There is a lot of excitement surrounding the eleventh round of the FIM Motocross World Championship which will take place this weekend – June 24th and 25th – at a venue that is new to the MXGP calendar, Ottobiano, Italy. Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Romain Febvre is gearing up with hopes of landing on the podium for the first time this season while his teammate, Jeremy Van Horebeek, will be watching from afar, unable to compete due to a broken index finger. The Wilvo Yamaha Official MXGP squad will be out in full force with the highly anticipated return of their ‘sand-master’ Shaun Simpson, while Arnaud Tonus looks to carry in that same momentum that landed him on pole in Russia.
‘You’re only as good as your last race’ is a phrase that is often thrown around the motocross paddock, and for Romain Febvre, that was a near win. With a 12 second lead and only two laps to go in the final race at the MXGP of Russia 10 days ago, Febvre had it all but won. Unfortunately, the Frenchman connected with a rider that was one lap down and crashed, handing the lead to the eventual Grand Prix winner Clement Desalle. He finished second in that particular race and after a crash in the extremely muddy conditions in Race 1, where he managed to salvage eleventh, he finished sixth overall.
Despite the overall result, Febvre set the fastest lap-time in the most recent race of the season by more than 2,4 seconds. That is a whopping margin. He has proven his potential and it’s something he hopes to deliver on this weekend.
Wilvo Yamaha Official MXGP’s Arnaud Tonus was also running a fever-pitch pace in Russia where he won his maiden Qualifying Race. The Swiss rider definitely favors a hard and slick surface – which is in complete contrast to the loam of Ottobiano – although he has already demonstrated his ability to run the pace in the sand this year. He set the fastest lap in Timed Training at the MXGP of Europe in Valkenswaard, The Netherlands, one of the trickiest sand tracks on the calendar, back in April.
As a proven grand prix winner, with one GP win this year – at round two in Indonesia – Shaun Simpson will make his return after a six-week hiatus. The Scotsman had the third metacarpal in his right hand plated after he broke it at the seventh round of the FIM Motocross World Championship in Latvia. He has since missed three rounds yet remains fourteenth in the championship chase.
Ottobiano is a tight and compact sand circuit located 45km South West of the Italian Capital, Milan. It has never hosted a round of the FIM Motocross World Championship before but is a popular testing venue for most of the Official Approved Teams and riders. This weekend it will make its MXGP and MX2 debut and in addition it will also be hosting the fourth and sixth rounds of the EMX125 and EMX250 championships.
7th MXGP Championship Standings, 242 points
“After Russia I started riding again in the sand, but because of the heat I am not spending so much time on the bike. I like the track in Ottobiano and I have heard they have put more sand on it, so it should be really sandy. I think it will be really hot so I think it will be important to conserve as much energy as possible to stay fit for the racing on Sunday. It should be good.”
Jeremy Van Horebeek
6th MXGP Championship Standings, 261 points
“It’s a bummer to not be racing in Ottobiano, I really like that track, I have always felt like I am really fast there. It’s going to be difficult for me not to be on the line, but I am more focused on my training now and coming back stronger than before. I will see the doctor on Friday and hopefully have the plaster taken off my hand. They will tape my two fingers together and it shouldn’t be too long after that that I can be back on the bike. I will make a decision based on the strength and pain in my hand next week whether I return in Portugal or Loket.”
10th MXGP Championship Standings, 215 points
“I felt really good in Russia, that was a track that suits me really well. I hope to do the same this weekend even though it’s in the sand. It will be really hot as well, so it’s important to stay smooth and drink a lot of water.”
14th MXGP Championship Standings, 123 points
“I know this is the most over-rated thing to say but I just want to go there and ride, and then see where I am at. The hand has been pretty good, only after I ride it gets a bit stiff the next day, so I have been riding one day on, one day off and the second day it’s back to normal. I’m feeling good on the bike, I was expecting to feel rusty, but like most motocross riders, it only takes a few days off of the bike before you start stressing out and thinking “I’ve got to get back on the bike.” As soon as I got back on it, I felt really comfortable. It sounds a bit strange, but I would say we left Latvia with quite a good feeling, mainly because we went into Latvia after doing a lot testing on the bike and it was working so good. I guess that gave me the mental boost I needed for when I got back on the bike, that I knew straight away that the bike was good and where it needs to be. I felt at home right away. I wasn’t right up to speed and hitting all of my marks right away, but for the most part, I felt really good and closer to 100% than I expected. I’m looking forward to getting back on the line and mixing it up this weekend.”