GP Report: MXGP of Pays de Montbeliard


Villars-sous-Écot Villars-sous-Écot, France Race Center: MXGP of Pays de Montbéliard FIM Motocross World Championship

The longest FIM Motocross World Championship on record came to a damp but thrilling end through the hefty climbs and steep drops of the Villars sous Ecot circuit in eastern France and for the fancifully named Grand Prix of Pays de Montbeliard. It rained for the 19th round, and once more the shade of the deluge was orange. 

Showers were frequent in France and have been a recurrent component of MXGP this year. Although the second MX2 moto and a long stretch of the second MXGP race were dry and took place on scarred and sticky, clayish soil; make no mistake, this event was a mudder.

In spite of the adversity of the conditions and the dipping motivation for large pockets of the Grand Prix contingent (witness MXGP World Champion Antonio Cairoli’s tip-over and sixth in MXGP moto one and another crash and withdrawal in moto two) a decent crowd dressed for winter and filled the venue and were rewarded for the mess with some entertaining scraps and memorable scenes.

Above all, MX2 was decided in Red Bull KTM’s favour and after 15 podiums and six wins for Pauls Jonass, the 20-year-old a deserving winner despite the speed and best efforts of Suzuki’s Jeremy Seewer (the Swiss fourth overall and just ahead of his rival here) and leading the category from round five. Jonass set a couple of milestones with yet-another charge from a first lap crash to capture fifth place and mathematically seal the job in the first moto. He was KTM’s seventh MX2 champion since 2004 and their sixth since 2008 with the 250 SX-F and he was the first from Latvia. 

Jonass is the first rider from Latvia to win an MX2 World Championship.
Jonass is the first rider from Latvia to win an MX2 World Championship. Ray Archer/KTM Images

Celebrations had started after the first moto and a deserted circuit rang out to dance tunes late Sunday night as the KTM crew partied for the second Sunday in succession.

Back in the gate and several athletes were eying late glory. Positive signs for Team USA lay through Thomas Covington putting together two good starts and showing his strong turn of speed and deft throttle control in damp and wet conditions to collect his second overall win of the season. He had little answer to surprising Australian Hunter Lawrence in the second moto; the youngster following up his Saturday Pole Position with another podium appearance but refusing to answer questions on his future and a solid link to Honda for 2018 [in MX2] before the USA beckons with GEICO in ’19. Another Aussie, fill-in rider Jed Beaton, had a great day with a 3-4 to grab the last rostrum slot ahead of Jonass and Seewer. Dutch Grand Prix winner Jorge Prado admitted the mud was not yet his strongest terrain and was eighth overall. 

Thomas Covington won the MX2 overall in France.
Thomas Covington won the MX2 overall in France. Juan Pablo Acevedo/Husqvarna Images

MXGP was unsurprisingly in the hands of Jeffrey Herlings. The Dutchman went 3-1 with a rare holeshot in the second moto. That’s five out of six for the former MX2 world champion and could have been a perfect half-dozen (plus Ironman) if his chain had not lapsed while cutting to the front in Sweden last month. 

MXGP witnessed a brace of duels that kept the audience fixed through the dodgy climate. In the first race Monster Energy Yamaha’s Romain Febvre noisily stalked HRC’s Tim Gajser, accompanied by the roar of the partisan masses. The Frenchman was competing at the site of his first GP win in 2015 and was clearly psyched for the tussle. Gajser was resolute however and made hay through the backmarkers sliding in and out of lines to deny the French fancy. Both protagonists were sluggish out of the start in the second moto, Febvre especially, with the Yamaha man almost mid-pack and having to work hard to find his way to fourth and just missed the podium.

Their places as leaders taken by Herlings and an excellent Rockstar Energy IceOne Husqvarna’s Max Anstie in the second moto. The Brit excelled on the technical dirt and changed his lines and tact to keep a closely pursuing Herlings at bay. When the inevitable move came, Anstie hung on and applied pressure. Only in the final two laps did Herlings find a slightly cleaner and quicker route through the backmarkers and wrap his 12th chequered flag—the highest moto win total in the class.

Jeffrey Herlings closed out the year strong in MXGP.
Jeffrey Herlings closed out the year strong in MXGP. Ray Archer/KTM Images

Praise must go to the club and organisers for maintaining the track in the best way possible and even taking steps with construction of the site to cope with the weather. Crashes, mistakes, near misses, wild lines, and alternative routes in the worse of the weather were sideshow elements to a small collective of riders that really showed their stock in a difficult final challenge for MXGP. 

The most extreme and captivating example arrived courtesy of the last decider in WMX as the girls dealt with the wettest and slipperiest of Villars on Saturday afternoon and first-thing Sunday morning. 

Kiara Fontanesi earned her fifth world title in dramatic circumstances that summed up a crazy and unpredictable season. The Italian was one of four riders divided by just five points coming to France. Courtney Duncan should have won the opening race but half a lap from the flag edged off track to avoid a melee of riders stuck at the peak of the longest and steepest uphill climb and crashed. Fontanesi followed and dodged the mess by veering into the same space as Duncan but made it through. Livia Lancelot had fallen at the bottom of the hill. Fontanesi’s win was later disputed by Duncan, who eventually made it home in sixth. Race Direction changed the results based on a belated red flag and the listing had Duncan back at the top but they later reinstated the original standing. It meant that New Zealander had been undone by events out of her control for the second year in a row. 

She took out her frustrations in an even boggier second moto (and on a shortened track without the troublesome ascent) that was more about fortune and survival than skill. When second placed Nancy Van de Ven became stuck on a hill with two laps to go Fontanesi’s steady third position turned out to be decisive to the tune of a single point. The whole affair was tense, emotional, impossible to call and utterly gripping. Sympathy fell for Van de Ven who needed assistance to finally reach the line (classifying three laps down on Duncan), Duncan for another near miss, and Lancelot who was the runner-up at her home round and her final Grand Prix before moving into team management. It was Fontanesi with the number one plate however and the best of the three Yamaha’s when it really counted and a cool head was the most profitable attribute.

