The moment race fans all around the world have been waiting for finally took place at the weekend. The start of the 2017 MXGP World Championship that has all the ingredients needed to be the best ever! With Cairoli looking back to his very best, Gajser, Febvre and Herlings in the class for 2017 the level is going to be extremely high throughout the course of the season. We will take a look at who impressed during the first round of the series in Qatar.
Eight times world champion, Antonio Cairoli came into the season with high confidence after winning five moto’s from six in pre-season. He didn’t disappoint at the first round either, it’s been a difficult few years for the Italian due to injuries and people were wondering if he would ever get back to his old self. If you doubted him then he is making you look rather silly. He simply ran away with the first moto as he won by nearly nine seconds and it could have been more if he didn’t cruise towards the end, total domination and at a track he has never won at before!
In the second moto he had to work harder as Gajser led for fifteen laps and with four laps to go had a nice four seconds lead. However, Cairoli did what he does best and pulled the pin in the last four laps. He passed him two laps before the end to grab fifty points and the red plate heading into Indonesia. Based on Qatar it could be hard to stop Cairoli taking the championship in this form, perhaps maybe only a fully fit Jeffrey Herlings has what it takes to beat Cairoli week in, week out. It’s shaping up to be an exciting season but it’s definitely great to see Cairoli back to his very best.
Current MXGP World Champion, Tim Gajser didn’t have the best pre-season races in Italy. To make matters worse he was even sick this weekend which put a potential podium in serious doubt. However, the weekend started great for him as he led every lap of the qualification race and just held on for the win in front of Cairoli. In the first moto he sat in fourth for the entire moto and it looked like he would finish there but then on the fifteenth lap he made a move past his team mate to finish third.
The second moto was much better as he got the hole shot and led for sixteen laps but just didn’t have enough for Cairoli. Considering he was sick he should be very happy with the way he rode in the second moto as he was nineteen seconds ahead of 2015 World Champion, Romain Febvre. If he wasn’t suffering with the cold, he would have been able to put up more of a fight for the win as well. Second overall and forty-two points in the bag is a good start to the season. Gajser was very consistent in 2016 barely finishing of the podium and he will want to do the same this year to mount another championship challenge.
I have to say I was worried about Gautier Paulin heading into this season. It’s no secret that he was one of the best paid riders in the paddock when he was with HRC Honda but he just couldn’t handle the pressure and we didn’t see the same rider that he was on the Kawasaki. He didn’t look particularly great in pre-season either but he definitely raised his game in Qatar for round one.
A sixth and a fifth in the races was good enough for sixth overall. It might not sound all that great but considering the quality in the class I didn’t expect him to do as well at the first round. He should be pleased with his start to the season, there is still room for improvement though and it will be interesting to see if he can go back to his Kawasaki days were he was Cairoli’s main challenger. It looks as though the move away from HRC Honda has done him the world of good though.
The start of the 2016 season was an absolute disaster for Clement Desalle as he was nursing an injury and managed just three championship points at round one. Thankfully the Belgian comes into this season healthy and with a good winter behind him. He was able to get his season of to a good start with a second in moto one and a fourth in the second moto for third overall, he will be pleased to get on the box.
The second moto could have been better as he was applying the pressure on Febvre for pretty much the entire moto but he couldn’t make the move on a track that was hard to pass. Never the less a podium is a good way to start the season, he will look to improve his speed and try to get closer to Cairoli. Desalle could and should win at least a couple of GP overalls this year when everything clicks into place for him.
A shout out to Jeffrey Herlings who broke a bone in his hand just two weeks before Qatar. He battled through the pain and secured thirteen championship points. They could be vital come the end of the season. The eleventh place finish in the second moto was very impressive! Hopefully he is healthy again as soon as possible so we can see what he can really do on the 450.
Article: Andy McKinstry