Atrocious conditions at the Indonesian Pangkal Pinang track made it a race to survive, rather than a race to win.
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Emphatic GP Win for Simpson
Besieged by storms, the second round of the FIM Motocross World Championship was reduced to a one-race program due to the extreme deterioration of the track. Wilvo Yamaha Official MXGP’s rut connoisseur Shaun Simpson mastered the unusual and ever transforming swamp-like dirt of Pangkal Pinang, Indonesia, for his first grand prix since the MXGP of The Netherlands 2015.
There aren’t many circuits that can stop the world’s best riders dead in their tracks, but the treacherous quick-sand of Pangkal Pinang has now added itself to that statistic. Riders were dropping like flies with many forced to retire after being physically swallowed by the saturated dirt, even Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Romain Febvre and Jeremy Van Horebeek, and Wilvo Yamaha Official MXGP’s Arnaud Tonus fell victim to the worsening conditions.
A smooth sea never made for a skillful sailor, and after a rotten start to the season where he struggled his way to sixteenth overall, Simspon redirected his sail and caught the wind perfectly. The Scot was masterful on the savage track this weekend where he went to the gate first as the top qualifier before turning his sixth place start into a powerful race win.
Romain Febvre fell and hurt his shoulder in Warm-Up this morning, but being the gritty rider that he is, he managed to channel his energy into the start and pulled a massive holeshot onboard his cutting-edge YZ450FM machine. The Frenchman dropped back to tenth on the opening lap after missing the sighting lap in order to preserve his engine, but soon found his rhythm and his lines, and began reeling the leaders in. After making light work of the reigning world champion, Tim Gajser, and the eight-time world champion, Antonio Cairoli, Febvre found himself in fourth, but with three laps to go his campaign for a top three finish was bought to an abrupt end with his bike being swallowed whole by a bottomless rut.
While the grand prix was anything but a damp affair in terms of excitement coming from the thousands of Indonesian fans, the dampness of the soil made for an unpredictable track, and it was that unpredictability that caught Jeremy Van Horebeek out while he was running inside the top five. Like many of the riders today, Van Horebeek was trapped by ruts and boggy areas all over the show, but on a positive note, he made the best of a bad situation and managed to battle back for a respectable tenth place finish. Arnaud Tonus finished fifteenth, while Febvre was awarded eighteenth despite not finishing the race.
A whole winter of preparation has gone into mastering the unique difficulties the nineteen round MXGP series will put forth. With two of the most difficult rounds done and dusted, one in the Middle East, Qatar, and one in Asia, Indonesia, the next round of the FIM Motocross World Championship will take place in South America, Patagonia-Argentina on the 18th and 19th of March.
“Fantastic, but a little surreal. It was nice to get off to a good start. I didn’t go out on the sighting lap so I was a little unsure but I talked to the team manager, Louis, and he told me about some good lines so I had a good idea about where I needed to go. I started sixth or seventh and picked off a couple of guys and I knew that once I got past Tim Gajser for fifth that I could get to the front.”
“I had some pain on my shoulder but I was still riding good, so to not finish because I was stuck, it’s even worse. I didn’t do the sighting lap to save the bike, so when I pulled the holeshot and didn’t jump the first jump many guys passed me, but I found my rhythm pretty fast, I just got stuck.”
“I had a really good start, and crashed, and then I got back to my pace and then on the back of the track I hit a soft place and the bike stopped and I went straight over the ‘bars. I still finished tenth, I am happy with this because I only had two crashes and with the difficulty of the track, it’s like gambling, so what more can I do?”