Qatar GP: Who impressed in MX2?
The weekend finally arrived that all the riders had been working hard for over winter and it was time to see if the hard work had been paying off. We will take a look at the riders that impressed in the MX2 class over the course of the weekend.
Latvian rider, Pauls Jonass has spent the last few years out of the spotlight simply because of who his team mate was. Now that Jeffrey Herlings has moved up to the MXGP class, the Red Bull Factory KTM team will want Jonass to bring them the title in 2017, no pressure! At the first round, Jonass certainly didn’t disappoint. It was the perfect weekend for him winning the qualification moto and both the main races on race day.
Jonass made a bit of history as it was his first ever MX2 GP overall win and he now has the MX2 red plate heading into round two. To add to this, he is also the first Latvian to win a GP overall, no doubt when Jonass looks back on his career he will look back to Qatar with fond memories.
The manner in which he won was really impressive. He was under intense pressure for the entire moto’s but he was mentally strong and hardly ever made any mistakes and that is not easy to do. It was a brilliant weekend for the Latvian and with his first MX2 GP overall in the bag he will be looking plenty more as the season progresses.
I mentioned that Pauls Jonass was under intense pressure in both the moto’s and it was Benoit Paturel that just wouldn’t go away. The Kemea Yamaha rider was smart and didn’t push too hard for the first ten minutes in both the moto’s before making his move on the riders ahead of him. When Paturel decided to make his move it didn’t take him long to catch Jonass in both of the moto’s either, he was definitely quicker but he just couldn’t make the move and he will be frustrated not to win the overall GP.
However, it is good points in the bag and if before Qatar you were thinking Paturel wouldn’t challenge for the title this year then I think you need to re-evaluate his chances. One area he does need to improve though are his starts, he rarely gets hole-shots and that probably cost him the GP win this weekend but he showed impressive speed. He was one of the most improved riders in 2016 and it looks like he could get even better this year.
How on earth a top team didn’t sign Julien Lieber for this season is quite staggering. Particularly, HRC Honda or Kawasaki should have made a move for the Belgian as there is no doubting his speed. The Belgian hasn’t raced a GP in over a year as he missed the entire 2017 season through a series injury but it’s great seeing him back at the races.
Lieber looks at home on the KTM machine and to get a podium at his first GP back is an excellent result. It could have been better too if he didn’t crash in the first moto while chasing Jonass but he was able to remount and take third. He also took a third in race two but was much closer to Jonass and Paturel at the end of the race.
I’m sure it would have been nice for Lieber to get the first GP out of the way as there would have been a lot of pre-race nerves after not competing at a GP for well over a year. With the first one out the way he should be able to push on now, he could win his fair share of GP’s by the end of the season.
It looks as though EMX250 Champion, Thomas Kjer Olsen is going to be a front runner in the class during his rookie season. The tall Danish rider looked great and right at home in the MX2 class. He isn’t afraid to battle with the big hitters in the class, that’s for sure. He was on fire at the start of the second moto making moves on Paturel and Lieber, it looked like he would get Jonass at one stage. He eventually ended up fourth in both the moto’s just missing out on a podium.
Stepping up from the EMX250 to the MX2 World Championship can be quite a big jump and proves too much for some riders to handle. The high intensity at the front for thirty minutes was probably too much for him but he will only get better from this point onwards. A podium should be just around the corner and GP wins aren’t out of the question either.
A shout out to HRC Honda rider, Michele Cervellin as his consistency took him to a fifth overall with a sixth and an eighth in the moto’s. Fifth overall is the best GP of his career to date and on his HRC Honda debut too, he seems to be loving the bike. The Italian didn’t get good starts either and had to work hard to come up through the pack. It will be interesting to see what he can do with a good start.
Plenty of other riders showed good speed this weekend such as Bernardini, Prado, Lawrence, Covington, Brylyakov and of course you can’t count out Seewer even though he had a bad day. Different tracks will suit different riders so we should see plenty of different riders on the box throughout the course of a long season!
Article: Andy McKinstry