Romain Febvre of Kawasaki Racing Team MXGP made a stunning return to the FIM World MXGP Motocross Championship with fifth overall, just two point from the podium, at Teutschenthal in Germany.
The Frenchman used KX450-SR power to perfection out of the start in race one to launch immediately into third place from gate six and held the position for three laps before surrendering to a tough move from the current world-number-three. Showing no signs of race-rustiness despite more than six months off the bike he remained unruffled and, building a solid rhythm, raced clear of all other chasers until he slackened his pace slightly in the final laps as the strenuous track inevitably made its presence felt but he still maintained fourth to the finish for a remarkable return to GP racing. Initially ninth in race two after being closed down on the approach to the first turn the immaculate Frenchman moved quickly forward to seventh by the completion of the first complete lap. After two solid days of racing in mid-summer weather the track surface had become ever more unforgiving as the ruts became rock-hard and on his return to racing he sensibly avoided unnecessary risks. Nevertheless he was rewarded with fifth overall, just two points shy of the podium, to more than justify the decision to race just two-and-a-half weeks after resuming training and can now look forward optimistically to putting Kawasaki back in their rightful place at the sharp end during the second half of the season.
Romain Febvre: “I’m feeling happy at my performance but I’m really tired this evening. I knew it would be a tough track. I had some good practice but I have only had nine-or-ten hours on the bike during the last two-and-a-half weeks and after six months out that is nothing. My speed is not that bad but I knew my fitness would be tough. On Saturday I already showed good speed and even more today but the opposition have their flow after half-a-season and I have to catch up. I got a really good start in the first moto and it was great to race up there with the front-three but after fifteen-twenty minutes I missed some physical condition. When I decided to come here I never expected to be able to finish fourth but I knew the second moto would be even tougher. I had another good jump but the rear wheel spun over the gate and the two guys either side of me closed me down immediately. I think I was around seventh most of the race. I’m really happy but really tired.“
Antti Pyrhönen (KRT team manager): “Romain proved once again today that he is a truly great rider; his experience and base-level is so high that he could achieve this incredible fifth place after just two-and-a-half weeks back on the bike.“
Ben Watson maintained eleventh position for fourteen of the eighteen laps in race one before a loss of rhythm cost him two places at the end. A difficult first turn left the Englishman sixteenth on the opening lap of race two; he finished seventeenth to maintain twelfth place in the series standings.
Ben Watson: “I had a good feeling from the first session on Saturday but these are not my favourite conditions to race in; the Qualifying race was hard, slick and dusty but I came through to twelfth from nineteenth in the timed session. The track was much flatter on Sunday morning and got even harder and slippery as the day went on. I just felt physically tired at the end of the first race, as though I had a wall in front of me, and the second race was the same. It’s a bit disappointing as the last few weeks have been positive, but the key now is to focus on a good recovery, a little riding at the end of the week and then a good trip to Indonesia. We don’t know what to expect there but it will be an exciting challenge.“
F&H Kawasaki Racing Team’s Jed Beaton emerged seventeenth from the opening lap of the first moto but was able to push for the entire thirty-five minutes to gain three positions on his way to fourteenth. The Australian was quickly fourteenth in race two and also finished in that position after a race-long battle with the runner-up from race one. He is now seventeenth in the series standings despite missing three rounds through injury.