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GP Report: MXGP of Czech Republic

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If the Red Bull KTM duo of Antonio Cairoli and Pauls Jonass go on to win their ninth and first FIM Motocross World Championship titles in MXGP and MX2 respectively in 2017, then their victories at Loket for the Grand Prix of Czech Republic—a weather-swept 13th round of 19 and the first fixture after a mini summer break—will be somewhat symbolic.

First, Cairoli. The Sicilian has openly stated in the past that the swirling, tight, narrow, stony, and slippery hard-pack does not rank as one of his favourite tracks. Cairoli had not won in the Czech Republic and for what is the definition of an old school motocross layout (although that distinction does carry a certain amount of charm and challenge) since 2012. Cairoli had owned the previous two meetings in Italy and Portugal and rode to a hat-trick last Sunday at a venue where he had been modestly aiming for a podium finish and is now openly talking about preservation of his 90-plus points lead in the premier class standings—effectively a Grand Prix-and-a-half with just six remaining.

Next, Jonass. The 20-year-old standout leader of the MX2 division abruptly ended his second season as a works rider (and in Grand Prix) at Loket in 2016 by getting out of shape on the notoriously steep step-down and sustaining a concussion that meant waving goodbye to the rest of the GP term.

“When I did the track walk many guys were asking me how I felt about the jump, but I actually did it on the first lap of practice,” the likeable Latvian said Sunday evening. “It is quite a small jump but last year it was my stupid mistake; I wanted to go too fast and scrubbed it too much. It [the 2016 crash] was not in the back of my mind; I focussed on the race and it was alright.”

Arguably the most identifiable element of the serpentine course the daunting step-down features a blind approach and demands commitment. The landing can involve heavy braking and a plough through braking bumps. This section of the track—that ended Josh Coppins World Championship dreams in 2007—carried extra and heart breaking poignancy after the fatal crash of 85cc Moldovan Igor Cuharciuc on Saturday evening. The youngster was immediately attended to by doctors and paramedics after allegedly coming up short on the landing, but a 45-minute resuscitation period was tragically unsuccessful and left the Grand Prix paddock shell-shocked Saturday night. FIM CMS president Tony Skillington—a man who could not beat a drum on motocross safety any louder or more frequently in his official capacity—called the incident a “very unfortunate racing accident.”

“I’d like to dedicate this victory to Igor Cuharciuc,” said Cairoli post-race. “It was a difficult night for everybody and riding the bike on the spot of the accident was not easy. I want to say we are thinking of the family.”

Cairoli's championship lead is up to 92 points with six rounds to go.
Cairoli's championship lead is up to 92 points with six rounds to go. KTM Images/Ray Archer

MX2 first race winner (logging a great run through the slick mud after a heavy rain storm Sunday morning helped soften and churn the hard-pack) Rockstar Husqvarna’s Thomas Covington said that due care and attention had been paid to the hotspot for the race program.

“I think they actually did a good job keeping it smooth on the landing today and for the second moto it was completely flat, which was good and if that hadn’t have been done it would have been very sketchy going into the braking bumps. If they want to make it safer [for the future] then they could round-off the landing a bit more because it is quite peaked and if you clip it then it’s not good.”

“For MX2 and MXGP guys it is not too bad, but for 65s and 85s you need to be very precise coming out of the corner to jump it,” said Jonass.

This year was the second year that European Championship classes in 65 and 85cc had run at Loket and surely the venue for the young talent looking to catch the eye of the teams and factories will now be considered for another site, even if the perils of the sport and motorsport generally can never be eradicated.

Aside from the second EMX85 moto, the racing went on and Sunday’s fare in front of a big crowd (Loket is a staple date on the MXGP slate) threw up the second motos in each class as the action highlights. The drying dirt was partly responsible and on such a playing surface good starts of all four motos were nigh-on essential.

The first MXGP affair saw little engagement. Red Bull KTM’s Glenn Coldenhoff miscued his start and Suzuki’s Arminas Jasikonis demonstrated a classic rookie tendency toward inconsistency by following up his top three potential from Italy and Portugal in the last two rounds with a brace of falls that cast him to the nether regions of the field. World Champion Tim Gajser had some brief heat from Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Desalle, but remained imperious—even through pockets of busy backmarkers—to notch his first race win in three months. Cairoli made gains on Rockstar Energy IceOne Husqvarna’s Gautier Paulin to slice into third, and then caused Desalle to make a final lap hurry-up after he’d stopped making mistakes and eased some arm-pump issues.

