Saturday qualifying race thoughts: Argentina MXGP
Thank you InFront Moto Racing for adding points to the qualifying races! It gives Saturday a whole different vibe when the first race of the weekend is now part of the world championship points collection, the riders have to be ready, figure the track out quickly and nail their starts with only 20 minutes races to climb into or progress through the top ten.
Jeffrey Herlings is a prime exampe of this with the Dutchman not gating well, not finding his rhythm or lines he needed and coming home tenth, and that was thanks to Jeremy Seewers crash. As a consequence, race winner Jorge Prado already has a nine point lead over the championship favourite. Herlings said he was going to be patient this year but there might not be time for that, the pace just wasn’t there for a top five. Can he figure it out today?
The racing in both classes was intenses, with the top riders having to push all moto, not wanting their championship rivals to gain any points in the series. That’s what the idea behind giving points on Saturday was about and it is working perfectly – but maybe the name should now change to a sprint race?
Jorge Prado looked like he had wound the clock back to his MX2 days, what a performance for the king of technical riding. Prado was perfect all moto and maybe we are finally seeing the true potential of the Spaniard on a 450. For the first time in his career he looks to have no issues; no covid related lung issues, no injury concerns and he looks to have the set-up fianlly sorted on the Gas Gas after struggling to get comfortable last season. He is also working with Joel Smets and Joel historically has had a brilliant effect on those he guides.
I wasn’t quite sure where Prado was coming into the season with only one race under his belt, but if this is his level and he now has all the pieces of the puzzle, plus those starts, the rest have a challenge on their hands.
His teammate Mattia Guadagnini took second in a brilliant ride in his first full MXGP season on the 450 and Gas Gas came away with the perfect scenario at the opening moto of the year. Maxime Renaux ominously found his groove in the last half of the race after getting bashed around a bit in the early going and was the fastest rider on the track along with Prado.
Then there was poor Jeremy Seewer, he was getting the strong start to the season he needed, taking the pressure from Renaux, not letting him past and getting by Fernandez who was strong on the Honda. Seewer was still in that intense battle with two laps to go, essentially with his teammate, then one tiny cross-rutted nightmare moment ended his day in spectacular style. Fortunately he was okay, but again the new points system came into play, Seewer had eight points for third and lost them all with that crash – and gave Herlings a point for tenth. Instead of starting today with an eight point lead on Herlings, he is one point back. These races matter and could be a big influence on the championship this season.
Jago Geerts showed his style, experience and speed in MX2 with a controlled performance but it was the youth that really stood out. Andrea Adamo rode fantastic, even looking a little like Jett Lawrence on the bike, as he hounded Geerts all moto on his GP debut on a Red Bull KTM, Adamo was great in pre-season and showed that it wasn’t a fluke by reproducing that speed when it mattered.
The same can be said for 16 year old Lucas Coenen. In fact eighth doesn’t show how well he rode – he could easily have been in the top five after challenging Everts and leading his teammates for a large portion of the race, even passing de Wolf back. Van de Moosdijk only got the young Belgian on the last lap to put him back to eighth but for most of the race Lucas was within touch of the top five and his best lap was fifth fastest. No fear, full of speed and talent, Lucas is the real deal already.
Liam Everts was surprisingly fast given that he came in with a sore wrist from a practice crash last week, a good start, and some fast consistent laps gave Liam fourth as he held off a resurgent Benistant at the flag. Red Bull KTM will be very pleased with their two new signings and Pit Beirer must have a big smile on his face at the speed of Coenen as well. With de Wolf and van de Moosdijk also on the pace and Simon Laegenfelder riding really well for third, the Austrian brands will have slept well last night, all that work and all those changes and the all their riders still produced – but Jago Geerts is still the guy they are all, quite literally, chasing.
Words: Jonathan McCready
Images: InFront Moto Racing