KTM’s Jeffrey Herlings took his ninth overall Valkenswaard GP win, but only after he was easily beaten by world champ Tim Gajser in the opening moto. Honda man Gajser won the first moto, passing and outpacing the Dutchman with ease.
Second time out, Herlings led from the start to take the moto win as Gajser pushed him hard, but then fell with a couple of laps to go.
Herlings, who has won on every single visit to the track since 2010 apart from when he ride injured to finish second in 2017, took the overall win but finished on the same points as Gajser to maintain his championship lead.
Husqvarna’s Arminas Jasikonis took a pair of third places or third overall, his second ever visit to the MXGP podium.
Herlings, who recorded his 88th GP win, said: “I don’t know how Gasjer does it from that start position! He did great. He beat me fair and square first moto and I did it the same in the second.
“I don’t know what Tim has done in the winter but he’s increased his sand skills. The track was dodgy and difficult.”
Gajser said: “Overall I’m super happy. I managed to take two solid starts and it was nice battling with Jeffrey. In the second race I got roosted on the second lap and couldn’t see perfectly. Then I made a mistake and finished second but I’m happy.”
Jasikonis said: “In the second moto I had a really big crash but I made it. I pit stopped for goggles and thought I wouldn’t be third but my gap was so big. We want more champagne so I’m going for it.”
Despite starting on the outside of the gate thanks to his DNF in the qualifying race, Gajser had a great start and by the end of the first lap had overtaken Herlings and holeshot man Prado to take the lead.
Herlings soon passed Prado and set off to chase the world champ but just couldn’t make an impression as he took a very distant second place, 21 seconds adrift. Arminas Jasikonis took third after overtaking world MX2 champ Prado. Briton Shaun Simpson was holding a good fifth place until he went down hard and remounted at the back of the field, finishing 25th.
“I got a bit excited! I felt so comfortable and was behind Prado, sizing him up. I took my eye off the ball and highsided. I got the bars in the stomach and felt like I was going to die as I had no air for what felt like an eternity,” he said.
Race two saw Herlings lead from Gajser, Cairoli, Pauls Jonass, and Jasikonis with Simpson on their tail, as Prado went down in turn one with Jeremy Seewer and Gautier Paulin. Gajser immediately tried to pass Herlings with Jasikonis on his tail, followed by Cairoli and Simpson as Jonass went down.
Herlings soon pulled a small gap, and it seemed every time Gajser edged a little closer, the Dutchman retaliated and took the advantage back. As the leaders soon encountered lapped traffic mid race, Gajser closed right in on the back of Herlings but then made a small mistake and Herlings edged away again.
With two laps to go, Gajser went down hard, ending his challenge. He got back on board to take second place for second overall. Herlings lapped up to sixth placed Jeremy Van Horebeek.
With Jaikonis yet again taking a lonely third for third overall derspite a spill and a pit stop for goggles, Cairoli, riding with a knee injury, couldn’t hold the Scotsman Simpson off who took a solid fourth place – his best race finish since 2017. But his first race disaster meant he was only tenth overall.
Herlings now leads Gajser by nine points in the series from Cairoli and Clement Desalle.