There was high drama in the MXGP qualifying race at Nequen in Argentina as nine-times world champ Tony Cairoli went out with a bike failure, while Tim Gajser threw away the win with two separate crashes within the space of a lap.
That left Romain Febvre to take an easy win from surprise podium finishers Julien Lieber and Honda privateer Jeremy Van Horebeek.
Gajser stole the holeshot from Lieber, Alessandro Lupino, Pauls Jonass, Romain Febvre, Van Horebeek and Max Nagl with Tommy Searle 15th one place in front of Max Anstie and Shaun Simpson. Cairoli was 22nd but was quickly up to 15th.
At the end of the first lap, Gajser led from Lieber, Fevbre, Lupino, Van Horebeek, Jonass, Nagl, Anstie and Arnaud Tonus, as slow-starting Clement Desalle began to move up through the top ten. Jonass, still not up to race speed following a winter knee surgery, struggled to hold back the faster men and drifted backwards to 18th as riders like Gautier Paulin and Cairoli moved up.
Nine-times world champ Cairoli got by Jonass but then had a bike failure. The bike seemed to restart but then expired and the Italian had to push the bike home.
As Gajser held the lead, Febvre moved into second place and then set his sights on the HRC man. The French ace, who now has signed up ex world champ Jacky Vimond as his trainer, watched Gajser’s lines and studied where he had to go.
But then Gajser had a simple slip off on a left hander and Febvre inherited the lead. The Slovenian was quickly back on, but Fabvre had a five second lead so it looked too late to make another challenge. But he pushed hard and then had a huge crash in the wave section, a high-speed part of the track. He got back on and circulated in ninth as there were just a couple of laps to go.
Lieber took a solid second from Van Horebeek, with Desalle fourth from Anstie who worked his way to fifth. Searle ended up 11th while Shaun Simpson, who dislocated his shoulder at the recent Hawkstone International, took 15th. Febvre said: “I felt really good all day, my speed is good and I had a good start. I battled for the first few laps and Gajser was in front but I saw where I could close a gap. He made a mistake and so I’m happy to take the win.”