The first round of the 2019 FIM Motocross World Championship season is in the books. The MXGP of Patagonia Argentina hosted MXGP for the fifth year and again provided amazing racing.
The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing duo of Tony Cairoli and Jorge Prado each took double race wins to score the first respective MXGP and MX2 overall wins of the new year.
Saturday’s Qualifying set the stage for today’s Championship races where over 30,000 fans lined the beautiful Patagonian circuit. Even with the venue nestled between two lakes and along the Andes mountains all eyes were on the epic racing.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Tony Cairoli was the favourite for the first MXGP round but it wasn’t an easy weekend by any means for the 9-time champion. Saturday’s Qualifying races left the #222 on the far outside gate after not finishing due to a bike issue yesterday.
When the racing kicked off Cairoli’s KTM was back better than ever, but Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team’s Julien Lieber took the Fox Holeshot. The lead for Lieber was short-lived as Cairoli took over on the first official lap.
Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP’s Romain Febvre, who came into the race as the qualifying race winner, was into second position by the end of the first lap leaving Lieber to fight for position with his Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Teammate Clement Desalle and Team HRC’s Tim Gajser. The pair also dispatched the #33 pushing him to fifth.
During the next three laps Lieber dropped two more spots first to Monster Energy Wilvo Yamaha Official MXGP’s Gautier Paulin and next to fellow Belgian Jeremy Van Horebeek on his HONDA SR MOTOBLOUZ bike.
Tim Gajser was the rider on the move in race one though as he passed Desalle for second then reeled in Febvre and took second. With five laps remaining Cairoli was long gone in the lead but Gajser keep pushing to open a gap over Febvre.
The race win went to Cairoli in a dominating performance with Gajser, Febvre, Desalle, and Paulin rounding out the top five. Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Arminas Jasikonis and Pauls Jonass battled throughout the late stages of the race after both made it by Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP’s Jeremy Seewer. Jasikonis eventually came out ahead of Jonass as the pair finished eighth and ninth and Seewer took the final spot in the top 10.
MXGP Race 2 started with another Fox Holeshot from Julien Lieber while Cairoli came out of the first turn around fifth avoiding a crash that involved Paulin, Desalle, and Seewer. Seewer was the first get going coming across the first lap in 15th while Desalle was 16th and Paulin 19th. Lieber lost the advantage earned by his holeshot when he fell on the opening lap as well getting back up in 18th.
Febvre took over the lead from Lieber with Gajser giving chase and Cairoli closing in for a fight for the lead. BOS Factory’s Tommy Searle was in fourth but dropped a spot to Van Horebeek early in the race while Standing Construct KTM’s Ivo Monticelli took sixth from RFX KTM Racing’s Shaun Simpson.
Monticelli’s Standing Construct KTM team-mate Max Anstie took 6th from the Italian on the fifth lap and then sized up fellow Brit Tommy Searle for fifth position. Meanwhile, the battle for the lead turned into an all-out but short-lived brawl as Cairoli miraculously passed both Gajser and Febvre in the same section.
With Cairoli taking the spot from Febvre the Slovenian of Gajser found a way past the Frenchman as well. On the 14th lap of 18 Febvre crashed out of the race in the roller section giving Van Horebeek third and moving Anstie and Searle into the top five.
Desalle and Paulin worked forward together throughout the race after the first turn crash with Paulin taking fifth from Searle with three laps to go while Desalle made a pass on the #100 in the last lap.
At the finish it was Cairoli who managed to hold of a consistently fast Gajser for the first MXGP overall victory of 2019 and his 16th consecutive season with a GP victory. Gajser’s pair of second-place finishes took him to the podium as well while Van Horebeek surprised many with his 6-3 race finishes to earn third and his first podium since the 2017 season where he finished third at MXGP of Europe in Valkenswaard and second at this same venue prior.
Tony Cairoli: “I am happy overall today because after yesterday I wasn’t sure how I will do off the starts. The rhythm was high in the beginning but I was just trying to see where I could gain some time. I managed to have two good starts, both were in the top ten…I found some good lines and I had a good race taking the overall which makes me really happy. There are a lot of Argentinian fans who cheer for me all year on social media so it is nice to give them a win especially on this track which I have never had the chance to win at, I was close last year but it is always nice to race where people don’t see us often and make them happy.”
