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Jorge Prado’s september exams

The Galician has an advantage in the fight for the world motocross title.

The numbers are in his favor ahead of the decisive races at Assen and Imola.

Jorge Prado has always been good at mathematics. In its first years in Belgium, as he adapted to the language, “math” was the subject that came easiest for him because numbers have no translation. At school he took refuge in mathematics and at the races he took care of destroying all the numbers. Year after year and race after race he was breaking all the records, becoming the youngest world champion in history when he won the 65 c.c. title at just ten years, winning the 125 c.c. European Championship at fourteen years and being the only rider in the world who, in his first Grand Prix participation in the elite World Championship, climbed to the podium (at just 15 years of age).

The Galician boy’s precocity was his letter of introduction during all those years in which he was called up to be the great promise of international motocross. Now, even though he can’t even drive or vote, no one treats him like a child anymore. He has turned of age in his sportive career, respected and feared by his rivals and admired by a crowd of fans who continue to be amazed by the transformation of a cheerful and softly spoken boy, who puts on his helmet to become a real beast in one of the most demanding sports that exist. Jorge Prado is no longer a promise, he is the most tangible reality that Spain has ever had in this discipline.

But even now that Jorge Prado is a professional in his sport, as he always dreamed, mathematics continue to be in his favor. The numbers are the ones by his side and they place him as the favorite rider ahead of the last two championship events that will decide the title. Numbers that say that Jorge is the leader with 773 points, 24 more than Pauls Jonass, who has 749. Only the two of them have a mathematical chance of being crowned a champion. The Latvian, four years older than the Spaniard, is the defending champion and started as a favorite, so much so that he won the first six rounds of the season. However, Jorge, who started the year struggling with an elbow injury sustained in the preseason, made use of his consistency, and with surprising adaptability to all kinds of tracks and circumstances, mounted a comeback to take the red plate and turn into the current favorite. A role which he himself has assumed: “I have the feeling that this title cannot be taken away from me, I have worked a lot throughout this year and I am really motivated to give everything in these last two races, it is time for the final sprint with the finish line in sight.”

Ten victories

The numbers endorse Prado as the most victorious rider, having won ten of the eighteen GP’s which have been disputed, which doubles Jonass’ five victories; the other three were taken by Olsen, Vlaanderen and Covington. However, when it comes to race wins, the Latvian is ahead; Of the 36 races held, Pauls took fifteen, Jorge thirteen and the others were shared by Covington with five, Vlaanderen with two and Olsen with one. This small lead gives Jonass a slight edge, because in case of a tie in points at the end of the season, the tiebreaker is decided by the number of races won. In this sense Prado has benefited from his strategy of saving energy for the second races; of his thirteen race victories, ten have come in the second race. That is why the Spanish anthem has played twice as many times as the Latvian, because in case of a tie in a GP’s overall points, the better second race result always prevails (Jorge has taken advantage of this rule in three tie situations).

Regularity and consistency is what has placed the two Red Bull-KTM riders at the top. They are the only two who have scored points in all the championship races. In this statistic, Jorge also surpasses Jonass because he has only been off the podium in five of the 36 races, while Pauls has done so thirteen times. The Galician was very frustrated by the inaugural Grand Prix in Argentina, where he only scored 19 points after crashing twice and aggravating his preseason injury. From that point onwards, the Spaniard’s persistence is devastating, with an average of 21.47 points per race, compared to Jonass’ 20.8. Prado is also set to break a record in this statistic, because the last three MX2 champions finished with a much lower average: Gajser in 2015 scored 16.36 per race, Herlings in 2016 won with a 20.5 point average and Jonass last year was crowned with an average of 20.2.

Talent versus strength

This soup of numbers allows us to analyze the championship and draw some conclusions. One of them is that in a championship in which more than 90% of the riders have suffered an injury, reliability and safety on the bike are a precious value. Jorge is the rider who has fallen the least during the whole year. Another is that, being both very fast, Jorge and Pauls have shown different consistency; while the Spanish rider has been more solid, the defending champion has shown occasional mental weakness when he was not in front or had a setback. Jorge has exploited this weakness on several occasions, being merciless and even using resources such as leads and pressures to provoke the opponent’s mistake. They are also very different in style, Jonass sits down through most of the track, which makes him better when the track is flat. Prado, on the other hand, likes to stand up, play with the bike, sometimes seemingly slowly, but in turn much more efficiently, linking jumps or obstacles and creating unexpected but effective lines.

