Holland’s Jeffrey Herlings wins US MXGP – Eli Tomac second
Dutchman Jeffrey Herlings took the round win at the Monster Energy MXGP of USA overnight ahead of American Champ Eli Tomac. The demanding circuit of Florida’s WW Motocross Park at Jacksonville proved testing with its rough and sandy surface.
Antonio Cairoli could have wrapped up the 2017 MXGP Championship but a fall and a few lost places cost the Italian that chance. With a 96-point lead in the championship however it is almost a fait accompli that the 31-year-old will take his ninth World Motocross Championship when MXGP visits The Netherlands next weekend.
Race 1 started with FOX Holeshot from Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Max Nagl followed by American hero, Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team’s Eli Tomac.
Tomac came into the day with a strong time in the MXGP Warm Up after a disappointing qualifying race on Saturday but managed to lead every lap of Race 1 ahead everyone including the former world champion Team HRC’s Tim Gajser for the first 5 laps.
Behind Gajser originally was Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Max Nagl, Team Suzuki World MXGP’s Arminas Jasikonis, Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team’s Clement Desalle, and Autotrader/JGR/Suzuki Team’s Justin Barcia.
Jasikonis, while running 3rd, went over the bars on a large tabletop which would end his day painfully. Meanwhile Barcia fell out of fifth early in lap 2 into 10th, which happened to be where Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jeffrey Herlings was coming back from off of the start.
By the end of lap 2 Herlings was up to 5th behind Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Antonio Cairoli. Herlings made it by Cairoli one lap later and moved into third past Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Max Nagl 2 laps after that. Cairoli followed and the battle was on between the points leader and Max Nagl.
While Cairoli found his way by Nagl, Herlings had passed Gajser and set his sight on the long gone Eli Tomac. Cairoli was keen to pass Gajser as well and did so relatively quickly. With Tomac out front Herlings had to much time to make up and decided to maintain both his gap over Cairoli and his energy. At the checkered flag Tomac won the race by 28 seconds over Herlings, Cairoli, Gajser, and Nagl.
The Race 2 FOX Holeshot went to the #222 of Cairoli ahead of Herlings, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Gautier Paulin, and Tomac. From there it was an all out sprint from the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Duo.
It was clear Cairoli wanted to take home the title as he put in the fastest lap of the Race on lap 3 of 16. Herlings nearly matched the pace of Cairoli as he pushed to keep the championship from being decided this weekend.
Tomac meanwhile had found his way past Paulin, who had a miraculous race 1 crash. Paulin wasn’t the only rider who was making a comeback from a disappointing race 1 as Suzuki World MXGP’s Kevin Strijbos tried to rebound from a bike issue. Strijbos indeed did rebound and came out with a season best race finish when of 5th.
Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Romain Febvre took a nasty spill in race 1 and in turn wisely decided to sit out race 2.
On lap 8 Cairoli made a mistake in a corner while leading which allowed Herlings to take over the top spot. Herlings never looked back and won the race by 15 seconds over Cairoli to take the overall.
Jeffrey Herlings – Overall 1st
“I felt really good today. The heat was pretty brutal but I got used to it and after Ottobiano [Grand Prix of Lombardia] where I fell down after the second moto we decided to come over here early so it wouldn’t happen again. I had a great battle first moto although me and Tony had bad starts and by the time we were second Eli had a big gap. Second was good though and left it open for the overall. I changed my line choice for the gate and had a good one. I was behind Tony and was waiting until the last couple of laps. I knew both of us would be tired but I didn’t want to pass him too quick and I was waiting for a mistake. He had a small crash and handed it over to me. I’m happy with the 2-1, some good battles with my teammate and I hope we have plenty more. Now for my home GP next weekend.”
While Cairoli took second in race 2 he took third overall and lost 8 points in the championship to Herlings.
Tony Cairoli – Championship leader (Overall 3rd)
“I’m always happy to finish on the podium and in a season like this it is important to be consistent and that’s what we have done: one of my best seasons ever. I want to get the title as soon as possible because I have been riding a bit carefully in the last races. I don’t want to crash or break something. I did my best to close it today and I made a mistake but this is part of racing and also my condition is dropping a little bit since the beginning of the season whereas as Jeffrey is the opposite way and is in a good place. I am a fighter and always want to fight back. I hope I will make it in the next GP in Assen, which is a track I really like, and hopefully clinch the title in the first moto, and then after that have some good battles. Together with Jeffrey we have showed that we have some good speed lately and we are ‘there’ most of the time.”
Eli Tomac took 3rd in race 2 twenty-nine seconds back of Herlings and when combined with his impressive race 1 win he scored 2nd overall for the day.
“Yesterday I thought I wouldn’t even be here up on the podium, luckily we were able to get things turned around and I came a little bit alive this morning in the warm-up and then race 1 got a good start, put in some good laps, had good energy, and was feeling pretty good. Race 2 though, that one caught up to me, for one these two (Herlings and Cairoli) were laying down a heater pace especially at the beginning and you know I lost touch…third is all I really had in me there. I’m pretty satisfied on the weekend for how we were going yesterday.”
Tim Gajser – Overall 4th
“The feeling overall was better today, I felt a lot more comfortable then I did yesterday but it was very humid today. In the first race, I had a good start, my riding wasn’t so bad but I made many mistakes and ended up finishing fourth overall which I was satisfied with. The second race I didn’t have a good start but I managed to come through the pack in the first lap. Then, I fell in a corner on the second lap which made me lose many places. The last few minutes of the race I saw the riders in front of me which helped me focus and then when I started picking them off, I saw some lines which helped me make some good passes to finish seventh for fourth overall. So overall today the feeling was good, the rhythm was good but I just made a costly early mistake.”
Max Anstie – Overall 5th
“I rode two solid motos and I’m satisfied with fifth overall. I didn’t have the best of starts to my weekend in the US. In the qualifying race I got hit by a stone and badly bruised my hand. Luckily it was nothing major, just some bruising. My starts were fine, just not that great and I had to make a few passes in both motos. Getting a pair of sixth place results for fifth at the GP is a good result considering how the weekend started. The work continues for me as we head back to Europe for our last two GPs.”
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