Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team’s Romain Febvre has moved to second in the FIM World MXGP Motocross Championship standings after a tantalising duel at Lacapelle Marival in his native France.
The scene was already set in the morning as the two fastest motocross riders on the planet outpaced the rest of the world elite by nearly two seconds in Qualifying, and they confirmed their dominance with two terrific race-long duels in the afternoon. The Frenchman advanced rapidly to second behind his arch-rival Jeffrey Herlings on the opening lap of each moto with dramatic moves on the rugged highly-technical old-school track and maintained the pressure throughout both thirty-minute-plus-two-lap motos to the chequered flag. He made an exhilarating pass on the Dutchman directly in front of the ecstatic gallery of supporters on the eighth lap of race one and immediately opened up a five-second lead which he defended until the closing laps when lapped riders started to play a role and entering the final lap the front two were once again locked together. The super-cool Kawasaki rider defiantly refused to be ruffled and came home a jubilant winner by less than a second. The fans were on tenterhooks as the riders lined up for race two and once again Herlings and Febvre hit the front halfway round the opening lap to sprint clear of the pack, neither giving an inch as they traded ever-faster sectors times around the tight arena. The Frenchman continued to exert pressure on the leader and it paid off at half-distance as Herlings made a mistake and, both riders absolutely on the limit, Febvre pushed the pace to open up a three-second lead before they once again encountered backmarkers. The Dutchman edged ever closer in traffic and with three laps to go he held the inside line as the duo approached a tight turn to move ahead. The Kawasaki rider refused to surrender and edged back ever closer through the final two laps with the final result in doubt until he found himself momentarily caught behind a lapper and had to be content with an honourable second place for runner-up overall on the day as the top two shared the same points total on the day. The forty-seven points haul has hoisted the Kawasaki leader to second in the points chase, just six points shy of the pacesetter with six GPs remaining. The series continues next weekend at the Xanadu-Arroyomolinos shopping complex on the outskirts of the Spanish capital Madrid.
Romain Febvre: “I was happy to win the first moto. We saw already in the morning that our speed was much faster than the others so it was a real challenge which of us would win. I was quickly second with a couple of good passes in the first race; I had a really good spot to pass but I didn’t want to show it to Jeffrey until I was sure I was close enough. It was tough at the end with the lapped riders but we won and could celebrate that one with the French fans. In the second moto we were already first and second again after a few turns so I knew it would be a challenge to the end. I got around Jeffrey when he made a mistake and I made a few fast laps to make a gap but at the end he was faster in some sectors. Obviously I am a little disappointed. I almost won at home but it’s good to be on the podium and I am happy to see so many fans; they deserved the win but I couldn’t quite make it happen for them. It’s nice to have three of us really close in the points; hopefully we keep it like this to the end and I can find something to make the difference at the last few rounds.“