World MX: Championship Showdown in the Dutch Sandbox
It's almost a given that the weather in Lierop is miserable. Wet weather makes the track even heavier than it is in the dry, and so it is only the well-prepared who hope to make a good impression. Right at the top of the list are the two Dutchmen Marc de Reuver for Martin Honda and Erik Eggens for Beursfoon Suzuki. They want to repeat what they did at the season opener in Valkenswaard just fifteen or so miles down the road. There have been several changes, but one in particular has many journalists grumbling. Those with nearly 40 pounds of camera equipment have to argue to be allowed to drive up the lane into the VIP parking area to make the move of their equipment easier. Then they are made to leave and park on the main road between Lierop and Mierlo. Long faces all around.
Saturday morning is as it is every time, one practice session follows the other, women, MX2 and MX1 riders switching places and getting the hang of the track as much as they can. They all know that when they go out again, it'll have changed anyway. The first session of importance is as usual the MX2 pre-qualifying practice session, in which Red Bull KTM's Tyla Rattray takes pole, ahead of team mate Tommy Searle and Champ KTM's Jeremy van Horebeek. Fellow Red Bull KTM rider Rui Gonçalves is fourth, with Eggens fifth.
The qualifiers start with Rattray and Eggens going for it in a tough battle. Rattray leads for the majority of the race before Eggens can make a pass in the closing laps. However, Rattray undoes the move three laps later to end up in the lead again, taking the qualifier. Van Horebeek is in third all the way, keeping Team KTM UK's Shaun Simpson at bay, and seeing off a challenge by Inotec Suzuki's Xavier Boog. It is a slaughter for several British riders; Suso MVR-D Suzuki's Carl Nunn, UTag Yamaha's Mel Pocock, and both Swift Suzuki riders Elliott Banks-Browne and Jake Nichols go into the LCQ.
The second qualifier has a surprising twist. Searle is an incredibly quick rider, and this comes in very handy as he ends up in the back of the pack in the first lap. Making some incredible strides especially in the last few laps, he returns to fourth. The man at the front though is the unassuming colleague of van Horebeek's – Joël Roelants. Although Gonçalves is first out of the gate, chased by Ricci Racing Yamaha's Nicolas Aubin and Beursfoon Suzuki's Matiss Karro, Roelants makes a surprise move on them all, taking the lead and keeping his cool to the very end. Gonçalves tries several times to regain second, but Aubin has that position in an iron grip.
The timed qualifying practice for the MX1 class has, unsurprisingly, Marc de Reuver on pole, followed by the other two sand specialists, TEKA Suzuki's Ken de Dycker and Steve Ramon. Marcus Schiffer for Sarholz KTM ends fourth, with the Spanish rider Jonathan Barragán for Silver Action KTM fifth.
The Last Chance Qualifying practice session sees the young Dutchman Rob van Vijfeiken for the identically named team pull the fastest time out of the bag, followed by Ricci Racing's Davide Guarneri and Banks-Browne. Again, Nunn has to suffer the embarrassment of being the first reserve, something that understandably leaves him in a foul mood. “Don't even talk about it,” he grumbles afterwards.
The Women's Timed Practice session sees the diminutive German, Inotec Suzuki's Larissa Papenmeier, take pole, ahead of the French GPKR Kawasaki rider, Livia Lancelot. KTM Deutschland's Steffi Laier is third.
The next morning brings with it cold and wet weather, although the forecasts are conflicting. Some say it may rain, some say it may become sunny. So, the plan is to, well, pack a raincoat and hope it doesn't get too warm. The track looks as rough as ever, the start straight though is as smooth as glass. Word has it that the Queen of the Netherlands is also present, which now explains the bizarre arrangement of leaving the VIP parking area practically deserted.
The first race on the line after the morning's warm-up sessions is the women's race. Taking the lead early is the Swedish rider Elin Mann. Laier, Lancelot and the American returnee Ashley Fiolek go after her. While Laier makes the jump to the front of the pack, Lancelot ends up having to battle back and forth with Mann, a battle that she wins. It has slowed her down a lot too, though, and the gap between her and Laier is twenty-five seconds. Fiolek remains in fourth throughout, a further twenty seconds behind Mann. Papenmeier, fifth throughout the first half, slips to seventh in the second as Brenda Wagemans and Marielle de Mol, both well-versed in racing in the sand, slip past her.
