From ruts and hard-pack to rain and slime: MXGP heavily tested the fastest motocross racers in the world for the second round in succession and the tenth outing of nineteen in 2017 MXGP. A thick ‘mudder’ at Orlyonok for the first Grand Prix of Russia in half a decade saw the guile and technical skills of Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Clement Desalle come to the fore once more. The Belgian cut a path through the impressive (but badly rain-hit) course on the shores of the Black Sea to grasp positions of 3-1 and win for the second time on the bounce after owning the French fixture on the vast ’17 calendar two weeks previously.
A fast, hard and inviting layout, relentless with uphill pushes and nerve-straining descents, drew comments of praise on a dry Saturday of practice and qualification. Arnaud Tonus sat on Pole Position for the busy meeting that represented a hike of almost 2000 miles from most of the teams from western Europe and their main workshop hubs.
Come Saturday evening and Sunday morning unforgiving showers turned the dirt into a swampy mess and flashed reminders of dramatic scenes at the boggy Grand Prix of Indonesia for what was the second date of the current term. With speed vastly reduced MXGP became about choice, strength and a different level of bravery. Desalle was one that thrived in the conditions and kept mistakes to a minimum. His charge after Monster Energy Romain Febvre in a slightly drier second moto brought about his second chequered flag of the year.
“A really nice feeling to win again,” offered #25 who has now moved into second place in the championship table and is less than 50 points behind Tony Cairoli. “In those conditions you need to have a few things going for you but you also need to be a good rider in the mud. I changed my strategy for the second moto and was really fast into the first corner. Febvre made a mistake and I tried to stay calm. I will keep working to try and have some more wins…that why we are here!”
Leading a Grand Prix moto for the first time in 2017; Russia was an important shot of confidence for Febvre who was sixth overall due to his lowly tenth place in the first moto. Bad news lay in store for teammate Jeremy Van Horebeek who sustained a broken bone in his right hand on Saturday and was forced to the sidelines.
In MX2 Kemea Yamaha were buoyed by Benoit Paturel taking his YZ250F into the top three once more with third spot in the first moto (the wettest and trickiest of the day) and the Frenchman was fourth in the final classification. He placed ahead of teammate Alvin Ostlund who was immensely satisfied with a good day’s work and his personal best GP finish to-date.
MXGP flies west and home this week and will look towards a second weekend on Italian territory this year with the Grand Prix of Lombardy at Ottobiano south of Milan in two weeks time. Can Desalle go three in a row?