A third meeting in three weeks took MXGP onto the hard-packed but rough St Jean D’Angely circuit for a busy Grand Prix of France. Heavy showers just prior to the seventh round of eighteen in the 2019 campaign helped soften the stony, clay terrain and created some deep and demanding ruts. 38,000 spectators (weekend figure) filled the French hillside as pleasant temperatures and racing conditions marked the weekend.
World Championship leader Tony Cairoli faced the obstacle of a 14th position pick in the start gate after a tricky Qualification Heat on Saturday. Two crashes cast the Red Bull KTM man deep into the pack and he completed the distance with a twisted left ankle.
Cairoli used the power of his KTM 450 SX-F and his prowess away from the line to launch straight into contention for victory in the opening race. He ran close with Tim Gajser as the pair overtook Arnaud Tonus but then rode conservatively to take second position behind his Slovenian rival. The second moto started dramatically as Cairoli was one of several riders to hit an unstable metal gate and chased the pack into the first corner in last position. #222 then had a hard and undesirable charge through the pack ahead. Another small slip in an uphill left-hander cost time and he reached 17th by the chequered flag.
Cairoli had previously finished in the top two of all thirteen Grand Prix motos and has appeared in six podium ceremonies; four as a winner. He holds a 10 advantage over Gajser in the championship.
Tony Cairoli: “It is not the best day but we take positive and that is some points. It felt like the whole weekend was a struggle right from that crash on the first corners of the Qualification Heat and getting run over by some riders. My ankle is not perfect it was pretty sore; this track is very slick and it is easy to put your foot on the ground. From 14th place I chose a good gate in the first moto but not in the second: some were dropping and some not. It seemed I had the last one of the forty to drop! I tried to come back fast through the group and it was going well actually but I crashed again while 11th and got hit again. I restarted and tried to get as many points as I could. We are looking for the next race now. We need to keep focussed. This was not the best race of the season but we learn from the mistakes – I’m still learning at almost 34 years old – and I will try to be on the podium again at the next race.”
World Champion Jorge Prado was defeated for the first time this season as the first MX2 moto belonged to Belgian Jago Geerts. The Spaniard came into the weekend with the red plate as series leader and after having won all ten of the races he had contested so far. He led and was hunted by Geerts in the opening moto – a mistake by #61 in the finale stages – was the difference, but he fronted the pack in the second (after his ninth holeshot) and made sure of his eleventh chequered flag of 2019. He toasted the ‘overall’ thanks to his 2-1 and Prado was able to extend his margin at the top of the standings from 3 to 14 points.
A pleasing 4th position in the first moto created home GP podium potential for Tom Vialle but sadly the rookie’s hopes faded in the second race with a fall on the opening circulation and another a few laps later that dropped him out of the top twenty. #28 could not register any points for 28th place, meaning 10th overall.
Jorge Prado: “This was a tough one. I had to push both motos. I relaxed a bit in the last laps but I felt everything was under control until I took the wrong rut over the finish line jump in the first race. I charged hard and tried to make a pass on the last lap. I could not make it happen and was a bit frustrated but I came back in the second one and won. It turned out to be a good weekend with more points for the championship and a bigger gap.”
Tom Vialle: “The whole weekend was a great experience, just a shame about that second moto. The first race was top! A really good climb to fourth place, then I started well in the second moto but fell on the first lap and lost a lot of time. Anyway, I’ll take the positive parts of this home GP and now onto Russia, which is a track I love.”
St Jean D’Angely was the setting for the third round of eight in the 2019 EMX250 European Championship and saw KTM Junior Team’s Rene Hofer making his second appearance in the competition with his 250 SX-F. The Austrian was dealing with a tweaked right knee after his poor luck at the Grand Prix of Lombardia two weeks previously.
The seventeen year old gingerly tackled the knuckles and edges of the French course to go 16-17 on the day for 9 points and 18th place overall. Rene, a rookie on the four-stroke this year, sits 6th in the EMX250 standings.
Round four will take place in Russia in two weeks time.
Rene Hofer: “For sure it was a tough weekend. I had a good qualifying but the races were really hard for me. I rode really carefully and the pain in my knee did not help. I had to come from outside the top twenty in both motos and had a little crash in the first. Anyway, we got some points and I’ll be back at 100% in the next rounds to fight for positions at the front.”
The paddock takes a well-earned break after recent trips to Italy, Portugal and France and in order to get prepared for another consecutive triple. Grand Prix in Russia, Latvia and Germany will start with the trip to Orlyonok on June 9th.
Download the 2019 Grand Prix of France MXGP Photo gallery HERE
Results MXGP France 2019
1. Tim Gajser (SLO), Honda (1-1)
2. Arnaud Tonus (SUI), Yamaha (3-3)
3. Romain Febvre (FRA), Yamaha (5-2)
4. Clement Desalle (BEL), Kawasaki (6-4)
5. Jeremy Seewer (SUI), Yamaha (4-8)
7. Tony Cairoli (ITA), Red Bull KTM (2-17)
Standings MXGP 2019 after 07 of 18 rounds
1. Tony Cairoli 311 points
2. Tim Gajser 301
3. Gautier Paulin 218
4. Clement Desalle 208
5. Arminas Jasikonis 190
Results MX2 France 2019
1. Jorge Prado (ESP), Red Bull KTM (2-1)
2. Jago Geerts (BEL), Yamaha (1-2)
3. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN), Husqvarna (3-5)
4. Mitchell Evans (AUS), Honda (7-4)
5. Adam Sterry (GBR), Kawasaki (6-6)
10. Tom Vialle (FRA), Red Bull KTM (4-28)
Standings MX2 2019 after 07 of 18 rounds
1. Jorge Prado 297
2. Thomas Kjer Olsen 283
3. Jago Geerts 217
4. Henry Jacobi 210
5. Mitchell Evans 187
7. Tom Vialle 182
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