The 2021 MXGP of Sardegna ran over the weekend in Riola Sardo, and it was a Red Bull KTM Factory Racing dominated event across both classes, with Jeffrey Herlings taking top honours in the MXGP class going 1-1, while Tom Vialle won the MX2 class in the same fashion.
Arriving in Sardinia following a strong run of MX2 class results recently, Jed Beaton’s chances of another overall podium finish quickly unravelled following an unfortunate crash early in moto one. A race-long charge with no front brake saw the Australian ultimately claiming 13th aboard his FC 250.
For race two, Beaton emerged from the first turn well placed inside the top-10. After making a number of passes during the opening laps, the 23-year-old would continue to maintain his strong pace, catching up to teammate Kay de Wolf and chasing him across the finish line for a well-deserved fifth-place finish.
Jed Beaton – P7
“A bit of a frustrating day today. I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time in moto one as Jago Geerts crashed and then his bike bounced up and hit me off of mine. The crash damaged my front brake, so it wasn’t ideal, but I gave it everything I had and managed to score some points. I found a pretty good flow in race two and maintained a good pace. It was easy to make mistakes and I overexerted myself a little in the first one, so a fifth place wasn’t too bad. The next two rounds are back on hardpack and tracks that I really like so I’m looking forward to those and getting back up on the podium.”
Bike It MTX Kawasaki’s Wilson Todd raced to his third consecutive top-ten finish despite a collision halfway through race two which cost him a probable top six on the day. The Australian fluctuated between sixth and seventh throughout the first moto, surrendering a place only to absolute sand experts on a couple of occasions but recovering the positions as others paid the penalty for riding over their heads in the demanding deep sand.
He held a solid fifth place through the early laps of race two but a collision with another rider resulted in him crashing over a berm; rejoining the race sixteenth he pulled back one position before the end of the race to secure tenth overall on the day.
Wilson Todd – P10
“I didn’t have the best gate-pick but I got out of the gate good and came round the first corner well so I was up near the front at the start of both motos. I stayed up there the first one, but around about lap three of the second race I came together with another rider, went over a berm and put myself on my head. It was hot and the track was rough, so I guess it was hard work for everybody today.“
MXGP Race 1
In the first MXGP race of the day, it was Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jeffrey Herlings with the Fox Holeshot as he led the way ahead of Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Ben Watson, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jorge Prado, Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jeremy Seewer and Calvin Vlaanderen of Gebben Van Venrooy Yamaha Racing.
Team HRC’s Tim Gajser was one of the unlucky riders to crash in the first turn and then pushed his way to 19th position by the end of the race to score two vital championship points.
Though back at the front of the field Herlings was looking comfortable as he pulled a gap to Watson and Prado. Seewer remained close by as Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team’s Romain Febvre charged through on Vlaanderen and started to chase down the Swiss.
Watson continued to guard his second-place position from Prado but eventually succumbed to the pressure by lap four as he dropped to third.
As Febvre looked to go around Seewer, Vlaanderen made the most of this opportunity and caught the pair out, to steal two positions and get into fourth. It was then game on for the Gebben Van Venrooy Yamaha Racing rider as he got around Watson for third pretty quickly too.
Herlings then stretched the lead to 9.487 seconds as Prado couldn’t do anything to stay close.
Watson then came under more fire as both Seewer and Febvre forced their way through and as Febvre climbed up the field, Seewer did the opposite and eventually finished the race in sixth position as Standing Construct GasGas Factory Racing’s Brian Bogers made a close pass on the Swiss on the final lap.
In the final few laps of the race, we saw Febvre catch up with Vlaanderen as the pair battle for third, though eventually it was the Frenchman who came out on top, as Herlings won the race 42.419 seconds ahead of Prado. Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Thomas Kjer Olsen and Arminas Jasikonis had a strong race to finish eighth and ninth respectively.
MXGP Race 2
In the second MXGP heat it was Prado with the Fox Holeshot that time around as he edged out ahead of Herlings, Febvre and Standing Construct GasGas Factory Racing’s Pauls Jonass.
Vlaanderen had another good start and was running seventh on the opening lap, while Gajser started much better that time around and was 12th. Watson also had another good start in sixth place.
