If motocross tracks were desserts, Kegums would be a popular choice on the menu.The fluffy caramel sand track of Kegums is one of the coolest looking venues on the calendar. It hosted the FIM Motocross World Championship for the first time back in 2009, where Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Antonio Cairoli won the premier class while Rui Goncalves won in MX2, and has hosted a round ever since with the most memorable event being the 2014 Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations.
This weekend, Kegums will do the honors in hosting the sixth round of the FIM Motocross World Championship as well as the second rounds of the European Championships EMX250 and EMX300, and the opening round of the European Championship EMX125 presented by FMF Racing.
MX1 – Ben Townley back in action
Team Suzuki World MXGP will have a full line-up this weekend with Ben Townley back in action after being struck by a mystery virus. He will rejoin his teammate Kevin Strijbos who was fourth overall here in Kegums last year.
For Townley, Kegums – the 2014 Motocross of Nations site – will be an important meeting to get back into the pace and rhythm of Grand Prix after a virus sidelined him in the wake of round three at Valkenswaard in the Netherlands over Easter weekend. The 31 year old had impressed at round two in Thailand with Pole Position and second place in the second moto; still the team’s best classification so far this season.
“It has been a turbulent month and it feels like a lot of little things have happened to stop us making forward steps and showing potential, but since I came back and started to feel better, then we’ve done some good work.
“There is still no set explanation for what it was,” he continues. “It came from the Flu after Thailand, but just left me wanting to sleep all day with no energy whatsoever. I saw a cardiologist, specialists, sought herbal solutions – everything – but it just needed a passage of time to clear. It is frustrating.”
Townley has been riding and honing the works RM-Z450 in the past two weeks and had a positive showing at the ADAC MX Masters opening fixture at Drehna in Germany last Sunday. On the same weekend, Strijbos owned both motos for a perfect score in the first event of the Dutch national series at Mill in Holland. Overall there are positive signs ahead of Kegums, and after the team has been able to sculpt the current race machines further in terms of set-up.
“The team has drawn a line in the sand when it came to our technical direction,” says Townley. “I hadn’t really been able to test to my full capacity before, but lately we found some good solutions. It has all been about feeling comfortable on the bike because that is the main ‘fix’ to be able to go fast. As most people know, I haven’t been riding that much over the last couple of years and it has taken me this period to gel with the bike and work-out the best way forward. I felt I was missing drive over some obstacles and also in slightly softer ground. We worked on that and looked at the shock and I’m very happy with where we are.”
Honda Gariboldi’s Tim Gajser is surfing a massive wave of confidence at the moment. What the nineteen-year-old Slovenian has already achieved inside the premier class is nothing short of impressive as he tops the statistic charts in all categories except one. He has the most qualifying race wins, 2, he has led the most laps, a whopping 93 to Febvre’s 32, he has won the most races, 5, and in turn has won of the most grand prix overalls. The only thing the he doesn’t have is the MXGP red plate, which belongs to Romain Febvre.
Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Romain Febvre has shown a lot of character and a lot of heart since his debut in the premier class last year. In fact, right here in Latvia was one of those stand out moments when he went down at turn-one and struggled to get his bike re-fired. More than half a lap down, the gritty Frenchman didn’t stress, he just did what he does best and twisted that throttle! He managed to get back to eighth in that race which was remarkable, and in amidst the traffic he had to weave on his way there he set the fastest lap of the race by more than 1 second. Obviously, he won the second race and still managed to finish on the podium in third.
Both he and Gajser are riding on a ridiculous amount of confidence; neither of the two are racing for anything less than a win which is making for some top-notch action out on track. And judging by the current pattern, we are likely to see these two running up front again this weekend.
Although it is MXGP, the worlds premier motocross championship, and if we’ve learned anything over the years, it is that anything can happen. Ask Glenn Coldenhoff! If you don’t remember, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s young Dutchman was the winner of the MXGP of Latvia in 2015. It was a significant day for him last year where he took his first race win and landed on the top step of the box in the MXGP class for the first time in his career. This season, he’s been knocking on the door of the top five but it hasn’t quite opened. Maybe he’ll just bust it down and pull a win out of the bag just like he did last year?
