After the excitement of the opening Grand Prix in the dark sand of the Netherlands, the GP’s now move onto the second round in the decidedly less sophisticated of rural Bulgaria. The Sevlievo circuit didn’t get the opening gig this year, but an early visit to the venue within the GP season is sure to bring exciting and hard fought races on the hard pack and fast track.
After a dream first outing at Valkenswaard, the reigning MX1 Champion Antonio Cairoli will be hoping that these results continue in Sevlievo. Last year’s visit was a terrible start to his 2011 campaign, coming into the race not fully fit and twisting his knee badly in the first moto to record, for him, a relatively poor scorecard of seventh and tenth for an overall ninth. It would take quite a time for Cairoli to overturn this poor start, and for the new season he won’t want a repeat performance.
As for the title challengers, it was Frossard and DeSalle that excelled here in ’11, both getting wins and seconds that gave the Suzuki rider the overall. Their form in the sand at round suggests that they will have more than enough speed on a hard pack track to do the same this year, and with the first round butterflies shifted, podium finishes have to be on the cards.
Although many will have overlooked his result in 2011, it was Barragan that got the third step in Bulgaria last year and if the LS Honda has the legs to do it, the Spanish rider will be hoping to replicate this result. However, there are a whole host of other would be rivals to fight with to achieve this, not least the rejuvenated ‘Big Ken’ De Dycker , the solid charging Kevin Strijbos and rookie 450 rider Gautier Paulin. Behind them there are a lot of riders that have more potential than they really showed in Holland – Philippaerts, Leok , Boog and the Pourcel brothers to name just a few.
OK so the 450 class is stacked and exciting, but what the British fans really want to see in Bulgaria is a certain Mr Thomas Searle turn up with one huge can of industrial strength WHOOPASS, and use it to remind a certain KTM rider that one race does not make a championship. Tommy played it smart at Valkenswaard and let young Jeff put on the showcase everyone expected, but now it’s time to clip that particular pigeon’s wings.
TS 100 is notoriously strong on the hard pack, combining devastating speed and start to end strength and endurance that has served him well at this circuit. Tommy won here in 2008 before his US travels, and came back last year to record strong 2/2 behind eventual champion Ken Roczen, so should come in with a certain confidence in his chances for the weekend, a confidence no doubt boosted by his super powerful Pro Circuit bike. Herlings was none too shabby here in ’11 though, going 5/ 3 for a bronze so it’s not as if he was wildly off the pace! The KTM team keen will be just as keen for the 84 bike to check out if they are going to get another MX2 title this year.
The riders that will be trying to break their way past this little two-man party are likely to be headed by Tommy’s team mate Joel Roelants, who rode smart and strong in Holland to get the overall second and fittingly, Herlings team mate Jeremy Van Horebeek. Valkenswaard showed that there were no team orders in place so either of these guys could upset the apple cart.
And to be honest, we might even see two or more Brits on the podium – with the UK riders getting 4 of the top ten slots at round 1, suddenly three Union Jacks on the box is definitely not out of the question. Can Mad Max conquer the Bulgarian Thunderdome or can the fast starting Jake Nicholls secure a podium and not forgetting Mel Pocock and EBB – this weekend could be one to remember for British motocross fans.
Whatever the end result, the visit to Sevlievo could prove pivotal to the 2012 title race – we can’t bloody wait!
Watch the highlights from Valkenswaard right here
FIM Motocross World Championships Valkenswaard Highlights >>
Words by Julian Challis
Images by Ray Chuss