After a successful Russian Grand Prix that saw three YZ450F riders finish inside the top five with two on the podium for the second Grand Prix in a row, the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP and Monster Energy Wilvo Yamaha MXGP teams are determined to continue their upward trend in Latvia, at the ninth round of the FIM Motocross World Championship, this weekend.
Situated approximately 50 kilometers South-East of the Latvian capital, Riga, the Zelta-Zirgs circuit is relatively young. It hosted its first Grand Prix in 2009 where Antonio Cairoli took his YZ450F to victory in the premier class. The venue has since gone on to host a further eight Grands Prix and a Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations, which was dominated by Gautier Paulin as he led Team France to victory.
After an enormous crash at the Russian Grand Prix only days ago, Paulin looks forward to lining up healthier in Latvia this weekend. Before the accident, the Frenchman was firing on all cylinders. He had the fastest lap-time on Saturday and was looking good out on his Monster Energy Wilvo Yamaha MXGP YZ450F on Sunday. Fortunately, he was not hurt and was able to score enough points to retain third position in the MXGP Championship Standings. ’21’ looks forward to lining up in Kegums – a track he has experienced a lot of success at in the past, including a third overall last year, and two second step appearances – one in 2015 in the MXGP class and one in 2010 in MX2.
Only days after uncorking a bottle of champagne on the MXGP podium for the first time in his career, Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP’s Jeremy Seewer is not resting on his laurels. It was back to work during the week for the young YZ450FM rider who is determined to keep chipping away at the top-three in the Championship Classification. He is now fourth in the standings, only 11-points shy of Paulin.
Also inching towards the top-three, Monster Energy Wilvo Yamaha MXGP’s Arnaud Tonus is in peak form. The 27-year-old Swiss rider has finished on the podium at the last three Grands Prix and is loving every lap he completes on his YZ450F. The number ‘4’ looks forward to lining up in Kegums where he hopes to extend his podium streak.
Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP’s Romain Febvre has made an incredible return to racing. Despite suffering from illness at the last two rounds, he has proven he has the speed to compete for race wins. Four days ago, the French ace took his second Qualifying Race victory this season. There have only been four Qualifying Races which means he has an impressive 50% success rate. After missing four rounds of the championship while recovering from a broken Talus, and with ten rounds remaining the ‘461’ hopes to boost his 2019 campaign with more podium finishes and some race wins. He is currently 13th.
As the most exciting rider in MX2, and a rider that has celebrated the Latvian Grand Prix from the podium, Monster Energy Kemea Yamaha MX2’s Jago Geerts is on the hunt for a career-first Grand Prix win. It was at the circuit of Kegums only a year ago that Geerts mounted the MX2 podium for the first time in his career. He also dominated the opening round of the 2016 EMX125 Championship in the Latvian sand with a double moto victory, and then went on to prove how hot his pace is with a race win inside the EMX250 class the following year. With the venue being the scene of some of his most memorable achievements, and as the only rider that has defeated the Championship Leader in a race this season, Geerts, who is currently third in the MX2 Championship Standings, is on the cusp of a maiden Grand Prix win.
The layout of the Latvian circuit is wide and flowing. It has a firm base with a sandy topsoil and typically develops many hidden square-edged bumps. As one of the most technically skilled riders on the line, Monster Energy Kemea Yamaha MX2’s Ben Watson hopes to revive his season and improve his seventh position in the championship standings.
Kegums will also host the fifth round of the EMX250 Championship where MJC Yamaha’s Thibault Benistant aims for more podium success, while SDM Corse Yamaha EMX250’s Rick Elzinga, Caleb Grothues and Gianluca Facchetti hope to finish inside the top-10.
3rd MXGP Championship Standings, 231-points
“I’m looking forward to going to Latvia and getting back in the sand. The track is a lot of fun to ride, I enjoy it, so I look forward to riding there and feeling good on the bike again.”
4th MXGP Championship Standings, 220-points
“I look forward to going to Latvia. I have had a lot of success there in the past and I really enjoy racing there. The track is very sand, but also hard pack and technical. There are a lot of places on the track where you can gain an advantage on the other riders. I used to love it. I am happy to go racing there, even though I made the podium on a high-speed track like Russia, I still prefer the slower more technical tracks like Kegums.”
7th MXGP Championship, 206-points
“I’m just looking forward to any racing that is coming my way at the moment. I am just happy to be riding and I have this unreal feeling on the bike at the moment, so it is great. Latvia, I like the track. I have had some good races there; the track is really nice to ride. I am going there to give everything I have, and just enjoy the racing.”
13th MXGP Championship Standings, 117-points
“I feel much better this week than the last couple of weeks. I am back to normal, which is really good. I will return to my normal training program this week heading into Latvia. I like the track there, I think many riders like it because it is a nice track with many jumps, a little bit sandy, but not completely sandy. They usually prepare the track really well there, if they do the same again this year, we should have some good racing. I don’t have any pressure; I know what I am capable of and my speed is there. This weekend, my main focus will be the start because I can’t afford to miss it.”
Words and pic: Yamaha