The Saturday afternoon qualifying races saw expected wins in all the three classes, with the Red Bull Factory KTM team locking down the top two places in MX1, MX2 and MX3.
But whilst the wins from Cairoli, Roczen and Herlings went according to script, the position below them saw a fair amount of drama and even the disqualification of one of the American team.
From the start of the first race, World Champion Antonio Cairoli made his intentions clear as he lead coming out of first corner, with team mate Max Nagl, Marc Dereuver, Clement Desalle and Evgeny Bobryshev close behind. The number 1 plate of Ryan Dungey was in an unfamiliar sixth place and in this company, the American didn’t look his usual confident self. Within a short period of time Cairoli began to build a gap on Nagl and the race was beginning to head in a familiar direction. But Max clearly had other ideas, fighting back to get past the Italian Team captain on lap three. As this was happening, Dungey was making slow progress to get to fourth, only to have problems on lap eight that left him without goggles a and far from his previous dominant form. Cairoli retook the lead five laps later and never really looked back. Holland’s DeReuver put in a fantastic performance at the start of the race, but dropped back slightly towards the end bringing in a creditable seventh for his team. . France’s Gautier Paulin was able to put in a strong performance, taking a fourth place finish ahead of a hard charging Evgeny Bobryshev. By the end of the twenty minute qualifying race, the top three were taken by Cairoli, Nagl and Desalle, with America’s Ryan Dungey in a safe if not spectacular sixth.
Whilst it didn’t last very long, it was the KTM of Glen Coldenhoff that took the hole shot in the MX2 class, heading round the first corner ahead of Ken Roczen. Within a few moments, the German snatched the lead and proceeded to put on a faultless performance, leading every one of the twelve lap race. Behind him, home rider Jeremy Van Horebeek was also slotting in perfect laps to hold second unchallenged for the whole moto. Jake Nicholls started in third place, but was passed by Coldenhoff by lap two. As with his team mate, Americas Blake Baggett began his heat in sixth place, rapidly advancing to fourth within three laps. When Coldenhoff fell on the back part of the circuit, Baggett moved up to third, but with Roczen and Van Horebeek long gone, it was the best he could achieve within the short race. Marvin Musquin was the man on the charge within the top of the field, improving from seventh on lap one to an eventual fourth place finish. With Nicholls ending the race in fifth, there were an impressive four KTMs in the top five. With Roczen adding a win to Nagl’s second place in the first moto, Team Germany were looking decidedly strong prospects for the main races tomorrow.
Without doubt this was the most eagerly awaited race of the three, with the weight of expectation firmly hung round the neck of ‘King of the Sand’ Jeffrey Herlings. And whilst the young KTM pilot got the overall win, it was by no means as dominant a display as he had given at the Lierop Grand Prix. Americas Justin Barcia was the one who took the early lead, and had the look of a man that had this circuit firmly dialled. Great Britain’s Max Anstie was in second behind him, muscling the big Honda around Lommel’s tough sand ahead of Ken De Dycker. Herlings started way back in the pack, but he had moved from eleventh to fourth within one lap, catching up with Barcia by lap five. Herlings passed the American going into the far loop of the circuit, but Barcia was not going to let him go without a fight, throwing all of his speed into the deep sand to keep in sight if the Dutch rider. Max had fallen on lap three allowing Tanel Leok to inherit his place. But then the drama came. Barcia got twisted on the sweeping curve before the pit lane straight, and ended up ploughing into the advertising hoardings. The young American could not free his bike, only succeeding in digging the bike further into the sand. He eventually got out with what was latterly judged as ‘outside assistance’ and was to be disqualified after the race.
The top five were thus Herlings, De Dycker, Leok, Anstie, Guarneri, and this result meant that the top places go went to Germany, followed by Belgium, Italy, Holland and France for Sunday’s races.
Open Gallery20 Images
Words Julian Challis
Images by Ray Chuss