What an opening GP of the season that was! Jeffrey Herlings and Tony Cairoli set the first round of the season alight with some brilliant battles as they start the season as they mean to go on.
Both ended up on the same points despite Herlings’ blistering second moto ride but it was the mind games that proved interesting. After Herlings dominated both practice sessions, Cairoli made sure to pass the Dutchman to take the lead on the first lap of the qualifying session, Herlings then crashed, got arm pump and finished eighth.
Herlings mentality under pressure was again under the microscope. But, after a long talk with his team manager that evening, the Dutchman came out firing on Sunday, catching Cairoli in both motos, showing that whatever was said on Saturday evening worked and that Herlings appears to be mentally stronger this year – he wants this badly!
For Cairoli’s part he too rode fantastic and despite being caught, Cairoli pointed to the mistakes he made along with Jeffrey’s speed. Cairoli used to be able to put a few blistering laps together to beat the opposition then cruise, but he now knows that won’t be possible this year when Herlings is around, Argentina showed that neither can afford to give an inch to each other as they keep pushing the speed to the limits of human capacity.
Behind the disappearing duo there were a few other rides of note, Tommy Searle showed again he had the speed once he was fully fit, a top ten in moto one and last to 13th was a great sign for the former British champion who knows how big of a year this is for his career.
Shaun Simpson too was impressive, if it wasn’t for bad luck last season Shaun would have had none at all, but now back to full fitness, Simpson showed he has lost none of his speed and consistency and the popular Scot gets to head to the sand of Valkenswaard on a high.
Surprise of the day probably goes to Julien Lieber, Leading the first moto showed he has some very good raw speed and after going down in turn one in race two, the Belgian tore through the field to get 11th. A very good MXGP debut for a man who is still getting back to full race fitness and hasn’t had much time on the bike.
MX2 once again proved just how good Pauls Jonass is. Wearing the number one plate Jonass looked like he was sitting in arm chair enjoying the spectacular view in Patagonia as he caught and passed main rival Hunter race one and dominated race two, the quiet, unassuming Latvian just gets on with things and let’s his riding do the talking.
Ben Watson showed where his talent truly lies – at the sharp end of world championship competition. Watson, who team manager Bervoets said needed to be more confident after Hawkstone, was just that in Argentina and came just one agonising point away from his first podium. The Brit looked very comfortable battling with title contenders and race winners and hopefully this result shows Ben just how good he can really be. One of the nicest guys in the pits, it seemed everyone was pleased for Watson including former boss Roger Magee who went public with his praise for Ben, despite losing him to Kemea Yamaha this season, a measure of both men’s charachter.
It seems 2018 is the year of the young guns in MX2, with riders with a lot of potential really flourishing. Davy Pootjes showed his potential in the first moto after years of injuries, while Jago Geerts showed what he is capable of in his first GP on the Yamaha going top ten in his first full year in MX2 – keep an eye on this kid, he could be the next big thing.
Jorge Prado battled crashes and an injured elbow but showed his speed until that spectacular crash on Saturday through the waves. Prado is very self-confident so don’t expect a poor day results-wise to dent his speed, if anything the Spaniard could come out all guns blazing in Valkenswaard in under two weeks’ time.
A shout out also to Jed Beaton, the Aussie now has a third and fifth overall in his last two MX2 races and that came on different teams and machinery. Beaton is good, really good, and looks at home on the F&H Kawasaki team, he could become a real thorn in the side to many established contenders in 2018.
The surprise of MX2 was Henri Jacobi. Jacobi has been touted as one of Germany’s next top riders but bar the odd moto hadn’t really shown much flash. However in Argentina you finally saw the talent he has! Jacobi was superb and didn’t show any signs of nerves or intimidation battling up front, like Watson this could be a big breakthrough ride for the German.
It all sets up the season perfectly as it heads back to Europe and visits the heartland of GP racing, Valkenswaard in ten days time. Can Herlings win at home in the sand against Cairoli and can anyone get close to Jonass in MX2?