After a turbulent time in both France and Portugal, it’s now the turn of Belgium to host the World Motocross Championship. The GP racing returns to the comedy named Walloon region and to the Bastogne circuit for the first time in some five years, and marks the half way point to the 2012 title race. Whilst many will only know Belgium as the home of Tintin and the preposterously moustached Hercule Poirot, motocross fans will be all too aware that this rather uninspiring country has spawned some of the most inspirational riders in history, and probably more world champions than anywhere else on the planet. DeCoster, Malherbe, Geboers, Jobe, Rahier, Martens, Smets, Bervoets, Ramon and of course Everts(Senior and Junior) head up the roll call of Belgium’s motocross royalty, and that’s a hell of a list! For the new tranche of Belgian riders, the chance to join that group will surely make them want to bring their ‘A game’ to Bastogne.
The Portugal GP marked a turning point in the calendar for Team Suzuki, as finally Clement DeSalle got all his ducks in a row and got the overall victory. OK so the forty five points gained in Agueda are important if he is to have any chance of catching Cairoli, but even more important is the mental hurdle that he has overcome to know he can win this year against the stacked field. DeSalle is now second in the championship, still some 37 point adrift from TC222, but that’s not an impossible difference if Cairoli has one bad day. The trouble for the Suzuki rider and indeed the rest of the pack is that Antonio does well even on his bad days.
Third and fourth spot are now French territory with Paulin just one wafer thin point ahead of Pourcel, even if Christophe doesn’t seem to have much time for his countryman! With DeDycker also from the region, he will certainly hope that this can be the time he makes it to the podium ahead of the Frenchies – Go on Big Man!
With the momentum of last week’s race and the support of a passionate home crowd, DeSalle may just have enough in the tank to go two in a row, but how many people would bet against Cairoli coming back with a bang stamping his authority on the class with a straight 1 -1?
In a very unfortunate way, the MX2 class has become the headline maker this year, but probably for the wrong reasons. The progress of Jeffrey Herlings through this year has been uncomfortable to watch, as it seems his desire to win has seen a thickening red mist descending over him at every GP since Valkenswaard. It can’t be easy carrying such heavy expectations into the championship at a relatively early age, but there again, Roczen and Musquin seemed to manage to achieve their goals without a fraction of the controversy.
Either way, with KTM (rather than the FIM!) rapping his knuckles very publicly following the Portuguese GP, you have to hope that Basotgne will see Herlings just getting on and riding a strong GP where the only talking point is how he rode. Period.
Britain’s title hopes are still very much in Tommy Searle’s hands, but with twenty four points to make up on JH84, Searle needs the KTM protégée to have a shocker to have any hope of closing the gap. Tommy certainly has the speed to win, but if Herlings is only a place or two behind each race, the remaining eight rounds may not be enough to hunt him down.
Behind the front two, it’s their team mates that fill the third and fourth spots, but with Van Horebeek sixty four points ahead of Roelants, the Kawasaki rider has little hope of getting bronze position. Anstie now sits in a fantastic fifth thanks to his strong result in Agueda, and after a similarly great ride in the Portuguese sun, Jake Nicholls now has seventh position locked down like Lindsay Lohan. Jordi Tixier sits between the pair, but on last week’s form, Nicholls can move to sixth this weekend.
With three British riders in the top ten, we are having a pretty good 2012 season. If you can get over to Belgium for the weekend, not only will you miss the biblical storms that are heading to the UK, you will undoubtedly witness some astounding racing and maybe sample some of very fine beer (there are an impressive 178 breweries in the country!) .
If you can’t make it, we recommend you get into the spirit with a six pack of Leffe and a plate full of Belgian waffles. Turn up the heating, turn on the laptop and watch it right here on Moto.
Last weeks GP of Portugal highlights
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Words by Julian Challis
Images Ray Archer and Suzuki