Red Bull KTM Factory Racing resumed their 2020 FIM Motocross World Championship campaign with victory in the long-awaited third round of the series, disputed under the fierce Latvian sun and across the sandy Kegums circuit, 50km from the city of Riga. Tom Vialle took his KTM 250 SX-F to the top step of the MX2 podium for his second win in a row and the third of his career.
The Grand Prix of Latvia was the first of three rounds in seven days to take place on the soft and rough surface at Kegums. A small quantity of public was permitted into the venue with the MXGP paddock adhering to a strict safety protocol in order to allow racing to resume for the first time since early March. The conditions were hot, rough and deceptive due to the hard base and rippled course. For the first time in more than a decade Grand Prix negotiated Free and Timed Practice instead of Qualification Heat races as the championship squeezed into a one-day format.
Jeffrey Herlings went to the gate in 3rd place after the morning chrono with his KTM 450 SX-F. The Dutchman and championship leader couldn’t exit the gate with the leaders in either moto and a slip on the tight and problematic first turn meant he had to burn energy fighting back through the pack in the second race. Herlings took two 4th positions for 5th overall on the day and holds the red plate by four points from Tim Gajser.
Jorge Prado rode well after just four weeks of practice and training due to the Spaniard’s broken collarbone. He secured finishes of 8th and 7th to be 7th in the final classification in an MXGP class packed with GP-winning experience and pedigree. Tony Cairoli was also missing good fortune with his starts. Two run-ins with Arnaud Tonus left the nine times world champion needing to recover ground and positions. In the second moto he rode back from almost last with a painful right knee after his first corner spill. Cairoli went 7-17 for 13th spot.
Jeffrey Herlings: “Today could have been better. Some bad starts, and in the first moto I was a bit too slow at the beginning. I came back from last to 4th but wasted too much energy pushing through to the front. I’m definitely not satisfied but we’ve started racing again now and I know what to do for when we go again in three days.”
Tony Cairoli: “Today was very tough. To restart everything after five months meant it would be tricky because we didn’t know the race pace, but I knew I had trained well and could do good. The only problem was my starts and we saw it at this track where it is difficult to come through the pack. I felt really good to come back to 7th in the first moto and was happy. I was determined to do better in the second and was thinking about going for victory to be honest. I had a better start but had trouble again on the first corner and was hit by another rider. I twisted my knee again. I was not feeling 100% at the beginning and was taking it easy but made another mistake and was outside the top thirty. After that I tried to re-group and bring it home. This is not the result we wanted but I saw a lot of people had troubles this first race. We won’t panic too much but we want to be further forward. I want to get behind the gate again and prove that I can get there. It is so important lately to be at the front at the start of motos. We need to work a bit more on this direction.”
Jorge Prado: “I’m very happy. I came here with a month of training, so to be 7th overall and to be better every time I was on track today means we have to be satisfied. I turned around my bad qualifying with good starts. The track was very tough and they left it bumpy from the European races yesterday. It was hard physically and I need to keep working on that but, overall, I felt quite decent. Speed-wise I am good. I just need to keep getting better.”
MX2 World Championship leader Tom Vialle flew out of the gate on his KTM 250 SX-F and battled with principle title rival Jago Geerts for victory. The Frenchman profited from the Belgian’s mistakes to take the checkered flag in the first race and the duo entertained the scant crowd with a last lap tussle for the win in the second. Vialle finished just behind Geerts but his 1-2 was enough for his second overall Grand Prix win in a row. #28 also extended his gap at the top of the MX2 table to 22 points.
Rene Hofer was roving in the top five of the first moto and reached the line in a strong 5th. The Austrian rookie was the victim of a multi-rider tangle at the start of the second moto and had to withdraw with a damaged motorcycle and a sore left ankle.
Tom Vialle: “It was a good weekend and I’m really happy. There was a lot of water on the track in the morning, but I felt good on the bike by the time of the races and made great starts. Jago crashed in the first moto and then I was comfortable in first position. We had a good fight in the second moto and we passed each other on the last lap. It was decent fight and I was happy to overtake him at the end because it was very hot and I was pretty tired. I just made a little mistake and he got me back. It was so close but I’m happy to win the overall.”
Rene Hofer: “The first moto was great. I moved up to 4th quite quickly and kept in the top five. I still had some energy but made a few small mistakes and I ran out of time to attack [Mathys] Boisrame. In the second one I came-together with another rider and someone else hit me, destroying my front wheel and I couldn’t continue. I feel a bit sore now but should be ready to go on Wednesday again.”
MXGP remains encamped at Kegums this week. The Grand Prix of Riga represents round four and will occur on Wednesday 12th August on a similar track layout.