Hosting the third stop of nineteen in the 2017 MXGP series, the small village of Villa la Angostura witnessed Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing's Romain Febvre giving the 29,500 fans that turned up something to roar about as he fired back from two middling starts and a small crash for two hard-fought results, fourth and eighth for fifth overall.
Nestled in the greenery of the Correntoso and Nuhuel Huapi lakeshores, the spectacular track in Argentina is fast, wide and flowing, and is made out of a strange, dark and grainy volcanic soil. While the dirt here looks perfect and grippy, everyone knows looks can be deceiving and as it turns out, in Argentina, they are.
Riders needed to be cautious while walking a fine line between carrying momentum via the freewheel method or getting hard on the throttle. Too much of one is slow, and too much of the other would end in tears. Mastering the tricky dirt and extremely bumpy terrain, Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing's Jeremy Van Horebeek bought the typically quiet and serene venue to life onboard his works Yamaha YZ450FM. The Belgian was flawless in his pursuit to second place in the Qualifying Race yesterday which made him the second rider in line to select his starting position for the two 30 minute plus 2 lap races today. Armed with a good gate pick, the twenty-seven-year-old got off to a decent start in the first race, which got even better when he held a tight line around turn one and passed four riders in one fell swoop. Emerging from turn two in second place, he hooked onto the back of the reigning world champion, Tim Gajser, and chased him home for second. The final race of the day played to a similar tune with the number '89' getting off to another good start and putting in a couple of good passes to finish in third place, which was enough for second overall and his first top two finish since the MXGP of Lombardia 2015.
Romain Febvre was determined to make amends to his 'off' start to the season and in the initial stages of the grand prix it appeared as though he would. The Frenchman set the fastest time in Timed Training but made a slight mistake during the Qualifying Race when he connected with another rider and crashed. Nevertheless, he made a fast remount and recouped as many spots as he could and finished up tenth.
With only the tenth pick of the gate, the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing rider had two mediocre starts in the races today. On both occasions he attacked the choppy surface with all of the skill and throttle finesse he is so well known for and even held the fastest lap time in race two for almost the entire moto despite being stuck in traffic. In the first race he earnestly battled his way from outside of the top fifteen to cross the line in fourth place, a result he may have bettered in the second race if it wasn't for an error in the latter stages that dropped him back to eighth for that race and fifth overall for the grand prix.
The uncanny soil proved a happy riding spot for Wilvo Yamaha Official MXGP's Arnaud Tonus who forged his name inside the top five after the first gate-drop when he qualified in fourth. His teammate Shaun Simpson, on the other hand, admitted he would prefer a ruttier and more technical surface, yet managed to finish eighth in the Qualifying Race which was a result he was content with.
Tonus' chances of a top five slot in the Grand Prix overall went out the window when an odd footpeg issue forced him out of the opening race, while Simpson dashed to the flag and crossed the line in tenth. In the second race, it was like magnetic force drew the teammates together. They connected and went down, but were both able to run a mean pace on their way back to eleventh and thirteenth respectively. Simpson wrapped up the GP in twelfth while Tonus was awarded fifteenth.
The next round of the FIM Motocross World Championship will take place on the weekend of April 2nd in Leon, Mexico.
Jeremy Van Horebeek
I've regrouped, together with the team we made some changes to the bike and I finally feel like I am back and I am me. I am feeling really comfortable and I feel like I am ready to fight for race wins. The track was really nice, although in some places it was a bit sketchy but I want to take my hat off to the organization because they did a really good job, and also to my team and everyone around me.
I feel good. The first moto I started really bad, maybe sixteen, and I came back to fourth. My speed was good. In the second race my speed was good, I felt as though I could have got back to second place but in one corner I started sliding with both wheels and I couldn't keep the bike up and I crashed and lost some positions. I need to stay on two wheels and then everything will be okay.
I wasn't overly impressed with how I felt on the track yesterday, until the heat race, and then I found my groove. It was much of the same today. Warm-up, I felt a bit rusty and then in the first race I felt okay, I didn't get a good start but made my way back to tenth which is some solid points for the championship so I was happy with that. In the second race I felt fired up and ready to go but came together with Arnaud and then stalled the bike, so it was a bit frustrating, but came from outside the top twenty to finish thirteenth, and Arnaud was eleventh, which is pretty good. I'm looking forward to grinding out these next few weeks because I still feel like I am playing catch up a little bit.
It was definitely a hard day especially with the speed I had and the feeling I had on the track, I felt as though it was possible for me to be inside the top five so it was a bit frustrating. But, it is part of the sport and still I was happy with the way I rode. I just crashed with Shaun on the first lap but I still got back to eleventh so the riding was positive and I just have to accept the result and hope for a better weekend in Mexico.