Tim Gajser: “It was good, I am really happy, yesterday I had a big crash and today I was a bit sore. In the first race I had a solid start inside the top ten and had to work hard to come through the pack but I finished second which was good. In the second race I was a bit tight and didn’t relax, then Febvre and Tony passed me. I tried to stay with them to see where I was losing time then I passed Romain and with Tony we were about the same times, I tried to push but couldn’t get closer. It was a nice race and I’m looking forward to the next round already.”
Jeremy Van Horebeek: “It is still unbelievable. Until two weeks ago I didn’t know we would be here so it has been a crazy ride since last year. I am so thankful to this team for giving me the chance. I am thankful and I am going to keep on working to make this a great season.”
MX2 Championship racing was the first to start off the day and as early as the first turn the unexpected happened with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Tom Vialle taking the Fox Holeshot in his first ever FIM Motocross World Championship race.
Vialle’s lead quickly went to the defending MX2 World Champion Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s but the young French rider held his own as the race progressed. F&H Racing Kawasaki’s Henry Jacobi took second during lap two and then worked to catch Prado.
Saturday’s Qualifying winner, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Thomas Kjer Olsen, spun off the gate and was fight his way forward from outside the top five in the early stages of the race. Between Vialle in 3rd and Olsen was Honda 114 Motorsport’s Mitch Evans, Team HRC’s Calvin Vlaanderen, and Monster Energy Kemea Yamaha Official MX2’s Jago Geerts.
However, in only five laps Olsen moved up four positions to just behind Jacobi who was in second. During this time Prado had done damage to anyone else’s chance of winning by putting in three consecutive fastest laps of the race and growing a massive gap.
It took three laps for Olsen to make a pass on Jacobi stick as the Kawasaki rider didn’t let the spot go easily. Prado’s gap proved to be too big for Olsen to overcome and the Spaniard took the race win while Jacobi finished third, Vlaanderen fourth, and MX2 rookie Mitch Evans took fifth.
Race 2 was another Red Bull KTM holeshot but this time it went to Jorge Prado with Evans running in second and Olsen third. Monster Energy Kemea Yamaha Official MX2’s Ben Watson was off to a good start as well, but a handful of mistakes dropped him from fourth to outside the top 10 early.
Vlaanderen took over the fourth position vacated by Watson and Vialle moved to fifth while at the Prado again pulled a gap. Olsen was able to get by the #43 of Evans and closed slightly on Prado but still was several seconds behind.
F&H Racing’s Adam Sterry and Henry Jacobi were making progress as Sterry took 5th from Vialle who then dropped another spot to Jacobi. Sterry stayed in fifth for nearly five laps but crashed just before the challenging wave section. The fall gave Jacobi fifth but dropped Sterry to ninth where he would finish.
At the finish line it was Jorge Prado who took the overall win and 50 points allowing him to retain the red plate earned last season. Olsen took second overall matching his 2018 result in Patagonia while Australia’s Mitch Evans took third overall in what his first ever MX2 race!
Jorge Prado: “It was great to be back at the GPs, it is a long season but I have so much fun. Yesterday I had a good day but today I woke up and felt even better. I had two good starts which is very important because everyone is going fast and it is hard to make a difference. I am very happy with two firsts, for first overall, and points lead so it is a good start to the season.”
Thomas Kjer Olsen: “The first race I did slide on the gate…I felt like a came through the pack pretty good but once I got to second Prado was already like 12 seconds ahead so I tried to save some energy for the second race. Again not the greatest of starts but we will go back and work on those for sure to be more consistent. Overall I feel my riding was good and I felt good on the bike so I’m happy about that and it is a great feeling at the start of the season.”
Mitch Evans: “I couldn’t be any happier, I didn’t really know what to expect being my first GP. I enjoyed every moment of it, it was awesome being here, the fans were awesome so I really enjoyed it. I knew the work that we put in during the off-season and the preseason races that we had if I got good starts I could run with these boys.”