Prado García’s other great virtue, as he is known in some countries, are his starts. As of today, he is undoubtedly the best starting rider in the world. As soon as the gate drops, Jorge’s instinct takes control, getting the perfect timing while accelerating and being brave and technical under braking, to almost always arrive to the first turn at the head of the field. Of the 36 gates dropped, “61” has earned 23 holeshots, compared to the four that Jonass and Covington have racked up. That overwhelming dominance is even more scandalous if we added Saturday’s qualifying races, in which JP has started first in almost all. The start is very important in this sport, but it is not enough to be the best. In addition, a champion needs speed, and Spain’s representative in MX2 has also been the fastest in most races, setting the fastest lap in nine GP’s, while Jonass has done it five times and Covington in two races. The kid has also taken out the grown ups in the qualifying races, with a total of 8 wins, as well as in number of laps led, with 277 laps in first position.

The most demanding sport

The third necessary ingredient is physical fitness, the stamina that allows you to withstand two 35 minute races at maximum performance. In this area is where Jorge’s greatest improvement has been noted, thanks to his pre-season preparation and the hard training sessions he has undergone in Italy under the direction of Claudio de Carli and alongside the nine-time World Champion Antonio Cairoli: “I think it was a great decision to go to Italy because we worked very well throughout the year, in a super professional team, which at the same time feels like family”. Prado has shown on many occasions that in addition to his innate talent, his physique was stood out on the grid and that is vital in a sport which many studies have described as the most demanding sport that exists. In motocross the rider uses more than 70% of his muscles and it is very important to have strong arms, legs, back and neck, which entails countless hours on the bike, as well as many other sports such as swimming, running, weights, gymnastics or cycling. In addition, during 94% of the 35 minutes of each race, the rider’s heart performs at maximum heart rate, all this with the added challenges of speed, risk and precision which require maximum brain concentration.

Psychology also plays an important role and this is where Jorge has also managed to improve and surprise himself and strangers with maturity and knowing how to be in the races, qualities of more veteran riders. While Jonass was desperate on many occasions and was the victim of his own anxiety, Prado managed to keep a cool head at all times, knowing when to attack and when to minimize risks. This possibly comes from last year’s setbacks, when he was a victim of adverse weather conditions, in the mud of Indonesia, Russia and France or in the sweltering heat of Italy and Portugal. This year there has been no crack through which to beat the Galician rider. He has adapted to mud, heat and all kinds of terrains, winning races on hard terrain, on tracks full of ruts or in the always complicated sand which has brought him so much success. Of course, there are some traditions that time has not yet been able to cure, and which are almost rituals for the kid, such being the last rider to start the practice sessions or to ride sighting laps at almost race pace, while the others go for a stroll: “I know it’s not usual, but I like to set a good pace to warm up well and to really see how the track is. Also, that way I have more time to prepare before the start.”

Finish what he started

With all the mathematical analysis that has brought us here, all that is left is to study the numbers that the contestants need to overcome September’s two final exams. Bearing in mind that there are two GP’s left, in Assen and Imola, and four races to be completed, there is a maximum of one hundred points in play (each race hands out 25, 22, 20, 18, 16, 15, 14, 13, 12 … down to 1, the 20th rank). Jorge’s current lead is 24 points, but we know that a tie would benefit Jonass at the moment. With that difference, the Latvian has to go all in for the four races, and in addition to scoring the maximum points, he needs a mistake from Jorge. For the Spanish it would be enough to be third in three of the races and fourth in the other (as long as his rival won all four). What would jeopardize Jorge’s title chances would be an incident that left him without scoring any points in a race, something which has not occurred throughout the year, but can never be ruled out in a sport like motocross. That’s why Prado would like to arrive to Imola with at least a 25 point advantage in order to have a safety cushion. In fact, fear is what could increase the pressure throughout these four races. In an attempt to take off pressure, Jonass has commented that “he has nothing to lose” (although he could lose the number 1 of his motorcycle), but he could seek confrontation or try to slow the racing down in search of possible spoilers which could damage Jorge. Prado, on the other hand, will try to assert his potential off the gate to put land between them and avoid clashes. The sand of Assen has been a fortress for Prado on the three occasions in which he has raced, always on the cathedral’s podium: “Assen is a track that suits me quite well, it is sand and for the last three years I’ve always been on the podium, winning last year, so I think I’ll be pretty strong.” If the same happens, JP61 will have taken a giant step towards Spain’s first title in this category.

For the moment, mathematics are in favor of Jorge Prado, but everything is still to play for and the final exams are finally here: Good luck kid!