Red Bull KTM’s Jeffrey Herlings could seal the 2018 MXGP FIM Motocross World Championship at his home Grand Prix in two weeks time after a fifteenth win of the season at Afyon today in Turkey. Pauls Jonass chipped away at the points gap to teammate Jorge Prado in the MX2 contest after finishing as runner-up at the new circuit.
The Afyon Motorsports centre made an FIM World Championship ‘debut’ this weekend for the first Grand Prix in Turkey since 2009. The course was hard-packed, wide, fast and rough in sections that made for some relentless racing and Red Bull KTM again played their part in some hot and sunny conditions in front of 15,000 spectators (weekend figure). The fixture was the third in three weeks for the MXGP paddock and the eighteenth round of twenty in the 2018 campaign.
Jeffrey Herlings stands on the brink of his first title in the premier class and the fourth of his career after his thirteenth 1-1 victory of the season. The 23 year old Dutchman controlled proceedings in the opening moto with his KTM 450 SX-F after winning the Qualification Heat for the eleventh time on Saturday. Herlings faced some competition for the lead deep into the second moto from 2016 champion Tim Gajser but maintained his speed in the final minutes to again take the chequered flag. Herlings has won the last 7 Grands Prix in a row, 11 from the last 12 and has not been defeated for the last 13 motos.
#84 now has a margin of 95 points over world champion Tony Cairoli with just 100 left to win in events in Holland and Italy.
The Sicilian was 8th overall. He scored a strong runner-up to Herlings in the first moto despite clipping one of the trackside bridges and sustaining a cut and bang to his right hand. A crash in the opening phases of the second moto cast #222 to the back of the field but he postponed an early party for Herlings by riding back to 15th position.
Glenn Coldenhoff was 7th in the final standings of the Grand Prix after adapting the best he could to track conditions and posted a 6-7. The Dutchman continues to hold 7th in the MXGP points table and will be eying the next race at Assen – a site where he has previously tasted podium champagne – to obtain his first trophy of the season.
Herlings: “Absolutely a great weekend for me and that’s ‘three in a row’ of Qualification Heat and both moto wins, so I have to say a big thank you to the team for their great job: they have made a great sacrifice and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. I’m looking forward to Assen because we are really close to the championship now and I hope to finish it off. Like I said, it will be a dream come true to win it at my home GP. The chances of taking this title during a rider’s career are small anyway but to potentially do it in my home country would be amazing. We’ll just go out, do our best and try to stay healthy to get it done.”
Cairoli: “It was a bad weekend, one of the worst until now. I had a slight injury from Switzerland and then twisted my other knee in Timed Practice on Saturday. I tried to do two good races but in the first moto I hit the bridge and I think I broke something in my hand. I was able to finish the moto with some pain and because the adrenaline was flowing but the second moto was difficult even before it started. I then crashed with [Max] Anstie again on the first lap; I tried to avoid him and lost the rear wheel and hit the ground hard. It took a long time to restart and start to pass people. A long time to focus and deal with my hand. 15th and a bad weekend but we are still on our feet after a lot of injuries lately and we have to stay concentrated for two more GPs and then the Motocross of Nations. The next goal is to confirm second in the championship because Jeffrey is in front by a lot of points and to win some GPs if it’s possible.”
Coldenhoff: “The weekend started well and I finished fourth on Saturday with a good feeling on the track. I knew it would be tough Sunday but with decent starts I could be up front fighting with the guys. I definitely believed the podium was possible this weekend. I was struggling a bit in the beginning of the first moto but sixth was OK. I started better in the second moto but I made a mistake and I think only the three local riders were behind me at that point! I fought through the pack and came home in seventh. Overall solid, but these are not the results that we want. We’ll have a couple of days off now after all these GPs in a row, the heat and all the travelling and to be ready for Assen.”
Pauls Jonass gave his hopes of a successful MX2 title defence a small boost with 2nd place overall behind victor Thomas Covington at Afyon. The world champion registered his twelfth rostrum finish of the year and notched his fifteenth chequered flag with a second moto triumph. The Latvian, together MX2 world championship leader Jorge Prado, battled for the lead in the first race until the pair collided through the air of one of the many jumps on lap nine. Both remounted with Jonass able to score 6th place and Prado classifying 3rd.
Jonass pursued and passed Covington to excel in the second moto; the American’s mistake allowed #1 to again leap through the finish line arch first. Prado laboured to find an effective rhythm on the rougher hard-pack and was 7th to rest 6th overall and miss the podium for only third time this term.
24 points split both works KTM 250 SX-F athletes with a maximum of 100 remaining at the Assen and Imola circuits.
Jonass: “I was feeling really good all weekend and managed to lead the first moto. Hitting Jorge on the jump was really unfortunate and I was really disappointed about that. I did not see it coming from his side. It was a huge crash and I was lucky to walk away with only a stretched ligament in my knee. It was then difficult in the second race to find the flow in the first laps. I was a bit scared for the knee because I did not want to catch it in a rut and make it worse. I managed to put pressure on Covington all the time and eventually he made a mistake. It is not nice to see a rider crash but he made the mistake and it’s part of racing, so I could win. Second again and a six point gain in the championship, better than last week and better than nothing. It’s still not over: four races to go and still some points.”
Prado: “It was a bit of a strange GP but I am going home quite happy. We are leading by 24 points which is still good. I had a good first moto and was the fastest guy so it was a bit weird to go from that to struggling a lot in the second. I did what I could. I did my best. If I raced again now it would be the same so I need to learn from that second moto and when the track was challenging and hard for me. I was not feeling that great. It was up-and-down this weekend and I’m happy I was not hurt in the first moto. Assen is a good track for me and I haven’t finished off the podium there. For sure Pauls and I will both be pushing but we’ll be happy to be back in Belgium and I’ll be confident going there.”
After three consecutive weekends of action MXGP will reassemble for the last two rounds of the 2018 campaign in a fortnight’s time with the Grand Prix of the Netherlands taking place at Assen for the fourth year in a row.
Next race: Grand Prix of the Netherlands, Assen, September 16th
Results MXGP Afyon 2018
1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED), KTM (1-1)
2. Tim Gajser (SLO), Honda (3-2)
3. Clement Desalle (BEL) Kawasaki (4-3)
4. Gautier Paulin (FRA) Husqvarna (8-4)
5. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL) Yamaha (5-6)
7. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED), KTM (6-7)
8. Tony Cairoli (ITA), KTM (2-15)
Standings MXGP 2018 after 18 of 20 rounds
1. Jeffrey Herlings, 833 points
2. Tony Cairoli, 738
3. Clement Desalle, 619
4. Tim Gajser, 591
5. Romain Febvre, 544
7. Coldenhoff, 475
Results MX2 Afyon 2018
1. Thomas Covington (USA), Husqvarna (1-3)
2. Pauls Jonass (LAT), KTM (6-1)
3. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN), Husqvarna (5-2)
4. Hunter Lawrence (AUS), Honda (2-5)
5. Ben Watson (GBR), Yamaha (4-4)
6. Jorge Prado (SPA), KTM (3-7)
Standings MX2 2018 after 18 of 20 rounds
1. Jorge Prado, 773 points
2. Pauls Jonass, 749
3. Thomas Kjer Olsen, 593
4. Ben Watson, 551
5. Thomas Covington, 525