The first round of the 2020 FIM Motocross World Championship (MXGP) season has concluded at Matterley Basin, with Jeffrey Herlings and Jago Geerts taking the overall victories in the MXGP and MX2 classes respectively, as sunny weather on Sunday set the stage for a fantastic day.
Aussie Mitch Evans kicked off the season on form, claiming third in Race 1, while a more challenging Race 2 still saw him in the top ten, with seventh. This leaves Evans in fifth overall heading to Round 2.
In MX2 top Australian was Jed Beaton in fourth overall, with second in Race 1, and sixth in Race 2. Fellow Aussies Nathan Crawford and Wilson Todd took 14th and 17th overall respectively, at the season opener.
Going into the weekend, the overall winner for the MXGP class was hard to predict. With a full line-up of extremely strong riders, who have been training hard this winter, the list of favourites was never ending.
Following Saturday’s practice session, Tim Gajser was among the top favourites as he clocked in the fastest lap-time during the session. Second was Arminas Jasikonis, followed by Antonio Cairoli.
In the opening race of the weekend, it was Jeremy Seewer who claimed the first FOX Holeshot of the season, closely followed by Herlings and Gajser. Team HRC’s newest recruit and MXGP rookie, Mitch Evans, also got off to a flying start in fifth. But on the downhill corner after pitlane Gajser found himself in trouble as he banged bars with Jeremy Van Horebeek, which left him having to fight back from 13th position.
On the opening lap, Evans was moving quick as he made a move on Jeremy Seewer. The 2013 MXGP of Great Britain winner, Clement Desalle also got a good start in fourth, before getting cross-rutted in the second lap and falling to seventh.
As Herlings continued to lead, Seewer found his way back past Evans, knocking the factory Honda rider down to P3. Meanwhile the battle for fourth, fifth and sixth was on between Cairoli, Desalle and Glenn Coldenhoff. Desalle did muscle his way past the GasGas Factory rider, while Cairoli was able to maintain his fourth place position.
Towards the end of the race, Gajser found himself battling the 2019 MX2 World Champion Jorge Prado, with the Honda rider able to pass the MXGP rookie. He then set his sights for higher positions, but a crash on the last corner before the finish line of the last lap left him having to settle for P8 in the race, allowing Gautier Paulin to move up a position to P7.
In the end it was Herlings who took the race win with a 11.879-second lead over Seewer in second. Having a fantastic ride and making an impressive debut to his MXGP rookie campaign was Mitch Evans who placed third in the race.
In race two, it was Henry Jacobi who took the FOX Holeshot, but Gajser moved swiftly into the lead, with Cairoli following him to also pass Jacobi. Meanwhile Herlings was behind in fourth and Paulin in fifth. Bad luck for Evans, who came around the first turn virtually last, left him with a lot of work to do in the second MXGP race.
By lap 4, Herlings was already charging, making a pass on Cairoli for second position. Gautier Paulin was sitting in third, where he remained throughout the race, also keeping Desalle at bay in fourth. From then onward the top five remained the same until the race concluded, while the battles heated up behind.
Mitch Evans found himself moving quickly through the ranks, and by lap 5 was already in sixth position as he passed both Seewer and Jacobi. Seewer then came under threat by Coldenhoff, with the Dutch rider able to make the pass stick on lap 11.
With two laps to go, Desalle and Coldenhoff found themselves in an intense battle, with the two riders getting close to each other on several occasions, but the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider stayed strong to finish fifth. Desalle team-mate Romain Febvre did not line up at Sunday’s races as for an injury to his knee during the past week, he’ll be back racing in Valkenswaard next week.
Gajser claimed the race win and with it a second overall, while Herlings made a strong come-back as the overall Grand Prix winner. Cairoli finished third both in the race and the podium. Mitch Evans finished seventh in Race 2 and took home 34 championship points in fifth overall.
Jeffrey Herlings – P1
“The first race out of twenty and I was consistent: two good starts, led the whole first moto, got into third pretty quick behind Tony and took second. The track was sketchy and the sun was really low. It is still that time of the year where it gets dark quite early, so it was hard with the shadows. I didn’t want to take any risks and I was happy with second. It was a good weekend and I think we improved the bike over the winter because this was the first real test, let’s say. I am looking forward to Valkenswaard now and my home GP.”
Tim Gajser – P2
“I’m happy with how this first round of the season went. Just I had a couple of crashes in the first moto, with one right at the beginning of the race which meant I started from dead last. I worked my way through the field to finish eighth, after the second crash right at the end dropping me one spot. In the second race I was hoping to get a good start and show my riding a bit better and that’s what happened. With the low sun and the ruts, the track was really quite tricky but I felt good and the moto felt comfortable. Second overall isn’t too bad after my first moto so now we move onto Valkenswaard for a new challenge.”
