The 2017 MXGP World Championships have finally got underway with qualifying day at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar. After months of talk and speculation, the riders got down to business on this tricky track and for the Suzuki World MXGP team, it was a mixed start after such a promising pre-season.
The loss of Arminas Jasikonis to visa issues meant that Kevin Strijbos was the sole representative in the MXGP class – and despite showing good speed in Timed Practice with a second-place gate pick, a poor start meant any chance of a good finish would be extremely difficult on what is historically a very difficult track to pass on.
However, the Belgian kept charging throughout the entire moto, passing a lot of top-quality riders to finish up a respectable 14th. With a better start, there is certainly no reason why he can’t battle at the front of the field on what is a totally new day of racing.
“It was a good day with my speed, which I was happy with,” commented the confident Belgian. “It was just my start, Tony [Cairoli] came a bit to my side so I had to cut off the throttle and then I almost collided with Glenn [Coldenhoff] after he messed-up in a mud puddle. I pushed until the end of the moto and finished 14th but with the gate [the new starting mesh] the position isn’t that important because everyone has the same conditions so I should be fine for tomorrow.”
In the MX2 race, Jeremy Seewer had a solid start to his 2017 campaign, passing a few riders after a decent start to finish in third place. “Jonass and Paturel were already a bit gone,” said the Swiss rider, “I could close it a bit but I didn’t find the lines I wanted to find, but the race is tomorrow and we’re in a good position. There is nothing to win today, I just wanted to build up the confidence for tomorrow.”
Just behind Seewer was rookie Hunter Lawrence who had a great first lap, moving up from mid-pack into the top-10 with some nice moves. He then settled in behind some more experienced riders before putting in another couple of passes to score an impressive finishing position of fifth place. “I just put some laps in, sitting behind Seewer, Prado and Bernardini, trying not to do anything silly,” he said. “Ended up fifth, which is great, so we’ll see how it goes tomorrow, but I’m excited to have got the first gate drop out of the way, especially under the lights of Qatar, which was pretty cool.”
Unfortunately, Bas Vaessen wasn’t able to quite match his teammates after a couple of crashes during the moto, but his one-lap speed was there and he can head into tomorrow knowing a good jump out the gate will put himself in with a good chance of some solid results. “I didn’t really feel too comfortable,” said a disappointed Vaessen, “but my lap-times were good so I’m pumped on that. Now I just have to improve the beginning of the race for tomorrow.”
Despite a surprising amount of rain these past two weeks in Qatar, the forecast is meant to stay dry on Saturday, with hopefully a little less wind, after what was a very blustery evening. The wind caused the track staff some problems as it meant different parts were drying quicker than others, with a few slick spots dotted between some muddier sections. Overall though, the prep was very good and it should hold-up for the racing in what will be a very exciting evening of action.
The warm-ups are due to begin at 2.30pm local time with the first MX2 moto gate drop at 5.05pm, and the four members of the Suzuki World MXGP team are excited to step-it-up for the real gate drops tomorrow.
MXGP Qualification Heat Classification: 1. Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda), 25:05.634; 2. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:00.617; 3. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Husqvarna), +0:15.909; 4. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda), +0:17.398; 5. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), +0:20.023; 6. Arnaud Tonus (SUI, Yamaha), +0:21.556; 7. Romain Febvre (FRA, Yamaha), +0:25.823; 8. Max Anstie (GBR, Husqvarna), +0:28.921; 9. Clement Desalle (BEL, Kawasaki), +0:30.262; 10. Jordi Tixier (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:31.720; 11. Maximilian Nagl (GER, Husqvarna), +0:33.763; 12. Jose Butron (ESP, KTM), +0:43.231; 13. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), +0:49.634; 14. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Suzuki World MXGP), +1:00.268; 15. Alessandro Lupino (ITA, Honda), +1:02.273; 16. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), +1:04.431; 17. Shaun Simpson (GBR, Yamaha), +1:06.396; 18. Tanel Leok (EST, Husqvarna), +1:07.144; 19. Rui Goncalves (POR, Husqvarna), +1:12.236; 20. Valentin Guillod (SUI, Honda), +1:12.521; 21. Jake Nicholls (GBR, KTM), +1:24.123.
MX2 Qualification Heat Classification: 1. Pauls Jonass (LAT, KTM), 25:28.950; 2. Benoit Paturel (FRA, Yamaha), +0:01.319; 3. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, Suzuki World MX2), +0:04.215; 4. Jorge Prado Garcia (ESP, KTM), +0:15.022; 5. Hunter Lawrence (AUS, Suzuki World MX2), +0:16.129; 6. Julien Lieber (BEL, KTM), +0:19.109; 7. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, Husqvarna), +0:21.208; 8. Darian Sanayei (USA, Kawasaki), +0:26.088; 9. Thomas Covington (USA, Husqvarna), +0:26.566; 10. Brent Van doninck (BEL, Yamaha), +0:29.571; 11. Vsevolod Brylyakov (RUS, Kawasaki), +0:29.936; 12. Michele Cervellin (ITA, Honda), +0:33.200; 13. Alvin Östlund (SWE, Yamaha), +0:36.539; 14. Anton Gole (SWE, Husqvarna), +0:42.787; 15. Davy Pootjes (NED, KTM), +0:50.636; 16. Stephen Rubini (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:54.844; 17. Ivo Monticelli (ITA, KTM), +0:56.180; 18. Ben Watson (GBR, KTM), +0:59.030; 19. Adam Sterry (GBR, Kawasaki), +1:02.091; 20. Iker Larranaga Olano (ESP, Husqvarna), +1:05.763; 21. Samuele Bernardini (ITA, TM), +1:06.769; 22. Jay Wilson (AUS, Yamaha), +1:08.474; 23. Conrad Mewse (GBR, Husqvarna), +1:09.740; 24. Bas Vaessen (NED, Suzuki World MX2), +1:21.736; 25. Ivan Petrov (BUL, Husqvarna), +1:29.326; 26. Caleb Ward (AUS, Husqvarna), +1:31.781; 27. Magne Klingsheim (NOR, Kawasaki), +1:52.174; 28. Chihiro Notsuka (JPN, Honda), +1:54.114; 29. Brian Bogers (NED, KTM), -13 lap(s); 30. Maykal Grisha Ivanov (BUL, Honda), -13 lap(s).