GP of Latvia: Preview
They say racing in sand is a test of the ultimate professional, so if that is the case then we have a lot to look forward to over the next coming months with four of the next seven rounds of the FIM Motocross World Championship set to take place in the soft stuff of Kegums, Lommel, Mantova and Assen.
The first of that handful will take place this weekend as round twelve of the FIM Motocross World Championship in the lush loam of Kegums, Latvia. Since 2009, the fast and flowing track has been one of the most looked forward to stops on the calendar. It’s known for its fluffy sand which is an entirely different compound to that of Valkenswaard or Lommel, yet is still just as challenging with the base of the circuit said to be very hard and deceiving.
Known to the locals as Zelta Zirgs, the glorious sand of Kegums hit a milestone last year when it played host to the highest profile off-road motorcycling even in the world, the Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations. With that said, this weekend will be very exciting for the fastest 85cc and 65cc riders in Europe as the Final of the European Championship EMX85 and EMX65 is set to take place and two little champions will be crowned.
The true test of how rounded Yamaha Factory Racing Yamalube’s Romain Febvre could be proven this weekend. With the most recent rounds of MXGP being on super hard and slick surfaces, it has been said that Romain’s supermoto background is what has separated him from the rest. While supermoto is a good way to learn proper throttle control, technique and body position, it definitely takes more than that to run top five in the motocross world championship, let alone be winning races and leading the series as a rookie!
His teammate, on the other hand, Jeremy Van Horebeek is a proven sand rider although it is said he actually spent more time racing in France than in the sand of Belgium and Holland in his younger years. Regardless, Jere has proven himself in the sand before and was a solid part of Belgium’s second place efforts at the Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations here in Kegums last year along with Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MXGP’s Kevin Strijbos. Onto the subject of The Kid, he could in fact be a good bet for this weekend since he hasn’t missed the box since his return from injury.
Another hot pick for the victory will have to be Team HRC’s Gautier Paulin. GP21 has a solid game in the sand, he was untouchable at the MXGP of Europe in Valkenswaard and was an absolute beast here in Kegums last year when he led Team France to MXoN victory.
Meanwhile the Australian Husqy riders, Wilvo Nestaan Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Dean Ferris and Red Bull IceOne Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Todd Waters are starting to rock the boat as they both progress throughout the season. While another rider worth mentioning is Hitachi Construction Machinery Revo KTM’s Shaun Simpson, who, on a good day will wax everyone in the sand.
As for the champ and the most recent winner at the MXGP of Latvia, Antonio Cairoli, if his arm has miraculously improved over the past week, he will definitely be good for a win.
MXGP Championship Top Ten: 1. Romain Febvre (FRA, YAM), 419 points; 2. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 380 p.; 3. Maximilian Nagl (GER, HUS), 360 p.; 4. Gautier Paulin (FRA, HON), 351 p.; 5. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, HON), 319 p.; 6. Clement Desalle (BEL, SUZ), 291 p.; 7. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), 257 p.; 8. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, YAM), 232 p.; 9. Todd Waters (AUS, HUS), 224 p.; 10. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, SUZ), 196 p.
Honda Gariboldi’s Tim Gajser has really come into his own this season, he is now on par with Jeffrey Herlings for overall grand prix victories although still trails the Dutchman by seventy-eight points. There has, so far, been no information from the KTM camp as to what Jeffrey will be doing, but if he does line up, even one finger short, he will still be a solid bet for the win.
Two riders to keep an eye on will be the former European Championship EMX250 stars, Standing Construct Yamaha Yamalube’s Valentin Guillod and Rockstar Energy Suzuki Europe’s Jeremy Seewer. Seewer in particular will be rocking up with good memories having won the EMX250 round here back in 2013, while Guillod is in peak form at the moment and should always be considered as a threat.
The local hero Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Pauls Jonass is known thrive on softer surfaces, so he will be stoked to finally return to the sand and show the rest of the boys in MX2 what he’s got, while fellow countryman HSF Logistics Motorsport Team’s Roberts Justs grew up literally right around the corner, so should also be fast out there.
Wrapping up the possible contenders in MX2 this weekend, Monster Energy DRT Kawasaki’s Max Anstie is more than capable of pulling something out of the bag while the defending MX2 world champion, Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team’s Jordi Tixier can never be counted out regardless of the surface.
MX2 Championship Top Ten: 1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 423 points; 2. Tim Gajser (SLO, HON), 345 p.; 3. Valentin Guillod (SUI, YAM), 335 p.; 4. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, SUZ), 311 p.; 5. Pauls Jonass (LAT, KTM), 307 p.; 6. Jordi Tixier (FRA, KAW), 306 p.; 7. Max Anstie (GBR, KAW), 262 p.; 8. Julien Lieber (BEL, YAM), 259 p.; 9. Aleksandr Tonkov (RUS, HUS), 256 p.; 10. Dylan Ferrandis (FRA, KAW), 205 p.