17th Rd. Motocross 2018 – Sevlievo (Bulgaria)
Red Bull KTM arrived in Bulgaria one week after the Grand Prix of Switzerland. The circuit and country changed for the series but the formbook did not budge as Jeffrey Herlings and Jorge Prado won both MXGP and MX2 classes for the fifth event in a row and extended their advantage in the respective categories.
The fast, wide layout of the Sevlievo hard-pack welcomed MXGP back for the first time since 2014 and gave the older element of the Grand Prix paddock the chance to reacquaint themselves with the steep uphills and hard braking tests of the descents. Good weather persisted through the weekend leading to a dry and rippled track with lap-times close between the athletes.
Jeffrey Herlings did not complete the clean sweep on Saturday. The championship leader was outpaced by Tim Gajser in Free Practice but set the quickest lap-time by almost two seconds in Timed Practice and cleared-off for his tenth Qualification Heat victory when it counted. Herlings then took charge of the opening moto from Gajser and ran free to his ninth chequered flag in a row. The second affair produced a similar outcome once Herlings moved past his teammate. Red Bull KTM classified 1-2 on the track but Herlings toasted his fourteenth overall GP win from seventeen rounds on the KTM 450 SX-F (the sixteen he has contested) and his twelfth ‘1-1’. He also stretched his margin in the MXGP standings to 73 points.
World Champion Tony Cairoli’s preparation for Bulgaria was affected by the knee he tweaked in the first moto in Switzerland. The Italian was still able to set a mean pace at Sevlievo but sadly his first race was hindered by a falling Max Anstie on the opening lap and he had to ride hard to make eighth place by the finish line. A holeshot saw #222 at the front of the pack in the second moto. He was overtaken by Herlings but clung to the distant roost of his teammate. Tony’s runner-up position was his best since the second moto in Belgium. The 8-2 meant he rounded-off the day with 4th overall.
Glenn Coldenhoff recovered from a tough Qualification outing and 13th pick in the start gate to record a 9-7 for 7th in the MXGP field. The Dutchman ended the weekend encouraged by his second moto launch in the top five and a rate of speed and performance that showed improvement across the difficult terrain.
Herlings: “I think this is one of the most beautiful tracks…but not really one of my favourites with the hard and slick ground. I think Youthstream and the guys did a great job with preparation but it was tough with the high temperatures. We had an awesome weekend: winning Qualifying and both motos. It is all I can ask for. It is too early to talk about the title but it is definitely getting closer. Anything can happen still. We’ll wait and see but today we did a good thing for the championship and we’re leading by 73 points now.”
Cairoli: “The knee was not a big problem but it still affects me, especially in the first laps of the race when they have watered the track and I was scared to slip away and had to put my foot down quite a lot. I was a little bit too careful in the first moto and then Anstie crashed in front of me and I was stuck a little bit. On this track it is very difficult to come through the pack. I was not really pumped with the first moto. I made a holeshot in the second one. Jeffrey passed me and I tried to follow him but he is very strong at the moment for the entire race and I am missing some training from Indonesia because of my hand and then the knee so the last ten minutes it was very difficult to stay close. Anyway, it was a very nice second moto so I am quite happy. Hopefully the knee will not bother me for the next race and I can start the next rounds with a free mind and no injury problems.”
Coldenhoff: “I was struggling a lot this weekend and was very disappointed after the first moto. Tracks like this are very old school on very hard-pack ground and the most important thing for me is the fact that I felt like I improved before the end of the GP. The second moto was pretty good and I was up there with Tony and Jeffrey. I could follow [Clement] Desalle for quite a while and although finishing seventh was a bit disappointing I gave all I had today. Seventh overall through a difficult weekend is still quite solid. I feel good on the bike and I hope for a bike of luck and a good feeling in Turkey. I want that podium finish this year!”
The Red Bull KTM duel for the title in MX2 initially swung towards defending number one Pauls Jonass. The Latvian coped with the holeshotting Jorge Prado on the KTM 250 SX-F in the first moto and moved past the younger Spaniard to eventually win by five seconds.
