This time last year, Jeffrey Herlings was not in a good place at all, battling just to get in the top fifteen. Fast forward twelve months and things are completely different. Herlings ended the 2017 season on good form and has had a great winter putting in the laps. He was dealing with an illness this weekend but that didn’t stop him from shining.
In the first moto he was fourth on the first lap but by lap four was already into second, he then tried to close down Cairoli but it was a game of cat and mouse between the pair at times. Herlings was right on the Italian’s back wheel on the final lap but a few backmarkers looked to ruin his chance, Cairoli to his credit was very impressive. In the second moto Herlings was fifth on the first lap but took a little longer to get into second, it was lap eleven this time. At one stage he was nine seconds down on Cairoli and it looked to be over. However, the last five minutes Herlings turned it on. He cut down the deficient and there was nothing Cairoli could do – he simply didn’t have an answer for the three-time MX2 World Champion.
Herlings is becoming a master of the late race attacks, something Cairoli has been doing his entire career so he won’t be used to it, what an amazing match up we have on our hands for the rest of the season! “It was a good day. I made a charge in the first moto but couldn’t make the pass; Tony was riding really well and deserved to win. In the second race I got pushed wide at the start again and had some battles going on for fifth, fourth and third. I knew there was only ten minutes left in the moto but I worked on the gap and was really glad to make it happen. I’m blessed to have won the first GP of the year and the hard work of the winter is showing.” Herlings commented on his day.
The Italian is like a fine wine Antonio Cairoli, the thirty-two-year-old came into the first round never having won at Argentina before but he came very close this weekend. The first moto he was superb and dealt with the threat of Herlings incredibly well. There’s nothing much he could have done in the second to stop the sheer speed of Herlings in the second moto, that was just remarkable.
There’s one thing Cairoli will have learnt from this weekend however and it’s that he needs to push the entire moto from now on – no more controlling races as it might not be enough to beat Herlings on that form. You can’t discount the Italian as he’s always knocking on the door and will be more motivated than ever.
It was a good weekend for Clement Desalle as he secured a podium. The team Green Kawasaki rider ended up third in both the moto’s which is the best he could have got with the KTM duo in sublime form. The Belgian is usually pretty consistent so will be hoping from a slip up from Herlings and/or Cairoli then he could have his moment to shine.
Argentina isn’t exactly a Clement Desalle type of track either, when the series hits hard pack he will be hoping to be much closer to the front and even battling for wins if everything goes to plan.
Last year Jeremy van Horebeek was on the box at Argentina but just missed out this weekend but he had good speed on his Factory Yamaha. He suffered from a very average start in the first moto as he was back in seventh, the Belgian moved forward to fifth which was a good result but the first moto start cost him a chance of the podium.
‘JVH’ had a much better start in the second moto as he was sitting third on the first lap and stayed there for seven laps but there wasn’t much he could do about Herlings getting around so he had to be happy with fourth and fourth overall in the GP. Van Horebeek was fast at Valkenswaard last year so he’ll be hoping to bag himself a podium result there.
With so many talents racing the MXGP series it can be easy to forget just how good Shaun Simpson is but he reminded us this weekend with a solid start to the season. The Scot took a decent start in eighth and ended up eleventh after a crash, a solid moto but he’d have been looking a top ten finish.
With the track that little bit rougher in the second moto, it suited Simpson down to the ground and after some late race pressure from Nagl, he was able to hold him off to come home in seventh which was much better. It was a seventh overall on the day for the Wilvo Yamaha rider and top Brit which is always a bonus, he’ll hope to carry that form into Valkenswaard at round two.
Perhaps the surprise of the weekend award goes to MXGP rookie, Julien Lieber who showed he has good speed on the 450cc. I have to admit I wasn’t sure about Lieber on the bigger bike as he’s one the riders I see as an MX2 rider. However, I’m already starting to question myself due to his first-round performance.
Lieber took a great start in the first moto as he was behind Cairoli in second for the first two laps before eventually ending up in eighth which is a great first race for the Belgian rookie. In the second moto, it was a disaster as he was down in the deck on the first corner. He had it all to do stuck in dead last but worked his way through a deep field to come home in twelfth so it shows he can come through the pack as well.
That’s Lieber’s first race in six months so he should continue to get even better as the season progresses. “I got a great start in the first moto, and was second behind Cairoli for two laps but they were all pushing hard behind me and I didn’t want to take too many risks for my first race in six months. The second start was not as good; I was in the top ten but was pushed outside and lost grip with the front wheel. The track was really rough so I’m happy with my results; I am also happy that my first race is behind me as I will be more relaxed for the next one.” Lieber said about his day.
You never know how to judge Max Nagl in pre-season as he really doesn’t like taking unnecessary risks and with him switching to the TM it was hard to predict how he’d perform at round one of the series. However, all in all it was a solid display on his first GP on his TM. Thirteenth and eighth in the moto’s meant he ended up ninth overall so he can be happy already to be in the top ten. You’d expect the German to improve as he gets more laps on the TM and gets the bike more to his liking so it’s a solid start.
Words: Andy McKinstry