MXGP touched down for the first of two back-to-back events on Indonesian soil and for the second meeting to take place at the Pangkal Pinang circuit. Thankfully the rain that almost washed out the 2017 edition of the fixture did not afflict a busy twelfth round of the 2018 campaign but conditions were tough for the riders with high humidity, temperatures around thirty degrees and a very rutty and rough course to negotiate.
Jeffrey Herlings again made headlines. The Dutchman returned to the saddle of his KTM 450 SX-F just seventeen days after surgery to fix a broken collarbone. The Championship leader talked of settling for points and “damage control” in Indonesia but ran to Pole Position on Saturday and then posted a strong and surprising results sheet of 2-1 in the sweaty motos on Sunday.
Once again Herlings’ most direct rival was teammate and reigning world champion Tony Cairoli. The Sicilian won the first race (his sixth chequered flag of the year and from 23 motos) but suffered from several mistakes in the second outing. The veteran rode superbly to close a gap to front-running Herlings – who made a dramatic Grand Prix finale by crashing with three laps remaining – but then made a error immediately after assuming the lead and damaged the front brake and had to deal with an injured thumb. Herlings was able to retake control and his second race spoils (his seventeenth win in ’18) meant a ninth triumph of the term. The duo continues to be split by just 12 points.
Glenn Coldenhoff’s 7-5 gave Red Bull KTM three 450 SX-Fs in the overall top six as the Dutchman again recorded a solid haul of points.
Herlings: “I’m very happy with the weekend and we couldn't have dreamed it would have gone like this just two and a half week after breaking my collarbone. I wasn't sure I would be able to race here so to come out with a win is pretty amazing. I lost a bit of feeling on the bike with the surgery and lack of bike time but physically I was OK and we’ll work to come back to 100%. Injury is part of this game when we are pushing. We’ll try and get the best out of the situation next week now.”
Cairoli: “Overall a good weekend except for the pain I have in my thumb. I hope it will get better but I worried it might be something I’ll have to deal with for a few weeks. When Jeffrey and I pushed we were able to make a big difference over the others and at a high level. Jeffrey made a very good race on his comeback from injury. I had a crash on the third lap of the second moto but came back and had the lead but made another mistake, which cost me the win and hurt my thumb. I hope it will be a bit better for next week. The gap in the championship has stayed the same so overall I’m happy.”
Coldenhoff: “I felt really good all weekend but it was really difficult to do something here if you don't get the start you need. At one point I was pushing so hard I was going backwards! I was making too mistakes but eventually found my flow and went from 15th to 7th. It wasn't that bad but we are working for more and the second moto was a little better. I passed some ‘big players’ to again make sixth overall – again! – but I feel like I am consistent and we are up there pushing the top five every weekend. Next weekend will be tough as well but physically I am pretty strong and on a good pace.”
Jorge Prado closed the gap to teammate Pauls Jonass at the top of the MX2 championship with his tenth podium appearance of the 2018 MX2 campaign on the KTM 250 SX-F. The Spaniard made a 4-3 across the rough dirt to finish 3rd overall; the result allowed the teenager to creep up to just 7 points in the standings after Jonass’ 2-7 at Pangkal Pinang. The reigning champion had a strong first moto but was swamped in a frantic five rider fight for second position in the second sprint and classified 5th for the day.
Prado: “It was a great weekend. I’ve been training well but this is such a difficult sport and on a track like this anything can happen so you also need some luck. The track was soft today so you had to ride with a lot of power and it was easy to feel off balance. I’m happy to leave here healthy and to keep being consistent. The track next week looks to be really nice. They say it will be warmer but I hope the humidity is less! It will be a new challenge anyway.”
Jonass: “The weekend didn't go as smoothly as I wanted. In the first moto I felt really good actually and made some good passes and was doing well physically in the heat. I had a fast start in the second moto but after 10-15 minutes I just hit a wall. I struggled with the track and was pushing too hard; it is one of those places where if you almost try too much then you go backwards and that was the main problem for me. Our goal is to win the championship but I am trying not to focus on that, maybe it is in the back of my mind somewhere. We’ll have a week here now in Indonesia so I have time to put some thoughts in the right places.”
The majority of the MXGP paddock will remain in Indonesia this week and head south and east of Jakarta to Semarang for the second stop in the country and round thirteen of the series.
Next race: Grand Prix of Asia, Semarang, July 8th
Results MXGP Pangkal Pinang 2018
1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED), KTM (2-1)
2. Tony Cairoli (ITA), KTM (1-2)
3. Romain Febvre (FRA), Yamaha (5-3)
4. Tim Gajser (SLO), Honda (4-4)
5. Clement Desalle (BEL), Kawasaki (3-8)
6. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED), KTM (7-5)
Standings MXGP 2018 after 12 of 20 rounds
1. Jeffrey Herlings, 533 points
2. Tony Cairoli, 521
3. Clement Desalle, 407
4. Romain Febvre, 390
5. Tim Gajser, 368
7. Coldenhoff, 319
Results MX2 Pangkal Pinang 2018
1. Calvin Vlaanderen (RSA), Honda (3-1)
2. Thomas Covington (USA), Husqvarna (1-4)
3. Jorge Prado (SPA), KTM (4-3)
4. Ben Watson (GBR), Yamaha (6-2)
5. Pauls Jonass (LAT), KTM (2-7)
Standings MX2 2018 after 12 of 20 rounds
1. Pauls Jonass, 510 points
2. Jorge Prado, 503
3. Thomas Kjer Olsen, 394
4. Ben Watson, 376
5. Calvin Vlaanderen, 331