Cairoli dedicated his 83rd overall win to Igor Cuharciuc who passed away on Saturday after a crash in the first EMX85 race. 
Cairoli dedicated his 83rd overall win to  Igor Cuharciuc who passed away on Saturday after a crash in the first EMX85 race.  KTM Images/Ray Archer

Cairoli slotted into second place behind Gajser in the second moto and the Slovenian was no match for his elder rival. Gajser curiously lacked the strength and speed that made his 2016 form so impenetrable and he slipped back into a frantic tussle for second place with Desalle, Paulin, Monster Energy Yamaha’s Romain Febvre, and a bustling Jeffrey Herlings, who rued his performances out of the gate as a reason for missing just his second podium appearance from the last eight rounds. Desalle was the consistent force. His 2-2 meant Cairoli’s small milestone (83 career triumphs in the bigger picture) turned into a gain of just one point. Tony seemed relieved and a little bemused to have won for the sixth time in 2017 and with nine moto checkered flags, but the only rider who came close to his level of control was Covington.

The American’s technique and throttle control allowed him to dispense with the KTMs early in the first MX2 moto—Jonass habitually accompanied by 16-year-old rookie teammate Jorge Prado for at least the first laps of every race—and his success set up another chance to chase two wins in a season. However a tackier second moto belonged to Jonass, who was more daring from the outset (an exhausted supply of tear-offs and delay in overtaking Prado in the first moto causing the championship leader to finish second) while Covington was pushed wide on the start and then baulked several times on the opening lap to stand outside the top 20. A comeback ride to 10th position surprisingly yielded third place overall and Covington is now the third most successful MX2 rider in terms of trophies behind Jonass and Jeremy Seewer.

Covington currently sits sixth in the championship standings.
Covington currently sits sixth in the championship standings. Husqvarna Images/Juan Pablo Acevedo

Seewer admitted that he didn't know a second place (like Desalle, conceding minimal points to his opposition) could feel so terrible. Seewer, normally so placid and humble, was undone by his first moto start. After struggling to get past Prado for second place in the second dash while Jonass departed, he publicly praised the Spaniard’s skill and resilience while also slightly damning the tactics employed by the KTM pair with Jonass allegedly sweeping by far easier than the Suzuki or the prowling Kemea Yamaha of Benoit Paturel.

For Prado’s part this was a much-needed return to form after a couple of weeks where the youngster has looked breathless and powerless to see out a two moto program. Jorge is a championship winner, but 2017 is still only his second on a 250 four-stroke and this is without a doubt the longest competitive campaign he has had to tackle.

Loket provided both talking points (Herlings even voiced his concern that the 450s were now too fast for the track and they were restricted by the historic, but condensed trajectory) and topics where words barely seemed necessary. In view of the MX2 and MXGP title tales it was another event chalked off the agenda and with no major upheaval in the championship standings.

Jonass' championship lead is now at 47 points.
Jonass' championship lead is now at 47 points. KTM Images/Ray Archer

In contrast to the formulaic unwinding of proceedings, the FIM Women’s World Championship continues to keep fans and riders on their toes. New Zealand’s Courtney Duncan won in the Czech Republic largely on the back of her excellent stalk of Kiara Fontanesi and passing the Italian’s lagging Yamaha two corners before the flag in the first moto. Duncan’s second triumph from four rounds with two still to go gave her the red plate. Duncan, Fontanesi, Livia Lancelot, and Nancy Van der Ven are separated by only 12 points the WMX .

The word Lommel causes riders to tense muscles at the mere thought of the sand that awaits at the Grand Prix of Belgium. Not for the first time, MXGP throws up some delectable diversity from one round to the next with the tracks and surfaces. Lommel might sound vaguely similar to Loket but they could not be more disparate. Cairoli and Jonass will be favourites again come August 6 but there will be fresh opposition, especially from within their own Red Bull KTM team.

