MXGP waded through the seas and slime of the rain-lashed Lombardia sand in northern Italy for the first Grand Prix of 2019 that counted the climate as an enemy. The tight and centrally-set park location in the small city of Mantova had been battered with stormy conditions after a dry and balmy day of practice and qualification. The deluge created a rough and slippery course that was demanding on the bikes as much as the limbs, stamina and will of the athletes.
In these turgid circumstances for racing, Monster Energy Wilvo Yamaha’s Gautier Paulin was able to keep a steady head and even launch back from a first moto handicap when a tumbling Tim Gajser hit the ooze right in front of him to make the podium in third place. It was the French ace’s third appearance on the MXGP box this year and from the five rounds of eighteen to be played so far.
‘GP21’ was a protagonist at the circuit that drew MXGP together for the first time in a month after the rescheduling of the Grand Prix of China and the postponement of the Grand Prix of Hong Kong. Paulin had been able to use the break effectively. “We made a good step-up with the bike – a big step-up – and I really feel good,” the Motocross of Nations serial winner said. “Today the races didn’t really go as expected but I am up on the box and that is always a pleasure for the team and myself. We made a few mistakes and on the first lap Tim [Gajser] crashed in front of me that cost me a lot of time. I enjoyed racing and that was the main thing.”
Paulin sampled the champagne but his old foe – Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Clement Desalle – also wrote a pretty good story. The Belgian had been largely inactive during the hiatus because of a small operation on his right knee. #25 decided only a few days before Mantova to travel and attempt the meeting, despite minimal bike time. The veteran was 5-6 on the day for a very encouraging 4th overall.
“I’m really happy with the situation,” he grinned. “It was a month without touching the bike for me and then just twice on it last week. I was not expecting this honestly, and on Tuesday I still did not know if I would come here. The track was completely different to how it was yesterday and when I arrived in the morning I knew it would be difficult! Sometimes in these conditions you have to put your foot down when you don’t expect and that’s the worst for me at the moment. I kept the same plan of aiming for a good start, doing my best and seeing what I could get. I’m in a situation where I really have to listen to my body but I am happy with how it went.”
MXGP opens the gas a little wider now. The second race to take place in Italy this year was also the first of three in a row; taking-in trips to Portugal and France in the coming fortnight. The championship will then have a weekend respite before heading east for events in Russia, Latvia and Germany.