Flying Dutchman Jeffrey Herlings lost the MXGP qualifying race with a crash and a front wheel problem at a freezing Valkenswaard in Holland. The KTM man snatched the led from holeshot man Jeremy Van Horebeek on the first lap, chased by Gautier Paulin, Tim Gajser and Shaun Simpson with red plate holder Tony Cairoli eighth, although he quickly demoted Clement Desalle for a place and chased the leaders. Van Horebeel tried to keep Herlings in sight as Gajser put the pressure on Paulin for second.
Herlings was pulling away then crashed hard after a jump, the bars digging into his stomach. He got back on but pitted for a new front wheel. He got back out and came back through from 38th to 18th at the flag in the last ten minutes, consistently the fastest man on the race by severals seconds per lap.
Herlings said that he was detecting a problem with the front end of the bike while riding, which caused him to crash. It’s not the first time a factory KTM has had front wheel problems at Valkenswaard, as it also affected Tony Cairoli several years ago.
Herlings’ spill left Van Horebeek to take an unchallenged win from Paulin who was four seconds in front of Cairoli. Simpson, lucky to stay on his bike in one near-crash, was inside the top 10 but then crashed and dropped to 13th at the flag as Tommy Searle was best Brit in ninth. Max Anstie was 14th and Graeme Irwin 24th. Searle was setting second-best lap times to Herlings towards the end of the race.
In the MX2 class, American Thomas Covington took the win from world champ Pauls Jonass and his KTM team-mate Jorge Prado. Adam Sterry took a fine eighth place as best Briton, with Ben Watson 14th. Watson, fourth in the opening GP of Argentina, got a huge sideways slide off the start gate and was right at the back into the first corner. He crashed twice during the moto.
Prado led from Covington, Davy Pootjes, Jonass and Thomas Kjer Olsen, but Dutchman Pootjes fell. He got back on and battled with Sterry, eventually getting the better of the Brit for sixth.
Covington took the lead on the final lap as Olsen slipped off and finished third.
Briton Conrad Mewse came in to the pit lane holding his arm and didn’t finish the race.