Jeffrey Herlings once again came out on top of a man-on-man clash with world champ Tony Cairoli to become the first Dutchman to win the premier GP class in the 44 years history of the Valkenswaard GP. Herlings, who had won seven MX2 GPs at the track and had his first MXGP podium there a year ago, chased down holeshot man Cairoli in both motos to take a double win with the Italian second both times. Their pace was so fast, they pulled away from third place by more than a minute and they lapped up to tenth place
The win means Herlings, who tied with a win and a second with Cairoli at the opening round in Argentina, now is the clear leader of the MXGP series with a six-point lead over his team-mate. Third overall was Gautier Paulin, who won the event last year from Herlings.
Herlings said: “I had some tough wins and this was a tough one too! I’ve been here nine times, won eight and been second once. Valkenswaard has been good to me so far!”
Cairoli said: “We knew Jeffrey will be fast on this track as it’s his home track. I haven’t ridden on a track like this for a long time and I knew I’d struggle. I could keep the pace in the second moto but I crashed and lost five seconds. He caught and passed me and was going for it. It’s easy to make a mistake and I crashed hard.”
Paulin said: “It was a surprise to be on the podium. In the first moto I wasn’t happy and had a small crash. The second moto the guys were so far in front. I’m not happy about my riding yet but I’ll keep pushing.”
In the first race Cairoli snatched the holeshot from Glenn Coldenhoff, Romain Febvre and Jeremy Van Horebeek. Herlings, from a middle gate start thanks to his 18th spot in the troubled qualifying race, was fifth after sneaking by a wild Tim Gajser, who soon threw his goggles away. Van Horebeek soon moved and demoted Coldenhoff to third but all eyes were on Herlings as he started to move up. First he took Febvre then tailed Coldenhoff and the crowd went wild as the two Dutch KTM team-mates battled. Herlings was soon by as Cairoli set the fastest lap of the race and tried to pull away at the front.
Herlings soon caught Van Horebeek who put up no fight to the flying Dutchman. With 16 minutes plus two laps to go, Herlings set off in pursuit of the world champ who had a six second lead. It took around three laps for Herlings, using some unique lines around the tricky track, to close right in on the champ. But Cairoli handed Herlings the lead as he lost the front and fell at the bottom of one of the hills, and Herlings was through. Cairoli remounted five seconds back, but still five seconds clear of Van Horebeek in third.
Cairoli was obviously angry at the slip and upped the pace, riding faster than anyone on the track, and began to reel the Dutchman in. Herlings got the message and upped his speed, matching the pace of the chasing Cairoli. The nine-times world champ then went even faster, shaving a second off the time. But with backmarkers getting in the way, Cairoli opted to ride more conservatively and back it off, saving himself for the second moto. Herlings took the win by 17 seconds from Cairoli and a distant Van Horebeek.
Herlings said: “I had a far outside gate but I still pulled off a good start. I pressurised Tony and he made a small mistake.”
Anstie was a man on the move, coming from a top ten start to catch and pass Gajser, his team-mate Gautier Paulin and then Febvre, closing right in on the back wheel of fourth place Coldenhoff. Paulin then demoted fellow Frenchman Febvre who looked increasingly uncomfortable. Anstie took until four laps to go to pass Coldenholff and move into a solid fourth place, six seconds behind Van Horebeek.
Shaun Simpson was a solid 11th until he disappeared with three laps to go. Graeme Irwin was 19th to take the final world championship point. But it was disaster for Tommy Searle who was wiped out in a first turn crash, breaking his collarbone which will require surgery.
Cairoli again holeshot the second race – his fourth holeshot of the season. He led from Gajser, Van Horebeek, Coldenhoff and Paulin with Simpson sixth and Herlings seventh, but Gajser soon fell back and crashed twice. Anstie was unlucky to be back in 13th. Cairoli took his chance to get away and led by seven seconds at the end of the first full lap from Coldenhoff and Paulin as Herlings fought past Simpson and took fourth. But Van Horebeek crashed hard while Anstie moved into the top 1o.
On the second lap Herlings nipped past Paulin and closed in on Coldenhoff, not wanting to let Cairoli extend his lead which was already up to 13 seconds. Anstie was on a charge, picking off riders in front of him like Jeremy Seewer, Clement Desalle and Febvre as he pulled into sixth behind fellow Brit Simpson.
Herlings was on a mission, taking up to two seconds a lap out of Cairoli’s lead. It was a masterclass in aggressive riding as he pushed harder than anyone, and began to reel in the champ. But TC222 would then hit back, and extend his lead back out slightly. Then Herlings would hit back again, and even took five seconds out of Cairoli’s lead on a single lap as Cairoli slipped off but quickly got back on. The pair pulled away more than half a minute on third place, their KTM team-mate Coldenhoff who was chased hard by Paulin, Simpson, Anstie and Febvre.
With four laps to go, Cairoli’s lead was just over a second as backmarker traffic got in the way, forcing the leading duo to try new lines. Riding at such an incredibly quick pace on a very rough track, both men began to make small mistakes as neither would back off – even lapping ex-world champ Gajser.
Herlings finally made his move with three laps to go, sneaking by in full view of the pit garages as both sides of the KTM garage exploded in excitement as they duo were 52 seconds clear of the chasing men. Cairoli pushed hard to get back on terms, but almost came off on a rutted left hander before a jump which gave the Dutchman two seconds of breathing room then was slowed by backmarkers. It was all Herlings needed to stay in front and take the historic win.
Herlings said: “It was a tough one. My start positoon wasn’t easy and Tony holehsot and got a big gap. But I managed to close in on him. It was high speed- we were going fast! To take my eighth win here at Valkenswaard is amazing!”
Anstie had a shocking last lap as his Husky ground to a halt and he struggled to start it. He dropped to ninth for sixth overall. Simpson was best Brit in sixth place in race two, but his race one no-score meant he finished 15th overall. Irwin battled with former winner Ken De Dycker and ended up 21st, a single place outside the points.
Photos by Dick Law/ MotoHead