Wilvo Yamaha’s Shaun Simpson and Arnaud Tonus had a tough MXGP debut in the Qatar GP at Losail at the weekend. Yamaha’s official statement reads:
The lights that illuminated the Losail International Circuit are fading in the distance, as the first round of the FIM Motocross World Championship is now just a memory. The man-made facility, located just outside of the capital of Qatar, was the site of the first event, which provided the Wilvo Yamaha MXGP duo with mixed results.
The schedule that is implemented at the Qatari Grand Prix is fairly unorthodox, as racing takes place on the Friday and Saturday. Qualifying was the first item on the agenda and, despite some difficult conditions, Arnaud Tonus shone near the front. The Swiss pilot battled around the top five for the duration, before eventually settling for sixth and securing himself a brilliant gate pick for the next day. Shaun Simpson, on the other hand, crashed early on and then made more passes than anyone else whilst on his way to seventeenth.
The first MXGP moto of the season was eerily similar to that qualifying heat; Tonus again took advantage of a strong start, whilst Simpson was restricted by a mistake on lap one. Tonus was actually one of the few riders in the first half of the field who made progress, as he started on the cusp of the top ten and clawed his way past a pair of former winners to finish seventh. Whilst that was going on, Simpson was digging deep in an attempt to acquire as many points as possible. He claimed seventeenth and four valuable points.
Arnaud Tonus was not as fortunate in the second and final MXGP moto, as he crashed early on and then had to push forward from the back. Another mistake along the way halted his charge, but he still salvaged a nineteenth and two points. Simpson escaped the first couple of laps unscathed and spent a majority of his time chasing a spot inside of the top ten, before eventually crossing the line in fourteenth.
The Wilvo Yamaha MXGP squad will be back in action next week at the second round of the FIM Motocross World Championship, which will be held in Indonesia.
Shaun Simpson: “I think the start of the year, for me, has been a bit different. Pre-season did not go that well and I usually start here pretty well. If you look back over the last couple of years, I have always started in the top ten and this will definitely be the first year that I have not done that. It is a bit disappointing. The track was different this year, but they were conditions that I would normally like. It felt like I was slightly off set-up wise from the get-go this weekend, but I made a few changes and some progress. There are plenty of positives to take.”
Arnaud Tonus: “There were some positive things, for sure. I am happy with my bike and the work that the team have done so far. I was pretty happy about the way I rode in the first race and my speed was good. I had a crash on the first lap of the second race, came back again and had another crash. It was just a struggle after that.”