Much of the second MXGP race saw Prado being chased by Herlings, with the Bullet trying all that he could to get around the young Spaniard. Prado was riding defensive which made it extremely hard for Herlings to get around and after countless failed attempts the Dutchman was able to make a pass stick 12.
While Prado and Herlings were busy battling at the front, Febvre was not too far behind as on several occasions the Frenchman was within striking distance of the pair.
Further down the field Gajser was fighting for every single championship point as he worked his way up the field passing the likes of SM Action Racing Team YUASA Battery’s Alberto Forato, SS24 KTM MXGP’s Shaun Simpson, Olsen and Bogers on the final lap to get up into eighth by the chequered flag.
Vlaanderen was also chasing another strong race as he got around Watson for fifth. He was also able to pass Jonass and Seewer to finish the race fourth.
In the end Herlings was the race winner with Prado second and Febvre closely behind in third. With a 1-1 result, Herlings took to the top step of the podium, with Prado there in second and Febvre third. Vlaanderen narrowly missed out on the podium after a solid 4-4 in the races.
The biggest shock of the weekend came from Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Antonio Cairoli who had an unfortunate crash in the MXGP Time Practice and did not line-up for the day’s races.
The nine-time World Champion had a scan which showed no injuries but just as a precaution the team made a decision to withdraw from the day’s races and focus for the upcoming weeks while Team HRC’s Tim Gajser entered the Sardinian Grand Prix nursing an injury, making today’s races a real challenge for the defending champion.
With Gajser only scoring 15 points in the races, this has allowed Herlings to take the championship lead by just a single point, as Gajser drops to second and Febvre remains third a further three points behind.
Jeffrey Herlings – P1
“I am Happy from one side and unfortunate from the other because it’s a sad way to take the red plate. The points have never been so close before after 10 races, as it is right now, we are super close. For today, I was first in time practice and then the first race I managed to get the holeshot, that was a surprise and then managed to control the rest of the race. The second race I started behind Jorge, I tried to overtake him, and it was tough to pass. I tried many times and eventually I managed to pass him, pull a gap and control the rest of the race. It was a picture-perfect weekend and I hope I have more of those throughout the season. For now, we keep going and be the best every weekend. We have improved on many occasions this season, like the starts, we have worked hard on this. Speaking of the MXON, with the team we have for Holland, I think we have a chance to win, and I will do my best to help my team to come out on top but Italy also has a strong team but we will see.”
Jorge Prado – P2
“It was a very good day, and I am super happy. The last round we had problems with the crash, lost many points and I knew this weekend would be important. I had extra motivation because I like the sand and I was expecting to do what I did today. It was a perfect day, two solid races, it was perfect. I was thinking I really need to get the holeshot and try to manage to keep the Bullet behind me and I think I managed quite well for a lot of time. I gave it everything I had. I tried to block him when he was trying to pass but he made a really clean pass on me and flew by. Then I just managed to stay second because already I was suffering a lot and that’s what I did. I am very happy, I made a good step in the second race in terms of my riding and I’m taking all the positive and we will see at the next round in Germany.”
Romain Febvre – P3
“It’s a good weekend for us. Turkey, I didn’t feel so comfortable. That’s the past and today I managed to get 10th in time practice, we were all very close, but I just couldn’t get a clean lap and I had to manage the start. First race, my start was not that good, I was in around 10th or something. I managed to come back to third so, I was pretty happy about my riding, and I knew in the second one I had to get the start and it was definitely better. I was in the group with the top three riders, so I thought now it’s time to fight. It was a nice race, and I was just behind watching as Jeffrey was putting a lot of pressure onto Jorge and I thought maybe if they make a mistake, I could pass them. They didn’t and I was not in the position to pass them so managed to get third again which is good for the championship.”
Jeremy Seewer – P5
“Turkey was super low for me, but for some reason, after that, things have started improving. I didn’t do anything crazy, I just tried some new things and then after that, things started to improve. Before this race, I managed to do two days of riding, which I couldn’t do before Turkey, so there is some improvement. I am still not where I want to be or as sharp as I should be, but today’s results show that I am not too far off even with this sickness. I am feeling positive we can fight this virus out of my body, and we will see how I feel next week recovering from this race as it was one of the toughest of the season with the heat and the track. I’m looking forward to another solid two weeks and hopefully will be better again in Teutschenthal.”
