Ten years on from the FIM World Championship inauguration of the flat, fast and sandy Kegums circuit, MXGP was again present at the Latvian venue for the ninth round of the 2019 season and the halfway point of the campaign. The Grand Prix of Latvia brought the paddock back together after the long trip to Russia and in the midst of another three in a row sequence of races. Red Bull KTM arrived at Kegums – 50km south of Riga – with Jorge Prado still undefeated in the MX2 class and holding the red plate as series leader.
At the site of his first Grand Prix victory with the KTM 450 SX-F in 2017, Jeffrey Herlings picked up his first Qualification Heat triumph on Saturday for what was just his second appearance of the season. A strange crash on the Sighting Lap of the first moto on Sunday would prove to be costly. Herlings was hit by another rider: his fragile right lower leg taking the brunt of the impact. In some discomfort he produced a fantastic performance to beat Arnaud Tonus and win the race but a scan afterwards revealed a hairline fracture of the lower tibia and the Dutchman left the circuit for medical attention.
Tony Cairoli was less than 100% due to the effects of a virus and a weakened right shoulder as a consequence of his crash in the Grand Prix of Russia the previous weekend. The nine-times world champion rode to a brilliant 3rd position in the opening moto, giving Red Bull KTM two motorcycles in the top three. The Italian was unlucky to fall in the second race and sustained a dislocated right shoulder, ending his participation.
Cairoli is chasing Tim Gajser at the top of the table and is 33 points behind the Slovenian.
Tony Cairoli: “On Saturday I had the Flu and a fever, and my arm was not as strong as I wanted after the crash in Russia. I could battle with the guys for first position in the first moto but then I got a bit tired and settled for third, which was good for the championship. In the second moto I was fourth and trying to follow [Arnaud] Tonus. I had quite a big crash and when I stood up I felt my shoulder was out. My hope is to be ready to at least start next week in Germany. I don’t want to give up at all and I want to be there as much as possible for the championship.”
Davide De Carli, Assistant Team Manager: “Tony was struggling at the beginning of the weekend because of the crash in Russia. He had a problem with the nerve in the bottom of the shoulder, which affected the feeling in his right hand. He started great in the first moto and had to slow down a little bit with some pain but third was a really good result that we didn’t expect. In the second race he was gaining some positions but missed power in his arm and the crash caused his shoulder to pop put. There is no damage to the bone or the ligament so we will see if he can try to ride in Germany. We will make some checks this week. Everything is going really well for Jorge and I think he has the best momentum of his career so far. This weekend was the best level of consistency I have seen from him. He is at a really high level.”
Dirk Gruebel, MX2 Team Manager and Technical Co-ordinator: “The MX2 boys did outstanding today but MXGP started very weirdly with Jeffrey’s crash on the Sighting Lap. We had to straighten the bike and he then rode great and won the race: this was also outstanding. Afterwards we found out he had another small fracture in his leg and he was unfit to continue, so we had to call it a day. Tony went down hard in the second race and dislocated his shoulder so it was a hard ending to the day.”
From eight rounds of MX2 prior to Latvia, Jorge Prado has claimed seven wins (all seven he has contested in 2019). That streak continued in Kegums as the eighteen year old Spaniard started from first place and after his fifth Qualification Heat victory on Saturday. Prado set the pace in every session and was a clear winner after establishing his fierce speed from the opening phases of the motos. His 1-1 represented his seventh ‘double’ of the year. Prado consolidated his grip on the MX2 red plate and now enjoys a 30 point lead over Thomas Kjer Olsen.
Tom Vialle was racing at Kegums for the very first time and his starting prowess helped the young Frenchman to results of 7-9. Vialle had to negotiate the rough and bumpy terrain and his ability to make the top ten allowed the rookie to bank yet more valuable experience. He is 6th in the championship and just 4 points from the top five.
Jorge Prado: “This weekend was a bit down for the team. There were some ‘ups’ like my victory and the good ride by Tom but then Jeffrey and Tony getting injured is upsetting. I wish a speed recovery for both of them. From my side it was a perfect weekend. I headed every single session, so really good. Teutschenthal next and I won there last year. Big ruts! Hopefully we can train well this week and keep focussed on the goal.”
Tom Vialle: “It was a special weekend and set of conditions: it was complicated to work out the track for my first visit but I’m happy with the result. My speed was good and two solid finishes and more experience for me. I know I need more training and practice in the sand and to be better on all types of terrain next year. Teutschenthal will be another new place for me but the hard-pack will be good.”
The Grand Prix of Germany will take place through the fast and narrow hard-pack of Talkessel in Teutschenthal next week as MXGP enters the second half of the 2019 season.
Results MXGP Latvia 2019
1. Tim Gajser (SLO), Honda (6-1)
2. Romain Febvre (FRA), Yamaha (4-2)
3. Arnaud Tonus (SUI), Yamaha (2-4)
4. Jeremy Seewer (SUI), Yamaha (5-3)
5. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL), Honda (7-5)
6. Jeffrey Herlings (NED), Red Bull KTM (1-DNS)
11. Tony Cairoli (ITA), Red Bull KTM (3-DNF)
Standings MXGP 2019 after 09 of 18 rounds
1. Tim Gajser 391 points
2. Tony Cairoli 358
3. Jeremy Seewer 256
4. Gautier Paulin 254
5. Arnaud Tonus 246
22. Jeffrey Herlings 57
Results MX2 Latvia 2019
1. Jorge Prado (ESP), Red Bull KTM (1-1)
2. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN), Husqvarna (2-2)
3. Jago Geerts (BEL), Yamaha (3-3)
4. Ben Watson (GBR), Yamaha (4-4)
5. Bas Vaessen (NED) KTM (6-7)
7. Tom Vialle (FRA), Red Bull KTM (7-9)
Standings MX2 2019 after 09 of 18 rounds
1. Jorge Prado 397
2. Thomas Kjer Olsen 367
3. Jago Geerts 301
4. Henry Jacobi 251
5. Ben Watson 246
6. Tom Vialle 242