The 2017 Grand Prix of France at Ernee was typically noisy, atmospheric and passionate: recalling the amazing scenes of the 2015 Motocross of Nations at the same ‘amphitheatre’ setting in Normandy. Flanked by a hillside of avid public, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Clement Desalle produced a special performance when it mattered most to turn his fringe MXGP podium form into victory across one of the ruttiest and hardest courses seen in the series so far this year.
The narrow Ernee layout had been fiercely prepped and benefitted from rainfall across the weekend and in the build-up to the ninth round of nineteen in the FIM Motocross World Championship. The attention to the terrain meant another technical test of ruts, bumps and tricky line choice. Starting prowess remained key around the narrow trajectory and Desalle’s combination with the factory KX450F paid-off in this respect.
The experienced Belgian, getting away from Pole Position for the first time this term, recorded a steady fourth place in the opening moto but blasted from the metal gate to seize the lead and controlled the second race with a clear track ahead. #25 toasted not only his first waved chequered flag of 2017 but gathered overall honours for just the second time in Kawasaki colours and for the twenty-first occasion in his career in the premier class.
“I’m really happy and especially after that first moto that didn't really go as I wanted. I was disappointed but really focussed on my riding in the second moto,” he said. “It is so nice to be back on the podium and particularly with a victory: it’s a good feeling and for the whole team also. I was satisfied with my riding in the second moto and the work we have done recently. My goal now is to keep consistent and to enjoy myself…that’s when the results come.”
Kawasaki and the many French fans enjoying the spectacle of some close and unpredictable racing where able to rub their hands with more podium bounty as FIM Women’s World Champion Livia Lancelot welcomed her first triumph of the WMX campaign. ‘Livi’ shared moto wins with title rival Courtney Duncan at what was the third round of six in the 2017 contest but her second place in the decisive moto on Sunday morning earned the Parisian the top step at her home fixture.
“It’s always nice to win a Grand Prix, but when it’s in your home country it’s magical, always! It was great to have all the public behind me, it’s crazy! I didn’t win the second moto; I tried but I avoided going over the limit as I knew with a second position I would win the GP. We have one month to prepare for the next GP; I’m sure that I will be even stronger there.”
Kiara Fontanesi’s third position means the Italian keeps the red plate by just one point over Lancelot with WMX looking as though it will head for another tense final round showdown.
Over in the MX2 class Kemea Yamaha’s Benoit Paturel was another native in fiery form. #6’s season has not quite been going to plan since a fantastic tussle with Pauls Jonass at the opening fixture in Qatar but his second moto holeshot was the perfect opportunity to streak ahead of the Latvian and capture his maiden ‘25’ points in the class. Jonass would prevail with his superior scorecard but Paturel was a deserved runner-up and will look to invigorate his title challenge in second half of 2017. “It was a great race…my riding was good and I had my first holeshot. I am so happy about this weekend!" he said.
Elsewhere MXGP props go to Monster Energy Yamaha duo Jeremy Van Horebeek (sixth) and Romain Febvre (seventh); the latter competing seven days after sustaining a left leg injury in Germany and determined not to disappoint his legion of followers.
After a busy week with German and French Grands Prix in the bag and the halfway point of the world championship slate now breached, MXGP goes into a mini hiatus before the long hike east and to the venue of Orlyonok will beckon the first Grand Prix of Russia in five years.