Ben Watson – P6
“There are positives to take away from today, but also room for improvement and areas that still need work. After Turkey, I came into today with a goal of two motos inside the top-10, and I know I can do better than that, but after last weekend, I wanted to make a realistic goal. It’s not always easy to bounce back. I had my best qualifying of the season; it still wasn’t great, P.14, but still a small step forward. Looking forward to next week now.”
Brian Bogers – P7
“I really enjoyed today, racing in the sand again. My first moto was really good, starting in eighth and working my way up to fifth, so I was really happy with that one. I was hoping for more of the same in the second moto, but I didn’t get a great start, somewhere mid-pack, but I was able to make my way up to ninth pretty quickly. Frustratingly, I got stuck behind another rider and it was a little one-lined today. I just couldn’t find a way past him and spent all my energy trying to do so. Seventh-overall today isn’t too bad, but it should have been better.”
Pauls Jonass – P8
“Not my best of days and I’m a little disappointed with my riding. After Turkey we did a lot of great work but it just didn’t seem to translate when I was out on track. My starts were good though and it was really disappointing to have a little get together in race one just after the start. I was lucky to stay up but I lost a lot of positions. Overall, it was a really tough track and I’m happy to be leaving here healthy. Up next is Teuschenthal and that’s been a good track for me in the past, so I’m going there aiming for a strong result.”
In the opening MX2 race of the day, it was Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Tom Vialle who grabbed the Fox Holeshot from his teammate Mattia Guadagnini as well as Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Thibault Benistant. Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Rene Hofer followed behind with Wilson Todd of Bike it MTX Kawasaki Racing and Maxime Renaux of Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing.
Honda 114 Motorsports’ Ruben Fernandez went down in the first corner and did not re-join the race as the first lap also caught out F&H Kawasaki Racing’s Mathys Boisrame, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Jed Beaton and Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jago Geerts who went down later in the lap. He was ninth before the crash.
Vialle then got his head down and focused on leading the race as Renaux began his charge up the field. The first rider to come under attack of the Frenchman was Hofer.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Kay De Wolf had a nice battle with Isak Gifting of DIGA PROCROSS GASGAS FACTORY RACING for seventh position, with the youngster eventually going through. De Wolf finished the race in fourth after some nice moves on Todd and Benistant.
As Renaux pushed to pass Hofer, the pair caught onto the back of Benistant who was third at the time. The pressure must have gotten too much for the MX2 rookie as he crashed out allowing Hofer and Renaux through.
By lap 10 Renaux was finally able to get Hofer who went down, as the Frenchman set his sights on Guadagnini who was second. Just two laps later the factory Yamaha got around the KTM rider to move into second and start his charge for the win.
Meanwhile Vialle had an almost five second lead which quickly started to come down as Renaux continued to push. By the final few laps Renaux was all over Vialle, with Vialle managing to keep control and take the race win. Renaux was second and Guadagnini third.
MX2 Race 2
As the gate dropped for race two, it was once again Vialle with the Fox Holeshot ahead of Guadagnini, Bastian Beogh-Damm of WZ Racing Team as well as Todd, Benistant, Renaux and Geerts.
Boisrame and Hofer had an unlucky start to the race. The pair crashed on two separate occasions, with Boisrame not finishing the race while Hofer fought back to 14th place. Simon Längenfelder of DIGA PROCROSS GASGAS FACTORY RACING was another rider to retire from the race early on.
As Vialle continued to lead, Boegh-Damm was coming under pressure from Renaux, who managed to pass the Dane by lap three and focus on going for the win.
De Wolf then had the fastest lap time of the race, a 1:52.600 as he looked to pass Benistant for fourth. Though Benistant was focused on his own thing as he got Boegh-Damm for third position.
Hitachi KTM fuelled by Milwaukee’s rider Conrad Mewse was having a good race as he fought his way inside the top 10. The Brit eventually finished the race in ninth.
Boegh-Damm then dropped a couple more positions as Geerts and De Wolf went through, while Benistant caught onto the back of Renaux. Several laps later Geerts was able to get past Benistant and focus his efforts on catching Renaux, while De Wolf was looking to do the same.
Benistant then crashed which also caught out De Wolf who could not avoid him, with the pair dropping a few positions. De Wolf got going fairly quickly behind his teammate Beaton who he passed not long after.