Then comes the first MX2 race. The young Portuguese on the Red Bull KTM takes charge and leads the race from the start, leaving everyone else to chase after him. This is Gonçalves' finest moment, no doubt. Rattray tracks along in second. Only with a few laps to go do Rattray and Searle get past Gonçalves. Eggens, third in the first lap, swaps places with Searle for fourth, where he remains until he drops away with eight laps to go. There is little movement in the ranks at the top; van Horebeek and Simpson mix a little with Roelants and Aubin, while Karro floats around seventh. Evgeni Bobryshev for Van Beers Racing Yamaha returns to the Grands Prix too after having several issues involving visas; he stays on Karro's heels until three laps from the end.
There are three numbers that are clearly making a lot of headway in the pack; the numbers five and seven of Gareth Swanepoel and Stephen Sword for Molson Kawasaki and the number eight of Matti Seistola for SRS Racing Honda. Seistola starts in last and moves up in a steady fashion throughout the forty odd minutes on the track, ending in fourteenth, while Sword has a bit of a bad time in the early stages. The Scot starts in nineteenth, but after making some gains slips back to twenty-first. He catches a second wind and moves up to fifteenth, a position he is not at all pleased with afterwards. Swanepoel makes a very good impression. Lierop is after all not the easiest of tracks, especially when you come back from injury. The South African starts in eleventh, settles into twelfth, and then, as his opponents tyre of the relentless struggle through the deep sand, starts picking them off one by one. He ends in the top ten, a very solid performance.
The first MX1 race ends with Marc de Reuver taking the win. The tall Dutchman starts in fifth, battling with Ramon, Monster Rinaldi Yamaha's David Philippaerts, De Dycker and Red Bull KTM's Max Nagl. Nagl, having led the pack for the first third of the race, ends in fifth, totally exhausted. De Dycker looks to take the win after passing Nagl, but he makes a mistake that costs him seven positions and drops him into eighth. Barragán, second in the first two laps, returns to second with only three laps to go after going over the bars to sixth. The incumbent champion does not make the most amazing moves, running backward from second to seventh instead. The only solid ride is GPKR Kawasaki's Sébastien Pourcel, running in ninth virtually from start to finish.
With barely a breather in between, the final race of the Women's Motocross Championship goes to the line. This time Laier takes the decisive lead, ahead of Lancelot and Mann. However, disaster strikes. Laier's rear suspension completely collapses, the shock broken and useless and the rough track hammering her body with every bump, every line. She loses ground and drops away, giving Lancelot the round overall and the title. Papenmeier has a much better race this time round, running up front once Mann has her own disaster that drops her into the low teens. Fiolek ends third across the line, Veenstra makes the biggest gains from a bad position in the mid-teens to end in seventh. The overall is, clearly, Lancelot, followed by Laier and Fiolek. Papenmeier misses out by two points. Runners-up in the championship are Laier and Pfeil Kawasaki's Maria Franke.
The second MX2 race has a completely changed line-up. A start line pileup claims Roelants and CLS Racing Kawasaki's Steven Frossard, taking both out of the game. Four laps in it is Eggens who has to pull in, followed soon after by Banks-Browne and UTag Yamaha's Zach Osborne. But at the front it's the usual suspects. Gonçalves has a less-than-illustrious start this time, completing the first lap in fifteenth, leaving the lead to Searle, Rattray, Karro and at the front, favour KTM's Gert Krestinov. Rattray forces Krestinov into second, taking the lead. Searle soon after makes his own pass on the young Estonian, and it is those three, together with Karro in fourth, who lead the pack for the majority of the race. Karro has to concede a place each to Aubin, who comes from twelfth in the first lap, to Gonçalves, and to Simpson, who has been tracking Aubin since the start.
Again Sword has a nightmare of a race; a start in eighteenth leads to a modest finish five places up, while Seistola has a similar fate from fourteenth and yo-yoing around just outside the top ten. Swanepoel is yet again very solid after experiencing a bit of an early-race slide from seventh to tenth. This time he ends in ninth, just ahead of van Horebeek. The young Belgian has made an admirable effort from last after the start line tangle to move up nearly two-thirds of the pack. The day overall goes to Rattray, widening his advantage over Searle by six points and making that championship a bit more of a reality. Searle is six points ahead of the third podium inhabitant, Nicolas Aubin. Gonçalves has to miss the podium based on his second race result; he is tied with Aubin with thirty-eight points.