Prado fired back to win his fifth second moto in succession. Jonass had been giving chase in the early phases of the 30 minutes and 2 laps distance but lost the front end of the #1 machine through one of the sections that had been watered to contain the dust through the warm afternoon sun. Pauls continued with a slight battered SX-F and rallied back to 3rd place.
Jorge thrived on the Sevlievo course and was able to deal with the threat of Hunter Lawrence on the last two laps. Prado has now won 10 Grands Prix and missed the podium only twice all season. The window between the two KTM stars is 30 points with 150 left to win in Turkey, Holland and Italy.
Prado: “This track could be one of my favourites. I really like the design, even if I am not the fastest on this type of surface. I enjoyed it a lot and it was something totally different to what we had last week when there was no elevation. Here there were a lot of uphills and downhills. It was fun and really challenging. Pauls was riding really good all weekend long. He was pushing all the way to the end of the first moto and I could catch him a little bit but I knew I could win the GP in the second moto. The watering meant you really had to be careful where you rode and the lines you took: you don’t want to fall on the first laps and lose a lot of positions. Pauls was behind me so I kinda had to push while being careful at the same time! He had the bad luck to crash and that could have happened to me because there was a lot of water. With Pauls gone I could really concentrate on my riding and did not want to make a mistake. Hunter came close and I had to push again in the last two laps. It was a good race: sometimes the fastest guy doesn’t always win! Three races, six motos and a lot of racing to go.”
Jonass: “I was feeling good all weekend and I really like this track. In the first moto I managed to pass Jorge midway through the race and could control the gap. I was close to him at the start of the second moto and took my time but on the second or third lap I just washed the front [wheel] and bent the bike a bit, the clutch lever was down and it was strange to ride. It took me a while to get back in the rhythm and I could push again in the last ten minutes but it was only good enough for third place and not the overall. We have been close many times and it is a long time since I’ve been on the top of the podium. I’m really motivated to get there. We still have three races left and I think Jorge has a thirty point lead. Nothing is over, everything can happen and we’ll fight until the end.”
FIM Junior World Championship
The 2018 edition of this meeting that showcases the best young international motocross talent took place at the Horsham circuit in the depths of Australia. Czech teenager Petr Polak used his 125 SX to claim the final podium spot in the 125cc division but the trio of Caden Braswell (USA), Kay de Wolf (NED) and Kay Karssemakers (NED) swept the board in the 85cc contest with the American celebrating his ranking as the new 85 FIM World Champion. KTM also grasped second and third places on the 65cc podium with Enzo Temmerman (USA) and Brando Rispoli (ITA).
Back in MXGP and the first Grand Prix of Turkey for ten years will take place at the new circuit of Afyonkarahisar next weekend.
Next race: Grand Prix of Turkey, Afyonkarahisar, September 2nd
Results MXGP Sevlievo 2018
1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED), KTM (1-1)
2. Tim Gajser (SLO), Honda (2-3)
3. Clement Desalle (BEL) Kawasaki (3-4)
4. Tony Cairoli (ITA), KTM (8-2)
5. Romain Febvre (FRA) Yamaha (4-5)
7. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED), KTM (9-7)
Standings MXGP 2018 after 17 of 20 rounds
1. Jeffrey Herlings, 783 points
2. Tony Cairoli, 710
3. Clement Desalle, 581
4. Tim Gajser, 549
5. Romain Febvre, 544
7. Coldenhoff, 446
Results MX2 Sevlievo 2018
1. Jorge Prado (SPA), KTM (2-1)
2. Pauls Jonass (LAT), KTM (1-3)
3. Hunter Lawrence (AUS), Honda (5-2)
4. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN), Husqvarna (3-5)
5. Ben Watson (GBR), Yamaha (6-4)
Standings MX2 2018 after 17 of 20 rounds
1. Jorge Prado, 739 points
2. Pauls Jonass, 709
3. Thomas Kjer Olsen, 555
4. Ben Watson, 515
5. Thomas Covington, 480
Words and image courtesy KTM Sportmotorcycles GmbH