Guadagnini then took his day from bad to worse as he crashed for the second time and did not finish the race as he struggled to fire up his factory KTM machine.
Vialle went on to win the race, while Renaux was caught out by Geerts in the final four laps thus having to settle for third in the race as his teammate finished second.
With a 1-1 result, Vialle made it his third GP victory in a row, while Renaux occupied the second step of the podium, and De Wolf joined the pair to round out the top three of the Sardinian Grand Prix.
With Guadagnini having an unlucky day, this has allowed Renaux to edge out in the championship standings by 71 points, with Geerts remaining third and Benistant moving up to fourth.
Tom Vialle – P1
“First time for me in Sardegna, it was pretty tough but very good. I liked the track but I didn’t feel so good, so my time practice was not my best one. But I had a great start, holeshot in the first race and cleared every lap to win the first race. I was pretty confident after that. In the second race, I felt really good on the track and I could pull a gap on Maxime and Jago. It was pretty nice to win again. Two race wins, I am really happy. It is pretty exciting. First time for me representing Team France at the Motocross of Nations. Mantova is a track I really like, so it is going to be nice. It’s the first time so I don’t really know what is going to happen. We will see. We have a good team in France, so I am pretty excited to race there.”
Maxime Renaux – P2
“I got a bad start in the first race, so I had to really push until the end. I really tried to go for the win. The last five or six laps were really good, so I was really happy with the rhythm and I could catch Tom. I tried to make a pass in the later stages, but I couldn’t make it happen. Overall, I was satisfied with my first race. Second race, I had a better start. I think I was around fourth, then I got to second place really quick. I tried to catch Tom. In the beginning it was okay but then I was a little bit tired, and my legs were burning a lot. I tried to handle it to the end and that’s what I did. Jago got closer to me, then I saw Mattia next to me and thought I should also think about the championship. So, I played it safe. I finished third and it was enough. Now I extend my lead at the championship and that’s a really good thing. There is still eight races to go, which is quite a lot. But I really want to keep pushing, but also to be smart about it. I know Tom is back to fitness. But I will not take any crazy risk for it because I also have the bigger picture in mind. But yeah, it is going to be a really nice battle with him.”
Kay De Wolf – P3
“I had a really bad start in the first race. Then I managed to get back to fourth place. My race was really good in that first one. I kept pushing till the last lap. I managed to pass Thibault in the last turn, so I was really happy with the riding. I was also confident going into the second race, I had a better start but still not how I would like it to be. Then I had a few good opening laps, then made some small mistakes, then I went behind Thibault. He made a small mistake right in front of me. I couldn’t avoid him, and I crashed into his bike. I was stuck but stood up as fast as possible and still managed to get fourth in that second race. It wasn’t an easy day, but we fought till the end and it paid off. The goal in the beginning of the year was top 15 and we’ve been there every single race almost. So, I am pretty happy of how my debut season is going. But we still have to focus on the main thing which is to do our best and see where we end up.”
Jago Geerts – P4
“I’m a little bit disappointed. I crashed in the first heat on the first lap and then I was more than 20-seconds behind everyone, but my riding was really good and I got back to eighth. So, I had to be happy with that. In the second race, I took too long to get past some of the guys in front of me, so the gap was too big by the time I got to second place. I am happy with my riding; I just hope to get better starts in the next GPs.”
Isak Gifting – P5
“It was hot and rough today! But I quite like it like that as I know my fitness is good and it showed in both races. I felt great on the bike in both motos and I think in race two I could have maybe pushed for fifth, but I didn’t want to take any risks. To finish fifth-overall is a great day for me and the team. Now I’m looking forward to the Motocross of Nations next weekend in Mantova.”
Thibault Benistant – P6
“The day was not so bad in the end. My lap times were close to the guys in the front, which is good. I am really happy with my starts today; we managed to improve a lot. We worked on this, changed the engine, and it worked well. I am really happy about this. I showed good speed and good technical skill, but I felt I missed some physical condition today, so we will go back and keep working hard.”
Roan Van De Moosdijk – P8
“In the first moto I crashed at the second turn when my holeshot device stayed down, but in three laps I was almost in the top ten. The second moto I didn’t quite find my normal rhythm so I’m a little disappointed as I felt so good when we went training on Wednesday.“
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