MXGP’s first race day at the MXGP of Asia in Semarang is complete. The massive hand crafted track hosted the biggest names in the FIM Motocross World Championship today but Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jeffrey Herlings and Pauls Jonass took the MXGP and MX2 qualifying wins respectively.
The friendly MXGP of Asia host city of Semarang welcomed the riders and paddock throughout the week and came out to watch the riders early this morning. Unique soil on the track tested the riders today. The 1,750 meter long circuit was full of pristine jumps rising and dropping along with the natural elevation change which produced lap times of just under 2 minutes.
MXGP’s Qualifying race was led off of the start by Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jeffrey Herlings after he lined up third from the inside gate. Lining up to his inside on the long left hand start was the only two riders faster in Time Practice, Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP’s Romain Febvre and Team HRC’s Tim Gajser.
Gajser came out of the start in 2nd behind Herlings but just ahead of Wilvo Yamaha Official MXGP’s Jeremy Seewer. Febvre was 4th with fellow Frenchman, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Gautier Paulin in 5th. Herlings championship rival and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Teammate Antonio Cairoliwas 6th.
While Herlings led he came under pressure from Gajser who charged early in the race to battle for the win. Gajser showed Herlings a wheel on many occasions but Herlings responded every time. As Gajser tried to match the pace of Herlings for the lead Febvre was urgently looking to pass Seewer for third. The pressure from Febvre increased as Herlings and Gajser pulled a slight gap on the pair of Yamaha’s but to no success. Seewer responded to the charge of Febvre by catching Gajser.
Cairoli meanwhile had fought his way back into 6th after briefly being passed by Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team’s Clement Desalle. The lead four had separated themselves from the rest of the field early and Cairoli was left fighting for 5th with Paulin. On lap 10 of 12 Paulin’s fight for the spot was lost when he fell on the entry to a corner. The mistake from the #21 allowed both Cairoli and Desalle to move forward a position. At the finish Herlings topped Gajser by over 4 seconds with Seewer 3rd, Febvre 4th, and Cairoli 5th.
BOS GP’s Evgeny Bobryshev and Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team’s Julien Lieber both crashed separately during the race but Bobryshev was unable to rejoin the race while Lieber got back up in 13th. Leiber eventually finished 21st however after being penalized along with Bike It DRT Kawasaki’s Tommy Searle in 22nd and Standing Construct KTM’s Kevin Strijbos in 23rd. Also notable was the absence of the 2017 MXGP of Indonesia winner, Wilvo Yamaha Official MXGP’s Shaun Simpson.
Jeffrey Herlings: “I am feeling better every day I am riding. It was a good day, qualifying first I think the inside gate will be best even though today I started from gate three. We will see how it goes tomorrow, I think the start will be really important but I think the track is absolutely awesome.”
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Glenn Coldenhoff took 11th and later said: “Today I didn’t have a good start, I didn’t do well in Time Practice so I was very far outside on the gate. Overall though my feeling is good here, it is a beautiful track.”
MXGP Qualifying Race Top Ten: 1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 24:08.172; 2. Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda), +0:04.011; 3. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, Yamaha), +0:04.592; 4. Romain Febvre (FRA, Yamaha), +0:04.931; 5. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:24.354; 6. Clement Desalle (BEL, Kawasaki), +0:26.475; 7. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Husqvarna), +0:27.857; 8. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), +0:29.174; 9. Max Anstie (GBR, Husqvarna), +0:30.881; 10. Alessandro Lupino (ITA, Kawasaki), +0:34.576; 11
MX2’s Racing was a sight for the Indonesian fans as well with the 250cc bikes stretching out the massive jumps of the Semarang circuit. Off the start it looked as if Kemea Yamaha Official MX2 Team’s Ben Watsonwas about to take his first holeshot. Unfortunately for Watson Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jorge Pradocame out of the first turn with the lead.
Watson’s best start of the year put him third after the first lap with Prado’s Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Teammate Pauls Jonass also making it past the Brit. In 4th and 5th position were Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Thomas Kjer Olsen and Thomas Covington.
Last week’s MX2 overall winner, Team HRC’s Calvin Vlaanderen was in 6th with Yamaha SM Action – M.C. Migliori’s Michele Cervellin and Kemea Yamaha Official MX2 Team’s Jago Geerts giving chase.
The first portion of the race Prado held a steady pace and lead over Jonass but just before the halfway mark Jonass started making up time little by little. Prado then reached the tail end of lapped traffic which allowed Jonass to close the gap to nearly nothing. With Jonass on the back wheel of Prado it took just over a lap to make a pass for the lead stick.
Another rider on a clear mission to forward was Kemea Yamaha Official MX2’s Anthony Rodriguez. Rodriguez looked comfortable on the track since Free Practice and showed impressive speed passing both Cervellin and Geerts in the race to take 7th.
The remainder of the race stayed relatively unchanged and at the finish Jonass kept Prado behind him to score his 4th pole position of 2018 with Watson 3rd, Olsen 4th, Covington 5th, and Vlaanderen matching his qualifying position from last week of 6th.
Pauls Jonass: “The qualifying went really good. I haven’t won a qualifying race in a while so it was good to win and go the gate first because here the start is very important. I think they did a really good job on the track.”
Calvin Vlaanderen: “The qualifying race was quite good, we got off to a good start and I was in 6th from the first laps. I just saved some energy for tomorrow…we just did our thing today but tomorrow hopefully we get 2 good starts so we can run up front and fight for the podium again.”
MX2 Qualifying Race Top Ten: 1. Pauls Jonass (LAT, KTM), 24:40.845; 2. Jorge Prado (ESP, KTM), +0:03.494; 3. Ben Watson (GBR, Yamaha), +0:13.480; 4. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, Husqvarna), +0:19.305; 5. Thomas Covington (USA, Husqvarna), +0:29.844; 6. Calvin Vlaanderen (NED, Honda), +0:32.118; 7. Anthony Rodriguez (VEN, Yamaha), +0:33.955; 8. Michele Cervellin (ITA, Yamaha), +0:39.748; 9. Brent Van doninck (BEL, Husqvarna), +0:52.387; 10. Davy Pootjes (NED, KTM), +1:02.610