MXGP Qatar: Unanswered questions
With so many unexpected scenarios in Qatar we look at some of the questions that the first round of the World Championship gave us.
What happened the AC v RV battle for the win?
Qatar showed, if anyone doubted before, that the MXGP series won’t just be between Cairoli and Villopoto. Nagl was unbeatable and Paulin and Desalle impressed as well. But it was pretty amazing that Villopoto and Cairoli never even battled at any point in the motos during the weekend, even if it both weren’t in top form and it wasn’t for the lead.
The battle will come and hopefully soon, however Qatar showed it won’t be easy for either of them to win this title. There are too many motivated competitors who have the talent to win the championship too.
Why did Cairoli not podium?
Some stomach pain and a slight fever meant Cairoli was slightly under the weather on Saturday after a superb win in the qualifying race on Friday. But Cairoli isn’t a big fan of Qatar anyway, and said before the first moto he isn’t in top form yet and just wants to get through safely.
Cairoli did just that, he took no risks on a track he doesn’t feel comfortable on and is right in the hunt for the championship. But a part of him might regret not being able to get more points on Villopoto after his sub-par performance. We should see the best of Cairoli in a few weeks.
What Happened Villopoto?
This was Ryan Villopoto’s worst 450 motocross race of his career. That is a fact. Ignoring injury or bike issues, Villopoto only finished outside the top 3 once since 2009 and that was a fifth place overall in his title winning 2013 season where he went 4-6 at Millville. That was the only time he finished off the podium in his two championship winning seasons outdoors on a 450!
At his first GP RV went 9-8 for seventh overall. No-one especially RV and Kawasaki expected that. Villopoto expressed surprise at the speed of the GP riders after the first two practice sessions and he never really found the speed all weekend to get to the front of the pack.
His first moto was a good salvage job after a stall and crash but in the second race he got away at the tail end of the fast guys and couldn’t stay with them. That was maybe the most disappointing moment of all for the American.
Bike set-up has to be an issue but KRT have the settings their riders did well at Qatar last year, did RV just ignore them? Did Villopoto come in over-confident and not expect the depth of speed the GPs have?
Mike Brown told me one time that the advice he would give to any American is not to come to the GPs overconfident. RV has admitted he hasn’t watched any of the tracks on you tube and maybe he just presumed he would be at the front on any track because that’s what happened in America.
Prior to the season starting RV insisted that ice cubes would be a bigger problem than getting used to the tracks and the format. But by Sunday morning RV was saying it will take time to get used to the format at the track. But does RVs aggressive style suit the more technical and rougher GP tracks? I’m not sure he will be able to ride as wide open as he did at Qatar and get away with it, RV might have to adjust his style as well as the bike.
This the World Championship, and what makes it unique is the being able to adapt yourself and the bike to the different tracks in different countries, that’s what makes you the best in the world if you win the championship.
Race rust was another reason for his sub-par performance but quite frankly RV should have raced the pre-season races like everyone else, that would have got the rust off and helped with the bike settings.
For me a few bad decisions were made possibly due to over-confidence and a lack of knowledge about the World Championship. Villopoto got a shock at Qatar but I think it will be a blessing in disguise for him.
His US perception of GPs is now gone, he won’t under-estimate the tracks or riders anymore, he will re-focus, find the answers and be ready to fight for the win. He’s too good not to figure it out and he will absolutely contend for this championship.
What was Tyla Rattray thinking?
For a guy who used to be a world champ and rode the GPs last year (including Qatar) to come out with this quote was staggering: “We’re not where we want to be; we did a lot of testing, with suspensions, we thought we had good settings coming here, but the GP tracks are much different than the US tracks and where we’ve been testing in Europe. In this case we return to the drawing board.”
Surely Rattray knew from experience that GP tracks are different from public tracks in California? Quite how he could make this mistake I don’t know. Rattray is there to guide RV and prevent issues like what happened at Qatar from happening. His race results were terrible and Kawasaki will be hoping for a quick turnaround after ditching Frossard so Rattray could help RV this season. Having to return to the drawing board (and Europe before Thailand) after four months of riding and testing is a bit shambolic for everyone involved.
Kawasaki have a lot of work to do to turn this around, especially for Rattray, who was expecting regular top fives, podium and even race wins coming into the season!
Can Max Nagl continue this form?
Yes I think he can, if he can stay away from injury. He doesn’t have the flash and self-confidence of Ken Roczen, nor does he embrace the limelight like Kenny but Nagl has been at the front in GPs from a young age too. He has the experience and knows what it takes.
Nagl used to be Cairoli’s main challenger before he started getting his injuries but he was on KTM and when Cairoli joined Nagl on Orange, he became his teammate and things didn’t work out well.
After two injury riddled years on HRC Honda, Nagl is back on a similar bike to the KTM that he challenged Cairoli on ( Husky) but this time he is the team leader. He absolutely loves the bike, loves the power, loves the suspension and loves the team. In fact, Nagl, says it is the best team he has ever been on.
The underrated German is happier than ever he just has to show he can take the mental pressure from being a championship contender again. But Max has the talent, he gets great starts and his riding is superb right now.
Nagl won despite breaking a rib two weeks ago and not being on the bike since, so it is logical to presume that wasn’t even max at 100% of his ability. Nagl should be a factor in this championship, this wasn’t a fluke.
Was RV the only one to struggle at Qatar?
No, it is a tricky track and it isn’t some riders’ favourite nor, as RV found out, is it easy to set the bike up for.
As already mentioned, Cairoli says he never goes well there and he didn’t like the ruts and the one-lined nature of the track with his 350. But he tweeted he is out for revenge in Thailand. AC doesn’t want anyone to get too much confidence!
Jeremy Van Horebeek, like RV was off with his lap times all day on Friday but he managed to limit the damage with a fifth overall in Qatar. Van Horebeek is hoping to show his true potential in Thailand.
MX2 Rookie Glenn Coldenhoff was riding with two broken toes and said struggled with arm pump and riding tight all weekend, again he wants to show his potential in Thailand.
Kevin Strijbos was nursing an injured wrist and that contributed to arm pump in the first moto, but Strijbos isn’t showing the form he had in pre-season before he got his injury. Strjbos will be hoping his wrist heals quickly so he can ride at 100%.
As bad as it went for Villopoto it wasn’t as bad as Tommy Searle’s weekend. The Brit was looking good all day on Friday until three laps into the qualifying race when he jammed his thumb going over a braking bump.
Searle was in a lot of pain and had to pull out of race two. Searle is a question mark for even racing in Thailand but is doing what he can to be ready, but it is a big blow for a rider who was tipped to be a contender this year.
Article: Jonathan McCready