The final race of the day goes to the line. Again it is Nagl, de Dycker, Philippaerts who are at the top. Ramon and Pourcel are also in the top five, making this race especially interesting. The front is ever-changing, first it is Nagl, then it is de Dycker, then de Reuver makes his appearance for a lap. Even Kawasaki's Manuel Priem has a brilliant period at the front of the pack, hotly pursued by de Dycker and de Reuver. In sixth is the other black-clad warrior, Josh Coppins. The New Zealander is tough, but this track does take a lot out of him as well. With all the constant changes at the front, he suddenly finds himself in third, his team-mate and nemesis, Philippaerts, right behind him.
De Reuver drops two places, much to everyone's dismay, but with that, Coppins is suddenly second. The spectators notice, the commentator notices, but somehow in the pit lane, no-one does. The time goes to the two-lap sign before Coppins crosses it, still not aware that he only has to ride smart to possibly get de Dycker and take the race. Instead, he pushes hard, the sand bites back, and suddenly Coppins finds himself in the dirt, Nagl and de Reuver past him in a flash. He is back in fourth, with the crash having taken the wind out of his sails. In the last lap, Inotec Suzuki's Clement Desalle and Philippaerts still pass the number six, leaving him one measly position up on the start. Understandably, Coppins is beyond livid when he is told that he was in second before it all came crashing down, because it cost him the podium.
De Reuver takes the Grand Prix, much to everyone's delight. The once golden boy from the Netherlands is golden again, his team management visibly pleased with him. De Dycker and Nagl tie for podium second and third, both elated with their result even though they are utterly spent. Philippaerts misses the podium by two points, but it's an extra nine on Ramon, the man who could still steal the championship away from him.
With the racing over, the weather finally makes its mind up too. The clouds break apart again, turning the sky into a true The Simpsons moment. With that, there is only one last round left – Faenza, the Porcelain Grand Prix. The championship will have to wait until then.
|MX1 Race 1||MX1 Race 2||MX1 Overall|
|1. Marc de Reuver||1. Ken de Dycker||1. Marc de Reuver 45|
|2. Jonathan Barragán||2. Maximilian Nagl||2. Ken de Dycker 38|
|3. David Philippaerts||3. Marc de Reuver||3. Maximilian Nagl 38|
|4. Joshua Coppins||4. Clement Desalle||4. David Philippaerts 36|
|5. Maximilian Nagl||5. David Philippaerts||5. Joshua Coppins 33|
|MX2 Race 1||MX2 Race 2||MX2 Overall|
|1. Tyla Rattray||1. Tyla Rattray||1. Tyla Rattray 50|
|2. Tommy Searle||2. Tommy Searle||2.Tommy Searle 44|
|3. Rui Gonçalves||3. Nicolas Aubin||3. Nicolas Aubin 38|
|4. Nicolas Aubin||4. Rui Gonçalves||4. Rui Gonçalves 38|
|5. Joël Roelants||5. Gert Krestinov||5. Shaun Simpson 30|
|Womens Race 1||Womens Race 2||Womens Overall|
|1. Stephanie Laier||1. Livia Lancelot||1. Livia Lancelot 47|
|2. Livia Lancelot||2. Larissa Papenmeier||2. Stephanie Laier 40|
|3. Elin Mann||3. Ashley Fiolek||3. Ashley Fiolek 38|
|4. Ashley Fiolek||4. Marielle de Mol||4. Larissa Papenmeier 36|
|5. Marielle de Mol||5. Nicky van Wordragen||5. Marielle de Mol 34|
|1. David Philippaerts 477||1. Tyla Rattray 596||1. Livia Lancelot 212|
|2. Steve Ramon 463||2. Tommy Searle 563||2. Stephanie Laier 185|
|3. Ken de Dycker 452||3. Nicholas Aubin 381||3. Maria Franke 166|
|4. Jonathan Barragán 419||4. Shaun Simpson 367||4. Larissa Papenmeier 160|
|5. Joshua Coppins 415||5. Rui Gonçalves 365||5. Elin Mann 144|
|6. Maximilian Nagl 394||6. Antonio Cairoli 357||6. Ashley Fiolek 140|
|7. Sébastien Pourcel 392||7. Steven Frossard 289||7. Marianne Veenstra 135|
|8. Tanel Leok 337||8. Xavier Boog 283||8. Elien de Winter 133|
|9. Billy MacKenzie 293||9. Jeremy van Horebeek 277||9. Katherine Prumm 122|
|10. Marc de Reuver 277||10. Manuel Monni 259||10. Marielle de Mol 101|