The pressure is on for 2022 MXGP: the fastest international off-road motorcycle racing championship in the world. Why? How do you top a campaign like 2021 where three riders went into the 36th and final race of the season with the possibility of snaring the crown? After a calendar that took the series across vast stretches of Europe and was still dealing with the last hot flames of the pandemic, 4 measly points ended-up being the difference between Jeffrey Herlings and Monster Energy’s Romain Febvre. 4 points.
Febvre’s gnarly crash at the Paris Supercross in the winter meant a long recovery time and the Kawasaki star only just returned to competition at the 2022 German Grand Prix in June. The visit to Teutschenthal was a bold one for #3 as the ruts and hard bumps of the Talkessel course are notoriously unforgiving. Febvre showed his class with a top five finish and on a weekend where Monster Energy riders coated the MXGP podium repeatedly, especially in the support classes where the likes of Italian teenager Ferruccio Zanchi walked the box in 3rd place in EMX125 – the thriving supply class to Grand Prix – and Dutch youngster Rick Elzinga had a view from the highest step in EMX250 (the last level before stepping to world championship racing) ahead of Andrea Bonacursi in 3rd spot.
Germany though was all about the ‘blue’. Monster Energy Yamaha have bashed that tuning fork logo on 2022 MXGP and the sound has ‘reverbed’ deep and wide. The two factory squads are the most prolific race teams in the paddock and in their respective classes: MXGP and MX2.
Jeremy Seewer, twice an MXGP world championship runner-up with the Monster Energy YZ450FM, is finally hitting his stride this term. The Swiss aced the French Grand Prix in front of a packed attendance at Ernee one week before Germany and then arguably rode even better in Teuschenthal to keep Honda’s Tim Gajser at bay in the second ‘moto’ to finish 3rd overall.
Seewer’s bright work is extremely encouraging for the second half of the championship but 2022 has already been effective for the team based in Holland. Two of their three riders have uncorked winners’ champagne and all three have appeared on the podium. In fact, only two of the first eleven Grands Prix passed without a Yamaha ace stood under their country’s flag. At the time of scribbling, all three sit in the top five of the MXGP standings and a total of twelve trophies have found space somewhere inside the race truck offices. Seewer has been helped by Glenn Coldenhoff (three podiums) but it’s hard to ignore current MX2 world champion and MXGP rookie for 2022 Maxime Renaux. The Frenchman blasted the Spanish Grand Prix for his first spurs but four other appearances in the top three showed the 22-year-old’s class.
Motocross is a damn hard sport though.
It was in Saturday’s qualification heat in Germany when Renaux was kicked off his bike approaching the finish-line jump and sustained four fracture vertebrae; nixing the searing spell of form that has taken him up to 2nd in the points behind Gajser.
Teutschethal was more rewarding to his 19-year-old countryman and brandmate: Thibault Benistant. The Frenchman is sprinting along the conveyor belt to world championship prominence in MX2 after titles in EMX125 and EMX250 and having successfully rehabbed from winter knee surgery. Benistant inflated the hype a bit more with a moto win at his home Grand Prix at Ernee but he schooled experienced teammate Jago Geerts in Germany for his maiden GP spoils. Undoubtedly the first of many. Geerts settled for 2nd place for the second weekend in succession and the consistency is paying off for the Belgian: ten podiums from eleven means no other rider has been so steady with his presence at the front of the pack. A bike blow-up for title rival Tom Vialle meant that Geerts’ latest post-race rostrum soaking came with the bonus of the red plate and a reinstated status as the MX2 points pacesetter.
MXGP continues to spin around the countries and continents, the demands of the sport increasing with the geographical spread of the world championship and as the motocross rediscovers normality after two constrictive years. All tracks, ruts and jumps now flow to locations such as Indonesia, Sweden, Czech Republic, Belgium, Turkey, back to France and Oman before the season-closing Motocross of Nations that will send the strongest pulse through the RedBud facility in Illinois once more at the end of September.
The sport might not be revelling in the parity and unpredictability of 2021 but there is still plenty of daring to dance from the dirt.