Kiara Fontanesi clinched the WMX Championship in dramatic fashion.
Kiara Fontanesi clinched the WMX Championship in dramatic fashion. Monster Energy

EMX250—the last rung on the European Championship ladder to Grand Prix—was owned by Italian Morgan Lesiardo, who became the fifth Italian title winner this year after Cairoli, Fontanesi, 125cc World Champion Gianluca Facchetti, and EMX150 Honda conqueror Andrea Adamo. 

After three weekends in a row the majority of the MXGP paddock head into the off-season. A hefty selection (although not Jonass who declined to represent Team Latvia) will look toward Matterley Basin in two weeks time for the 71st Motocross of Nations in the UK.

Round 19 – MXGP of Pays de Montbéliard – Villars sous Ecot


1st Jeffrey Herlings 20 25 KTM
2nd Tim Gajser 25 20 Honda
3rd Max Anstie 18 22 Husqvarna
4th Romain Febvre 22 18 Yamaha
5th Gautier Paulin 16 15 Husqvarna
6th Kevin Strijbos 15 13 Suzuki
7th Arnaud Tonus 11 16 Yamaha
8th Jeremy Van Horebeek 13 14 Yamaha
9th Glenn Coldenhoff 14 12 KTM
10th Shaun Simpson 6 10 Yamaha
11th Maximilian Nagl 7 9 Husqvarna
12th Alessandro Lupino 8 8 Honda
13th Tanel Leok 4 11 Husqvarna
14th Rui Goncalves 5 7 Husqvarna
15th Antonio Cairoli 12 0 KTM
16th Evgeny Bobryshev 10 0 Honda
17th Maxime Desprey 9 0 Kawasaki
18th Damon Graulus 1 6 Honda
19th Nicolas Dercourt 2 5 Yamaha
20th Jason Clermont 0 4 Kawasaki


1st Thomas Covington 25 22 Husqvarna
2nd Hunter Lawrence 18 25 Suzuki
3rd Jed Beaton 20 18 Honda
4th Jeremy Seewer 22 16 Suzuki
5th Pauls Jonass 16 20 KTM
6th Thomas Kjer Olsen 14 9 Husqvarna
7th Brian Bogers 6 15 KTM
8th Jorge Prado Garcia 7 14 KTM
9th Darian Sanayei 10 10 Kawasaki
10th Alvin Östlund 12 8 Yamaha
11th Ben Watson 13 6 KTM
12th Calvin Vlaanderen 5 11 KTM
13th Julien Lieber 15 0 KTM
14th Davy Pootjes 1 13 KTM
15th Magne Klingsheim 11 2 Kawasaki
16th Stephen Rubini 0 12 Kawasaki
17th Anton Gole 9 3 TM
18th Conrad Mewse 4 5 Husqvarna
19th Nathan Renkens 8 0 KTM
20th Henry Jacobi 0 7 Husqvarna
1st Kiara Fontanesi 25 20 Yamaha
2nd Livia Lancelot 20 22 Kawasaki
3rd Courtney Duncan 15 25 Yamaha
4th Nancy Van De Ven 22 16 Yamaha
5th Larissa Papenmeier 16 18 Suzuki
6th Amandine Verstappen 18 15 KTM
7th Virginie Germond 11 13 Yamaha
8th Mathilde Martinez 9 14 Husqvarna
9th Justine Charroux 12 9 Yamaha
10th Anne Borchers 5 11 Suzuki

EMX 250

1st James Dunn 22 20 KTM
2nd Simone Zecchina 16 22 Yamaha
3rd Anthony Bourdon 9 25 Husqvarna
4th Tristan Charboneau 25 8 Kawasaki
5th Ruben Fernandez 20 11 Kawasaki
6th Morgan Lesiardo 8 18 Kawasaki
7th Tom Koch 6 16 KTM
8th Karlis Sabulis 12 9 Yamaha
9th Pierre Goupillon 15 5 KTM
10th Josh Spinks 18 2 KTM

MXGP Championship Standings

1st Antonio Cairoli 722
2nd Jeffrey Herlings 672
3rd Gautier Paulin 602
4th Clement Desalle 544
5th Tim Gajser 530
6th Romain Febvre 519
7th Jeremy Van Horebeek 443
8th Max Nagl 439
9th Max Anstie 436
10th Glenn Coldenhoff 424

MX2 Championship Standings

1st Pauls Jonass 771
2nd Jeremy Seewer 732
3rd Thomas Kjer Olsen 579
4th Thomas Covington 532
5th Benoit Paturel 504
6th Julien Lieber 490
7th Jorge Prado 460
8th Brian Bogers 407
9th Hunter Lawrence 395
10th Brent Van doninck 309

WMX Championship Standings

1st Kiara Fontanesi 233
2nd Livia Lancelot 232
3rd Courtney Duncan 231
4th Nancy Van De Ven 231
5th Larissa Papenmeier 194
6th Amandine Verstappen 184
7th Nicky van Wordragen 119
8th Francesca Nocera 95
9th Virginie Germond 80
10th Shana van der Vlist 89

EMX250 Championship Standings

1st Morgan Lesiardo 294
2nd Simone Furlotti 242
3rd Ruben Fernandez 223
4th Alberto Forato 205
5th Tristan Charboneau 192
6th Marshel Weltin 180
7th Jago Geerts 171
8th Ken Bengtson 170
9th Mathys Boisrame 167
10th Pierre Goupillon 140