Courtney Duncan took the win this weekend in the WMX class and now leads the championship by three points.
Courtney Duncan took the win this weekend in the WMX class and now leads the championship by three points. Youthstream
POSITION RIDER RACE 1 POINTS RACE 2 POINTS BIKE
1st Antonio Cairoli 20 25 KTM
2nd Clement Desalle 22 22 Kawasaki
3rd Tim Gajser 25 18 Honda
4th Jeffrey Herlings 16 20 KTM
5th Gautier Paulin 18 16 Husqvarna
6th Romain Febvre 14 15 Yamaha
7th Jeremy Van Horebeek 13 14 Yamaha
8th Arnaud Tonus 15 11 Yamaha
9th Glen Coldenhoff 10 10 KTM
10th Evgeny Bobryshev 7 12 Honda
11th Max Nagl 11 8 Husqvarna
12th Kevin Strijbos 12 6 Suzuki
13th Arminas Jasikonis 1 13 Suzuki
14th Alessandro Lupino 9 5 Honda
15th Tanel Leok 6 7 Husqvarna
16th Max Anstie 0 9 Husqvarna
17th Jordi Tixier 8 0 Kawasaki
18th Jose Butron 4 3 KTM
19th Ken de Dycker 2 4 Honda
20th Rui Goncalves 5 0 Husqvarna
POSITION RIDER RACE 1 POINTS RACE 2 POINTS BIKE
1st Pauls Jonass 22 25 KTM
2nd Jeremy Seewer 16 22 Suzuki
3rd Thomas Covington 25 11 Husqvarna
4th Benoit Paturel 15 20 Yamaha
5th Jorge Prado 20 15 KTM
6th Brian Bogers 14 18 KTM
7th Hunter Lawrence 13 13 Suzuki
8th Thomas Kjer Olsen 18 8 Husqvarna
9th Marshal Weltin 10 10 Kawasaki
10th Conrad Mewse 11 9 Husqvarna
11th Julien Lieber 3 16 KTM
12th Jed Beaton 7 12 Honda
13th Michele Cervellin 8 7 Honda
14th Brian Hsu 12 3 Husqvarna
15th Darian Sanayei  0 14 Kawasaki
16th Calvin Vlaanderen 9 0 KTM
17th Morgan Lesiardo 0 6 Kawasaki
18th Iker Larranaga Olano 6 0 Husqvarna
19th Brent van doninck 0 5 Yamaha
20th Vas Vaessen 4 1 Suzuki
FINISH RIDER RACE 1 RACE 2 BIKE
1st Courtney Duncan 25 22 YAM
2nd Amandine Verstappen 15 25 KTM
3rd Nancy Van De Ven 20 20 YAM
4th Kiara Fontanesi 22 15 YAM
5th Livia Lancelot 18 16 KAW
6th Nicky van Wordragen 14 18 YAM
7th Shana van der Vlist 12 14 KTM
8th Emelie Dahl 11 13 YAM
9th Larissa Papenmeier 16 7 SUZ
10th Madison Brown 9 10 YAM
STANDING RIDER POINTS
1st Antonio Cairoli 523
2nd Clement Desalle 431
3rd Jeffrey Herlings 418
4th Gautier Paulin 417
5th Tim Gajser 353
6th Romain Febvre 338
7th Max Nagl 308
8th Jeremy Van Horebeek 294
9th Evgeny Bobryshev 286
10th Arnaud Tonus 279
STANDING RIDER POINTS
1st Pauls Jonass 548
2nd Jeremy Seewer 501
3rd Thomas Kjer Olsen 403
4th Benoit Paturel 398
5th Julien Lieber 374
6th Thomas Covington 339
7th Brian Bogers 273
8th Jorge Prado 268
9th Brent Van donink 226
10th Hunter Lawrence 225
STANDING RIDER POINTS
1st Courtney Duncan 155
2nd Kiara Fontanesi 152
3rd Livia Lancelot 148
4th Nancy Van De Ven 143
5th Larissa Papenmeier 122
6th Amandine Verstappen 121
7th Nicky van Wordragen 119
8th Shana van der Vlist 89
9th Francesca Nocera 77
10th Virginie Germond 70