Round four of nineteen in the 2017 FIM Motocross World Championship landed on the scarred hard-pack of Leon in Mexico. In windy and hot conditions and in front of a generous crowd packed around the cactus-lined circuit inside the Metropolitan Park setting, Monster Energy Yamaha’s Jeremy Van Horebeek rode to fifth position overall and in MX2 Kemea Yamaha’s Benoit Paturel secured the same ranking.
MXGP continues to rack-up the miles and for the second time in two weeks ventured from Europe to the Americas. For the fourth year in a row Leon was the focal point for fans across Mexico and provided another technical challenge for the teams and riders due to the high altitude having an effect on machine and athlete performance.
The event was won by World Champion Tim Gajser with his second ‘shut-out’ (Pole Position and both moto victories) in succession after triumphing at the Grand Prix of Argentina a fortnight previously. American Thomas Covington walked the top step of the MX2 podium to repeat his 2015 feat at the same venue.
For the Monster Energy crew the weekend was chock-full of adversity. 2015 World Champion Romain Febvre crashed on Saturday and retired with a technical problem, meaning last position in the gate for Sunday’s races. The Frenchman could only grasp ninth overall and is already 67 points away from Gajser in the series standings.
Somewhat lost for words in the post-race melee of fans attention and packing freight in Leon, Febvre could only state that he was “not really happy about the weekend.”
Teammate Jeremy Van Horebeek posted two typically solid rides for his fifth place. The Belgian had captured his first podium of the season in Argentina and opted for a cautious approach at Leon with some of the slick, tough ruts proving particularly treacherous. #89 was part of a close and entertaining scrap for third in the first moto.
“I didn't get the best starts but I managed to get through the first lap really clean and into the top five straight away. It was like a battle all the way, and there was only one good line on the track. In the first moto I was okay with the altitude but in the second moto I struggled a bit.”
Monster Energy Kawasaki were a man-down with Jordi Tixier requiring groin tendon surgery in Europe and unlikely to be active for another two weeks, meaning a minimum absence from MXGP for the next two Grands Prix. Clement Desalle however was another rider exercising careful judgement at Mexico. He could only recover to eighth after a first race crash but the Belgian was a steady sixth in the second moto.
“I didn’t take any risks as the season will be long; my feeling was not so good and I had no fun riding here,” #25 frankly admitted. “Now we go back for the European rounds of the series; I’m third in the standings and we’ll continue to work hard with the team.”
Benoit Paturel has yet to spray champagne again in MX2 after his part in a thrilling opening meeting at Qatar, and a crash at the beginning of the second moto erased the Frenchman’s chances of celebration in Mexico after he’d scored a strong second place earlier in the day.
“My speed is there but, like in Argentina I should have been on the podium, and just like there, I had some bad luck and it's disappointing,” he lamented.
Elsewhere and Kemea teammate Brent Van Doninck looked feisty in the second moto to break into the top five and Monster Energy DRT Kawasaki’s Vsevolod Brylyakov captured sixth spot for his highest classification yet this year. Darian Sanayei was unlucky to tweak his shoulder on Saturday and was eighteenth overall.
After dates in the Americas, MXGP jets back home immediately and for the start of the long European-based phase of the calendar. First up is the trip to Arco di Trento in northern Italy and the Grand Prix of Trentino that will also kick the EMX European Championships into action.