“It is nice to be back on the podium after so many months without racing. My shoulder has improved a lot in recent weeks but last week in Belgium I twisted my right knee and heard a crack. I thought ‘the season is finished already’. I went to the doctor and he confirmed a second-degree PCL tear. I taped the knee very hard yesterday and today and all the ruts out there were not helping. I just need to work as much as possible on the muscle to make it as stable as possible. So to be on the podium at this track and these conditions is amazing and I’m motivated again to work really hard and try to build it up. We will see what we can do next.”
Jeremy Seewer – P4
“It was a strange weekend because of the time schedule, so we lined up with no time on the track, but it was the same for everyone. I started off with an epic holeshot, like a whole bike length ahead of everyone, so that was super cool. I finished second, so that was a really positive start to the season, and it proved we did a good job in the winter because the track was really technical and tricky. In the second race, I had contact with another rider and he damaged my brake. So, I had to ride without my brake for the whole race which made it super tough. I think I still took good points, so I am happy with this and my speed is good. It is just a shame I couldn’t stand on the podium today, but we will keep working and be back next weekend.”
Mitch Evans – P5
“It was a good weekend, excluding the start of that second moto. Everything else went really well. In the first moto I had a good start, avoiding some of the early race carnage and made my way into second for a little bit. Unfortunately, I struggled with my breathing a bit because of my chest infection and finished third. I felt a lot better in the second moto although I had to push throughout the race because of the bad start. I used a lot of energy to get around guys as fast as I could and I hit a bit of a wall with eight minutes to go. Overall it was a good weekend though, I’m happy with my MXGP debut and now I get ready for Valkenswaard next weekend.”
Gautier Paulin – P6
“I’m in the game. I felt good all weekend long, it was just a strange weekend. Riding a new bike on such a tough track, with not a lot of time on the track, and then with the weather being off and on, rain and then sunshine and then rain. I got sideways out of the gate and then it was tough to come back through the pack. I crashed but got back to seventh. In the second race I got to fourth pretty quickly, but I really struggled with the sun. I didn’t want to pull my laminates off because I didn’t know if it was going to rain or not. I am really happy with the team; they are all working really hard. The feeling is good, and the season is long.”
Clément Desalle – P7
“It was my first GP since June last year; that’s a long time but I immediately had a good feeling. The schedule was much lighter yesterday because of the weather; we had only one session to learn the track and work on the settings. I got a good start in the first race and was fourth, close to the third guy, when I made a mistake coming into a corner as a rut was soft; I crashed but I came back, made another little mistake but still finished fifth. I used a lot of energy in this race, and in the second one I was fifth after the first corners and kept this position to the finish; it’s been a pretty good weekend and my speed was good but we’ll continue to work to do even better.”
Glenn Coldenhoff – P8
“It was a solid weekend for me, two sixth-place finishes is a very good start to the championship. Qualifying yesterday wasn’t great, which didn’t give me the greatest gate pick for today’s races. But it was what is was and this morning in warm-up I felt great and posted the third fastest time. That gave me some confidence heading into the races. My first moto start wasn’t great, but I pulled through from around 10th to sixth, so it was good to get the championship started with a positive result. The second moto was very similar to the first. I felt good, felt like my speed was there and had some good battles. I know that if my starts are better I can fight with the guys that were ahead of me this weekend. I’m looking forward to the next GP, it’s one of my favourites and I hope to get some solid results there too.”
In the opening MX2 race it was Tom Vialle starting the race with the FOX Holeshot, and straight away pulling a gap on his competitors, riding comfortably in first for the majority of the race.
Mathys Boisrame also got off to a great start as he followed Vialle until lap 5, when Rene Hofer made a successful pass for second position and Conrad Mewse pushed for third.
The race action was impressive, as three riders battled for second, with Jago Geerts moving up from fourth to second on lap 6, when he passed Mewse and Mikkel Haarup.
That very same lap saw big changes to the top five, with Boisrame fading allowing Geerts, Mewse, Haarup and Jed Beaton of Rockstar Energy Husqvarna to move up a position. In the next two laps, Beaton made some swift moves on Mewse and Haarup.
On lap 8 Vialle made a mistake and crashed out of the lead. This handed Geerts his first race win of the season, with Beaton finishing second and Haarup making a fantastic debut to his MX2 season with a third. In the end Vialle crossed the line in sixth position.
