With his Red Bull KTM team-mate and series leader Jeffrey Herlings sidelined with a broken collarbone, defending champion Tony Cairoli has a golden opportunity to try to reduce the 62-point deficit at the MXGP of Lombardia this weekend but he didn’t get off to the best of starts in yesterday’s qualifying race.
After gating mid-pack in front of his home fans, the Italian then crashed on the opening lap and restarted dead last in 33rd. Clearly frustrated, he mounted an incredible charge that saw him carve his way up the leaderboard to start the final lap in 10th.
A quick pass on Germany’s Max Nagl (Factory) TM put him ninth and in the final turn he swept past both Jeremy Van Horebeek (Monster Energy Yamaha) and Britain’s Tommy Searle (Bike It DRT Kawasaki) to take seventh.
The victory went to France’s Romain Febvre (Monster Energy Yamaha) – his first qualification win since 2015, the year he won the world title.
“I’m really happy,” he said. “I made a good start in second and almost holeshot and then I was following Jeremy Seewer for two laps. I was looking at his lines and decided to attack and made the pass.
“I was controlling the race and trying not to use so much energy – it’s hot out there. Tomorrow is another day and could be completely different so I need to try and stay focussed.”
Swiss rider Jeremy Seewer (Wilvo Yamaha) holeshot the 20-minute plus two lap race but within four laps Febvre was into the lead and he stretched his advantage to just over three seconds at the flag.
Clement Desalle (Monster Energy Kawasaki) held fourth behind fellow Belgian Kevin Strijbos (Standing Construct KTM) with Max Anstie (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna) fifth from his team-mate Gautier Paulin after the opening lap.
By half-distance Paulin had passed Anstie and Strijbos had slipped back to sixth and that’s how it was at the flag with only Cairoli making any major forward progress in the closing stages.
Shaun Simpson (Wilvo Yamaha) was 13th, three places ahead of Graeme Irwin (Hitachi ASA KTM UK). After crashing in the first corner, former world champion Tim Gajser (Team HRC) came through from outside the top 20 to 14th riding a badly beaten-up bike.