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Gajser dominates in Italian sand storm

World champion Tim Gajser dominated the day in the Italian International series opener at the deep sand Riola Sardo circuit in Sardinia, giving his brand new 2021 prototype CRF450R a dream debut.

In the superfinal for combined MX1 and MX2 riders, Gajser and his HRC team-mate Mitch Evans went side-by-side into the first corner. As Gajser dived inside, Evans ploughed into the berm and went over the bars where his bike was ridden into by Arminas Jasikonis who was lucky to stay on.

Gajser led from Jeremy Seewer and Jago Geerts with Ben Watson fourth as Clement Desalle’s Kawasaki ground to a halt. Former world champ Pauls Jonass then muscled his 450 past the 250 of Watson, followed by Jasikonis and Gautier Paulin.

Jasikonis worked his way up to third place, followed by Paulin, Geerts and Watson, as Gajser held a commanding lead over Seewer at the front. With five minutes to go, the Honda man fell which saw Seewer cut Gajser’s 10-second lead down to a few bike lengths, but the world champ instantly responded and upped the pace again, leaving the world No.2 in his wake. With just over two laps to go, Seewer put on another charge and had the champ within his sights.

But Gajser hit back to take the win from Seewer. Jasikonis took third from Paulin. Next was Jagi Geerts as top 250 man from Watson.

Gajser said: “It was a good day and I’m so happy to get the season started. I had a good start then I had a comfortable lead. I start to catch the lap riders and one touched my front wheel. I had a huge crash but thankfully picked up the bike and rejoined the race. I had to push towards the end of the race as Jeremy was behind me.

“It was risky as the sun was getting lower and it was hard to see the lines.”

Seewer said: “I got close because Tim made a mistake. It was tricky to get past the lapped riders. There were so many crashes in the first few corners. But I had a good rhythm and Im happy to be at this stage in January.”

Jasikonis said: “I had a better start but the first lap was terrible – there were so many crashes. I had to ride over Mitch’s bike but I’m happy from where I started!”

Earlier in the day, Gajser took a start-to-finish win in his first race of the year, in the MX1 International class. And his HRC Honda team-mate Mitch Evans took second after coming through from a fourth place start to challenge the Slovenian on the last lap.

Yamaha’s Jeremy Seewer survived a spill to take third ahead of Clement Desalle.

In the MX2 race Jago Geerts took the win but his factory Kemea Yamaha team-mate Ben Watson was right on his tail for the whole race. Geerts managed to fend off the relentless Watson to take the win by less than a second.

Maxime Renaux was chasing the leaders hard at the start until he slipped off but remounted for third.