In race two, it was another FOX Holeshot from Red Bull KTM Factory but this time by Rene Hofer. Geerts was right there in P2 and Vialle in fourth place. Maxime Renaux also got off to a great start in sixth position, followed by Beaton and Boisrame.
The championship favourite, Thomas Kjer Olsen, got off to a much better start in the second race, as he crossed the line fifth on the opening lap.
By the second lap, Hofer continued to lead from his team-mate Vialle, while Olsen moved into third followed by Renaux and Beaton. Meanwhile race 1 winner, Jago Geerts crashed out of second and was back down in eighth place, putting his chances of an overall at risk.
The top five remained the same until lap 8 when Haarup, Geerts and Boisrame moved up to fourth, fifth and sixth.
Hofer led the majority of the second race, keeping his team-mate at bay, before Vialle was able to pass the young Austrian, with 3 laps to go. At the same time, Haarup made a move on fellow Dane, Thomas Kjer Olsen for third.
With 2 laps remaining, Geerts was also able to pass Olsen for fourth, which handed him the overall victory at Matterley Basin, the first of his career.
Jed Beaton was sixth in Race two, 17-seconds off the leaders pace, taking fourth overall and 37 championship points in a strong start to the 2020 season.
Jago Geerts – P1
“It feels really good. It was a nice weekend. It was a little bit difficult in the second race. I crashed and hurt my shoulder a little bit but still managed to come back and get my first GP win. I’m really happy with that, and I get the red plate for the first time which is nice especially with Valkenswaard next weekend, a track that is not far from my home, I think it will be really special with a lot of fans out there. It will be nice, and I can’t wait.”
Tom Vialle – P2
“I was feeling really comfortable with the bike in the first race but I made a mistake on a big jump and came too short. It was difficult to restart and I then finished sixth. The second race was better! It was tricky to pass Rene and also it started to rain a bit and I had a problem with the goggles. So I waited and then pushed hard. I won my first race and finished 2nd in the first GP of the year so I’m really happy with that.”
Mikkel Haarup – P3
“I’m just happy. I did not come here to contend for the race but at the end I managed to finish with a third overall which is amazing. I had two decent races, good riding I wish to thank F&H Kawasaki and everybody who supports me.”
Jed Beaton – P4
“It was a good weekend for me. Fourth overall is a great result for the first Grand Prix, although I’m a little disappointed to miss the podium because of a small crash in the second race. In the first moto I had a good start, found some nice lines and came from eighth to second, which was great. I felt good and, yeah, it was good to get that result in the books. Second moto, it took a while to settle into a rhythm and then I just washed the front wheel out in a corner, losing a few places and I finished the race in sixth. For the upcoming rounds I just need to be a little more patient. Overall, it’s been a great day and there are plenty of positives to take into round two next weekend.”
Rene Hofer – P5
“Just amazing. My goal was to take two good starts and to try and ride like I do in practice. In the first moto I was 5th at the start and made my way up to 3rd and had nearly half the race there but could not make the pass on [Mathys] Boisrame and dropped back with some arm-pump. I was 6th on the last lap – and was OK with that – but made a small mistake, tipped over and lost two positions. In the second race I made the holeshot and passed Jago on the second lap. I really enjoyed the track. It is one of my favourites of the year. I almost led until the end. Anyway, it is the first GP of the year it feels incredible. I’m really happy.”
Thomas Kjer Olsen – P7
“I’m happy with my weekend after only two days on the bike this week after my injury in January. I was a little disappointed with the first moto, my start wasn’t great, and I was buried in the pack. It’s a competitive class so it’s hard to pull through when you get a bad start. Fifth place in the second race was good and I’ll happily take that after being off of the bike for so long. Seventh overall is a good result and a good start to the season. I came here looking to make as many points as possible, and that’s what I did and I’m already looking forward to next weekend and knowing that my speed and fitness are both really good.”
Aussie Nathan Crawford took 14th overall at the opening round of the MXGP, claiming 18th in Race 1, followed by tenth in Race 2, for 14 championship points.
Nathan Crawford – P14
“Qualifying was a really challenge – especially for me coming from Australia. I’ve never race in condition that cold, windy and rainy. It was definitely something that I hadn’t been through before, so it was quite a shock. We tried to prepare for it and did our best in the tough conditions. In race one I got a mid-pack start, but made some good passes on lap one. I was hovering around 10th position and then had a big crash and after that I was just surviving and trying to get through the race. In race two it was an OK start, but not great – so I set about battling my way through and ended the race in 10th place. The second trace was definitely better for me and that gives me something to build on.”
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