While the spotlight is shining on the young guns, Gajser and Febvre, Desalle is quietly ticking away on the road to recovery. Since having his arm operated on after he broke it two weeks before the season opener, the MX Panda has been circulating at all the rounds so far in effort to bank some points, which in his mind could be crucial in the championship chase at the end of the season. He is right, there are still thirteen rounds left and he has already nailed a top five finish. There was a weekend off between the last round, in Mexico, and this round, so there’s a good chance Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team’s Clement Desalle could be the dark horse in the battle fore the top step.
For Evgeny Bobryshev, the weekend is something of a home Grand Prix. With no event in Russia, Latvia is the closest event for Bobby so his legions of fans will make the short trip for their local hero, and they are usually very enthusiastic and vocal in their support.
Kegums is located 50km southeast of Riga on the banks of the Daugava River, which flows to the southern tip of Latvia and then across the border into Belarus.
“I always like the kind of place and track that we see in Latvia, and it feels a little bit like home because there are many fans coming. They’re all crazy! Over the past years the track has changed because it’s become more hard and more difficult because the bumps are more sharp instead of waves. But still it’s nice to ride there. This year though it’s looking more wet and cold, and there could be even some snow, so I’m expecting a cold mud race. It’s been very cold in Europe in the riding we’ve done since Mexico, so we’ll see what the weather brings this weekend. That could be a big factor in the races.”
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Max Nagl has drawn the consistency card and is betting on that. He knows better than anyone that ‘to finish first, first you have to finish’ and it is pretty much the only difference between he and the young blood, whereas they are prepared to lay everything on the line, Nagl has ‘been there done that’ and it hasn’t worked out for him the past. His speed is incredible, that was proven when he took his first race win of the season in Argentina, and that was without having to ride on the edge. There have only been three race winners in the MXGP class this year and the small statured German is one of them. Let’s see if he can add to that tally this weekend.
MXGP Championship Top Ten: 1. Romain Febvre (FRA, YAM), 219 points; 2. Tim Gajser (SLO, HON), 216 p.; 3. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 171 p.; 4. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, HON), 170 p.; 5. Maximilian Nagl (GER, HUS), 165 p.; 6. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, YAM), 162 p.; 7. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, SUZ), 127 p.; 8. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), 122 p.; 9. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), 104 p.; 10. Tommy Searle (GBR, KAW), 98 p.
Well. It’s kind of a no-brainer. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jeffrey Herlings will be near impossible to beat in the sand. As always, Jeffrey’s biggest rival is himself although he seems to be far more mature and settled this year.
When Herlings was sidelined with injury, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Max Anstie killed it around Kegums last year and went 1 – 1 for the overall. Max likes the sand, it’s no secret! In fact as a youngster he used to beat Herlings in the Dutch championship. Somehow Herlings knows something no one else does about riding sand, but if anyone is determine to find out, it’s probably Anstie.
Leading the rabid pack that follows Herlings week in, week out, is Team Suzuki World MX2’s Jeremy Seewer. The Swiss star has a lot of great people around him who know how to win races. So far he is soaking the advice up like a sponge and it is paying off as he sits second in the championship, 58 down on Herlings but 26 up on Pauls Jonass in third.
Speaking of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Pauls Jonass, he’ll be the star this weekend as the hometown hero. Jonass loves the track at Kegums and he should be on the pace. What we’ve come to learn from the Latvian is that he either gets a good result or he cartwheels so spectacularly that if he was a gymnast, he’d be an Olympic medalist. With that said, if he can stay out of trouble, he should be on the box for the thousands of fans that will rock out to support him.
For any aspiring rider, standing on the podium in the world championship is what they live and breathe for. The feeling is unbeatable and it is now something Monster Energy DRT Kawasaki’s Vsevelod Brylyakov is familiar with. Now that the young Russian has had a taste, he’s bound to be hungry for more and will be out to prove that he is not a one hit wonder.
Last but not least, Monster Energy Kawsaki Racing Team’s Dylan Ferrandis has recovered from his shoulder operation he had a couple of days after Thailand in early March and will be back on the grid this weekend ready to rip.
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