Only a fall two hundred metres from the finish as he sought a sensational last-gasp victory cost Romain Febvre of the Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team the podium he deserved at Lommel in Belgium.
The Frenchman had been restricted to thirteenth place in a rain-affected morning Qualifying at the fourteenth round of the FIM World MXGP Motocross Championship but he burst in action on the green KX450-SR Kawasaki when the gate dropped for the start of the opening moto. Sweeping through turn one he immediately took third place and on lap two he advanced into second place and closed onto the rear wheel of the leader with the fastest lap of the race. A vital loss of momentum through the waves section then saw him surrender a place and he had to be content with third but, fully aware that the second race would be even tougher and would decide the destiny of the overall victory, he regrouped for the second encounter. Eighth through the opening turn he resolutely pursued the riders ahead of him and was already fifth by lap three, advancing to third by lap seven as he closed down the leaders at two-to-three seconds per lap. Ready to pounce by lap ten he suffered a setback as the front wheel slid away in a soft sandy turn but was undeterred by the incident and by the start of the final lap once again had the leaders in vizier. An overall podium finish was secure but the Frenchman wanted more and gambled everything on a dramatic attempt through the waves just a few hundred metres from the chequered flag. Carrying the speed to take him through as he leapt into the gnarly series of heavily-rutted waves his front wheel found a soft path of sand and he was thrown over the bars. He remounted quickly to cross the line fourth but the single loss of position pushed him down to fourth overall, surrendering third on the day only in a points-tie. He has strengthened his hold on fifth place in the championship standings and is moving ever closer to fourth as the series heads to the final four rounds.
Romain Febvre: “I can’t really say that the day went as I planned! In the first race I passed Gajser when he made a mistake but then he passed me back when I also made a mistake; then I had some arm pump and lost contact with him but I could secure my third position. My second start wasn’t so good. The first corner was quite unpredictable but I came back to third; then I had a crash which cost one position but I came back third behind Cairoli again and on the last lap I saw him make a mistake before the waves section. I tried to pass him but I crashed, losing one position and the podium; too bad but I have no regrets as I had to take the chance. That’s racing; let’s hope that I will be able to put all the pieces together on Sunday.”
Clement Desalle rocketed back into the spotlight with third-best time in Qualifying to secure his best choice of gate this season. Starting ninth in race one he displayed his wealth of experience to run a calculated race, maintaining consistent lap times throughout the moto in the demanding conditions as the speed of many rivals fluctuated in the extreme, to finish eighth. Gating sixth in race two he maintained a top-eight placing until an incident mid-moto temporarily pushed him back to eleventh, but his rugged resolution saw the Belgian back inside the top ten at the finish to secure eighth overall on the day and consolidate his eighth place in the series standings.
Clement Desalle: « Today was again a little bit better than the previous GP. I had a good qualification in third position as I managed a very good lap right at the end of the session. I didn’t take any risks and was pleased with the results which confirmed that our changes to the settings were correct. My start was decent in the first race but I struggled to find good lines and a good rhythm; I was ninth for most of tbe race but finally passed to eighth at the finish. The second race was the opposite; my start was better and my feeling was good in the first half of the race but then I made a few mistakes and even crashed mid-moto. After that it was difficult to find a good rhythm again and I finished tenth. It’s not easy to do several GPs in rapid succession here in Lommel but I will do my best to recover and make another step forward next Sunday.”