Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP’s Gautier Paulin celebrated his first MXGP race win since 2017 on his way to second overall at the 13th round of the FIM Motocross World Championship in Lommel, Belgium. Jeremy Seewer recovered from some costly mistakes to finish fifth overall, while Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP teammate Arnaud Tonus made a positive return from injury to round out the top-10.
Starting on an already battered circuit from the European Championship races yesterday, the YZ450FM riders tried to put in some fast laps in Timed Practice. With results from the session determining gate pick, Paulin’s fastest time allowed him to go to the start-line in fourth position followed by teammates Tonus and Seewer in eighth and 10th.
Already rippled with sharp bumps, deteriorated jump faces and massive holes, the challenging Lommel circuit lived up to its reputation as the toughest track in the world. Paulin got a great start but over jumped the first ski jump and bobbled straight into the path of his teammate Tonus. Both riders were shuffled back to sixth and seventh as Seewer fell on Lap-1 and started from last.
As one of the most technically gifted riders inside the MXGP class, Paulin excelled. The Frenchman wasted no time stylishly moving back up into the top-three on the opening lap. The ‘21’ impressively jumped past Jorge Prado and up into second on Lap-2 and went after the race leader Tim Gajser.
With 10-minutes left on the clock, Paulin started to apply the pressure to the Gajser. The Championship Leader, Gajser, eventually made a mistake and crashed which handed the YZ450FM rider his first race victory since the MXGP of Europe, in Valkenswaard, The Netherlands, 2017.
Having spent a month recovering from the concussion sustained at the MXGP of Lombardia in Mantova, Italy. Tonus made a solid return to proceedings with a commendable seventh-place finish.
Many riders fell foul to the brutal conditions. Seewer recovered from a big mistake in the wave section early-on to pass Tonus for fifth but suffered from a crash and an incredibly strange issue that saw the holeshot device lock-down with 2-laps to go. He eventually finished eighth.
In Race 2, all three riders were fortunate to avoid the carnage at turn-one. Seewer was inside the top-three and managed to move up to second after a tight pass on Prado but lost a position to Romain Febvre after jumping off-track and crashing. The ‘91’ ended up crossing the finish line in third.
Paulin was mindful of Lommel’s demands and after starting sixth, the Frenchman put in a tidy ride to finish fifth in the final race for second overall. Although the 30-year-old has mounted the Motocross World Championship podium on 58 occasions, this success was particularly emotional as at one point he was unsure if he would ever return to this level after suffering a broken vertebra, C3 and C5, in the downtime before the MXGP season restarted in August.
Understandably lacking some race fitness after a huge effort in Race 1, Tonus faded from eighth back to 15th on the unforgiving, brutal and energy sapping circuit but was content with tenth overall.
Seewer is tied on 429-points for third in the MXGP Championship Standings while Paulin remains seventh.
The Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP Team will remain in Lommel, Belgium, until October 25th with the next two rounds of the FIM Motocross World Championship set to take place at the venue over the next five days, on Wednesday 21st and Sunday 25th.
2nd MXGP of Flanders, 41-points
7th MXGP Championship Standings, 352-points
“This is an emotional high. I am really happy to be back on the podium especially for myself and for my team. It has been a tough road, it has been a long time since I had a win, so in the first moto I could have it, I was really pushing hard on a good rhythm. I didn’t really talk about it, but at the end of May I broke my back and knocked myself hard, so to be back at this level I am really happy because from the ground, in hospital where I broke two vertebra, it was a really hard time and then I crashed again in Faenza (Italy) and hurt myself again. Now I am feeling 100% and I am really happy to be back again.”
5th MXGP of Flanders, 33-points
4th MXGP Championship Standings, 429-points
“Lommel is always tough except when you are winning, and then I think you enjoy it. I felt okay today. I had a tip over on the first lap and was caught in the pack, almost last, but I had good speed and rhythm and I came back to fifth but then I made another small mistake and had a technical problem which cost me another three positions. I had a good start in the second race which paid off. I felt solid in second position but I threw it away with a stupid crash, but this is how it is in Lommel. If you’re on the limit it’s really sketchy, but I am still happy with third in that race but a little bit disappointed. At least we have another two rounds to make up.”
10th MXGP of Flanders, 20-points
18th MXGP Championship Standings, 91-points
“From the couch to Lommel is very hard. I came here with only two days on the bike since my crash in Mantova, so I came here with no expectations. I just wanted to get through it and try to build up over the final six rounds. The first race was positive but I gave a lot of energy. In the second race I just wanted to finish the race healthy, so I was super slow but I managed to finish and it’s a step towards building up over the next rounds.”