Eight-times world champion Tony Cairoli showed his amazing pre-season form was no fluke as he stormed to a stunning double win in the opening MXGP at Qatar, giving KTM its first overall win there after five years of trying.
Cairoli, who said afterwards he’d been struggling with flu this week, took the holeshot in the opener and simply cleared off to a huge unchallenged win from Kawasaki’s Clement Desalle and world champ Tim Gajser who sneaked past his Honda team-mate Evgeny Bobryshev right at the end of the race.
Second time out, Gajser took the lead on the opening lap and Cairoli soon moved into second place behind him as they left the pack in their wake.
The pair stayed close together until mid race when Cairoli dropped back by around four seconds.
“We touched and I hit his bike with my front wheel,” said Cairoli. He feared there may have been some broken spokes in the front wheel so decided not to attack too much.
With three laps left, Cairoli figured his bike was fine so increased his speed and caught up to the tiring Gajser who also had been struggling with flu all week. Caroli reeled him in and sped past to take the win by five seconds and the red plate for the first time since 2015.
Gajser took second overall, and Desalle third overall after finishing fourth in the second moto behind former world champ Romain Febvre.
It was a tough start to the season for MX2 world champ Jeffrey Herlings who was racing with a hand injury which he had surgery on a couple of weeks ago. He tried to ride through the pain but was clearly not capable of his usual speed and took 18th and 11th place finishes to score as many points as possible.
Best of the Brits was Husky’s Max Anstie who took 10th overall after 13th and 10th place finishes. Anstie had a good start in the opener but ran off of the track and was forced to ride through the pack.
Yamaha’s Shaun Simpson had a disappointing day as he took 17th then finishes while Jake Nicholls had a pair of 20th places. Photo Ray Archer/ KTM Images