struggled a bit. In the second I was more relaxed. Good starts today and every weekend I’m feeling better and getting better physically. To come away with the second moto win is really positive. I’m happy, riding good and the team is working great.”
Jeffrey Herlings: “All weekend was perfect apart from the last lap. What can I say? I felt like I could make a pass but I didn’t want to take a risk. Jorge was riding well and not making any mistakes. I went down all by myself. I’m sorry for the team and sorry for myself. I’m already looking towards Turkey now where hopefully I won’t have any pain and will be fitter. We’ll try to hunt those boys down. We are 43 points behind but there are still a lot of races ahead. We need to work and get fit. We know what we need to do. The rest of the guys here are fast but we’ve been on the box every time we’ve been racing, so I’ve been consistent. We need to start clicking off some wins and step it up a bit.”
Tony Cairoli: “The day began well with a good lap in Timed Practice but my start was not good in the first moto. I was inside in the first corner and made it to the first five-six. I was riding OK and later in the race tried to attack and make my way to 3rd. I was OK with that but it took quite a bit of energy to pass those guys and I felt it for the second moto. I got up to 4th on the second lap but then unfortunately crashed and lost seven or eight positions. It was difficult in the rain and to pass others again. To recover to 6th was not too bad but also not my goal for the weekend. We’ll score this GP a ‘6.5 of out ten’ and move onto Turkey.”
Mattia Guadagnini was the fastest of the KTM 250 SX-F riders in Timed Practice and wheeled his #101 machine into the gate in 6th place. The Italian rookie made two superb holeshots to lead both of the motos in the formative stages. He could not deflect the superior pace of Maxime Renaux but his 2-3 scorecard was enough to reach the third step of the podium for his fourth trophy of the season.
MX2 World Champion Tom Vialle was able to count on a few more days of rehab and preparation as the Frenchman continues to find full race-fitness in the wake of his fractured right hand. Although Vialle missed the holeshots he embarked on two robust charges to make positions. He fought from outside the top ten to seize 6th in the first moto and then pushed his way up to 4th during a rainy second chase to earn the same slot for the Grand Prix.
Rene Hofer, keen to remove sour memories of his crash and shoulder injury at Kegums in 2020 that prematurely ended his rookie campaign, was consistent with his top ten speed. The Austrian registered an 8th in the first moto and followed with a 6th in the afternoon for 6th overall.
Mattia Guadagnini: “Two really similar races. I took two holeshots. I saw Maxime coming strong I tried to push a little bit more and I was gaining ground when he passed me but I made a few mistakes. Second race: pretty much the same. I tried to stay close to Maxime to pass in the last few laps but Jago was coming up fast. I took 3rd place to get back on the podium. I didn’t have the best feeling with my right arm due to the crash I had in Lommel last week so we’ll take this and come back for more in Turkey.”
Tom Vialle: “The weekend was not too bad overall and I had some really good speed. I’m happy with that but I need to work on Timed Practice because 14th was too far out on the gate and I was around the top ten for the starts. I fought to come back to 6th and 4th so my pace was good. We now have a few weeks off and I need to train hard. My form is coming back and this break will be good for me. I like the track in Turkey and we still have a lot of races and hard-pack tracks to come.”
Rene Hofer: “Not a bad GP at all and especially after what happened last year I am really happy to go home in one piece and with these results. I’m really happy with the second race. I think it was my best in the sand this year. We now have some time to work on aspects of my riding to get better for the second half of the season.”
MXGP can now breathe thanks to a three-week break lasting the rest of August. A double-header at Afyon for the Grand Prix of Turkey will bring the series back to the track in the first weekend of September.
Results MXGP Latvia 2021
1. Tim Gajser (SLO), Honda (2-2)
2. Jorge Prado (ESP), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (4-1)
3. Jeffrey Herlings (NED), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (1-4)
4. Romain Febvre (FRA), Kawasaki (5-3)
5. Tony Cairoli (ITA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (3-6)
Standings MXGP 2021 after 07 of 17 rounds
1. Tim Gajser 270 points
2. Romain Febvre 257
3. Jorge Prado 255
4. Tony Cairoli 252
5. Jeffrey Herlings 227
Results MX2 Latvia 2021
1. Maxime Renaux (FRA), Yamaha (1-1)
2. Jago Geerts (BEL), Yamaha (3-2)
3. Mattia Guadagnini (ITA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (2-3)
4. Tom Vialle (FRA), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (6-4)
5. Thibault Benistant (FRA), Yamaha (5-7)
6. Rene Hofer (AUT), Red Bull KTM Factory Racing (8-6)
Standings MX2 2021 after 07 of 17 rounds
1. Maxime Renaux 271 points
2. Mattia Guadagnini 237
3. Jago Geerts 235
4. Ruben Fernandez 214
5. Thibaul Benistant 204
9. Rene Hofer 184
11. Tom Vialle 133