An arm injury just a few weeks before the opening GP in February had made the Belgian’s introduction to Kawasaki difficult during the early months of the season, but rider and team have been scoring increasingly impressive results in recent GPs and the victory in the tortuous Dutch sand was the culmination. The track, built with soft beach-like sand on top of the famous road race track, was in perfect condition on Saturday as Clement coasted to fourth fastest time in practice and second place in the qualification race, but storms throughout the night and Sunday morning sought for extremely heavy track conditions during the first GP moto. Desalle soon took control of third place and advanced to second on lap three, but the race leader, who had taken many risks during the opening laps, was too far away. The track had dried considerably before race two but was still rugged and after a tempestuous five-way battle for the lead Clement crossed the line in second place to secure the overall GP victory. It was Clement’s first victory aboard Kawasaki and his first victory for two years; despite the early season disappointments he is now eighth in the championship standings, just five points behind seventh with two rounds of the 18 GP series remaining.
Teammate Jordi Tixier also maintained his progress after sitting out the first half of the season following an operation. The Frenchman took fifth place in qualification and fought doggedly in the lower leaderboard placing in the opening GP moto to convert a ninth placed start to eighth at the chequered flag. He had less joy at the awkward first turn in race two to emerge fifteenth after another rider hit his right foot, but he again showed character to advance to eighth before a small crash cost him two positions late in the moto.
Track conditions inevitably made a good start imperative and Tommy Searle of Monster Energy DRT Kawasaki had little luck in conditions which resembled an enduro in race one as he had to settle for thirteenth place after starting fifteenth. A great start in more favourable track conditions in race two saw him hold an early third place before he was hit by another rider and had to ride forcefully from the back of the pack to eleventh. Narrowly missing the top ten overall the Englishman is now twelfth in the championship standings.
Clement Desalle: “It feels good to be back on the top step of the podium again after two years. We’ve been working all season for this. I started the year with everything new – new bike, new tyres, new suspension – and then I got the injury at the worst possible time just before the first GP, but the whole team has been working hard and we have found a good base for me on all surfaces. I was second in each moto today, but I was the best rider overall on the day. After the rain in the night the first moto was all about staying on two wheels, and in race two I had to resist pressure from Coldenhoff right to the end of race; it was not easy with the lappers but I kept focused to the finish. I enjoyed the victory today and to win in sand made it even sweeter; for sure that is a surprise to some people but I am actually good in sand. I am back and now I want to win every race I start.”
Jordi Tixier: “I had a good feeling with the track on Saturday during the qualifying race, but today it was not the same track after the heavy showers ! I was pretty happy with my riding in the first race, and an eighth position was not so bad in these conditions. The track was better for the second moto, but in the first corner another rider hit my right foot; it was really painful, but after ten minutes I had less pain and could gain some positions to come back to eighth. It’s just a shame that I crashed later, and lost two places again. The medical examination didn’t reveal any fracture but my ankle remains painful after the race.”
Tommy Searle: “The results could have been a lot better, but I felt good all weekend. In the first race I got a bad start and just managed to finish the race thirteenth as we struggled a little bit, just like everybody else, with overheating in the heavy track conditions. I had a great start in race two and was third when someone hit me from behind and then I had to come back from last to eleventh. It was not bad but it could have been better. I now have a good feeling in the sand and quite enjoyed riding on this track on Saturday; conditions were tough for the first moto today, but they made a lot of improvements for the second race.”
Credits: Stanley Leroux / Pascal Haudiquert