Nine-times world champ Tony Cairoli didn’t let a DNF in the qualifying race bother him as he romped to a double win in the opening MXG race of the year in Argentina as disaster stuck title hopeful Romain Febvre who crashed out and hurt his leg.
With world No1 Jefrey Herlings not riding due to his foot injury, the whole event was a three-way fight between Cairoli and former champs Tim Gajser and Febvre.
Gajser got the best of the Frenchman, with two second places. But the Frenchman was third in the opener and was holding third in moto two when he went down hard and was carried off the track.
That left a surprise third overall as Jeremy Van Horebeek, the man ditched from his factory Yamaha ride last year and who is now mounted on a private Honda. He was totally elated as his last podium had been in 2017 in Valkenswaard, almost two years ago, and he only got the deal to race GPs a couple of weeks ago.
Cairoli said: “I didn’t have such a good start as in the first moto but I knew I had the speed to catch up. I was a little bit unhappy yesterday as it’s so important to get a good start and I had to start from the inside.
I had to use all my skills to get a good start both times. I managed to make a few passes quickly. It’s important to stay focused and always on the podium – that’s the goal for this season.”
Gajser said: “I’m feeling good. Yesterday I had a big crash so I’m a bit sore. I finished second in the first moto after coming from behind, Then in moto two I was a bit tired, but then started to find some good lines.”
Van Horebeek said: “Until two weeks ago I didn’t know I was riding in the MXGPs so I’m so thankful for the team. I rode Le Touquet for the team so I have had lots of hours on the bike.”
Max Anstie had the top moto finish of any of the British riders, with then a great ride to fourth in moto two but he’d had a mechanical DNF in race one which gave him 13th overall.
With a 14th then a seventh place, Tommy Searle was the highest-placed Briton in seventh overall following a run in the top three in the final moto.
And Simpson, who only dislocated his shoulder a couple of weeks ago at Hawkstone, battled on for 11th then ninth place finishes. He was level on points with Searle but the Kawasaki man was given the higher overall place thanks to his moto two result.
In the opening moto, Kawasaki’s Julien Lieber took the holeshot from Febvre and Cairoli – who only had 28th gate pick after his bike broke in Saturday’s qualifying race – and Clement Desalle.
Cairoli was in no mood to play it cool and quickly passed Febvre then Lieber to take the lead before the end of the first lap. He was chased over the line by Lieber, Febvre, Desalle, Gajser, Gautier Paulin, Jeremy Seewer, Alesseando Lupino, Jeremy Van Horebeek and Ivo Monticelli whith Simpson 11th, Searle 17th and Anstie 20th.
As Lieber drifted back to an eventual seventh, Cairoli was hounded by Febvre with Desalle and Gajser right on their heels.
Gajser managed to pass Desalle after eight laps and set off in pursuit of the leading duo.
Febvre’s challenge to Cairoli suddenly seemed to falter, and when Gajser caught him he put up little resistance. So Cairoli took the first win of the year from Gajser, Febvre, Desalle, Paulin and Van Horebeek.
Simpson took 11th place with Searle 13th while Anstie failed to finish, out with a bike problem. It was worse for Yamaha’s Arnaud Tonus who had a huge crash, landing on his head. He pulled out but decided to race in moto two.
In the second moto Gajser led from Febvre, Searle, Van Horebeek, Simpson and Cairoli as the Italian didn’t get quite the start of the first moto.
There was carnage in turn one as Desalle wiped out and took down Paulin. Both got back on and began pushes right through the pack.
Cairoli quickly deposed of Van Horebeek and the two Brits as he joined Febvre and Gajser at the front. The KTM man followed them for only a short time then made a stunning move, overtaking Gajser then Febvre in the space of a couple of corners. Febvre was stunned, and lost his rhythm as Gajser came by and tried to keep Cairoli in his sights.
Then disaster struck as the Frenchman got it wrong in the rhythm section and went down hard, clutching his leg as he was carried off. That left Van Horebeek in third place, good enough for third overall.
The Brits were having a battle between themselves as Searle held fifth from Anstie and Simpson, as Desalle and Paulin made an attack from the rear on their charge through the field.
Searle almost went over the bars as he got a kick from a hole, and Anstie was soon past as Simpson couldn’t hold off the charging Desalle and Paulin. The pair then attacked Searle who gave it everything he had to hold onto fifth, but he couldn’t hold on and was demoted to seventh on the last lap, two places in front of Simpson.