Belgian Team Teka Suzuki WMX1 rider Steve Ramon finished fifth overall and gained the series lead in the 2008 FIM MX1 World Motocross Championship with a solid performance at his home GP at Lommel while his team mate and countryman Ken De Dycker finished second overall on the day.
Already rough and technical during Saturday's qualification session, the Lommel circuit got even more difficult on race day. While this should have played into the hands of reigning MX1 World Champion Ramon, a few uncharacteristic errors made during the day kept him from making a podium appearance but an otherwise solid performance did see him turn a nine point deficit into a two point championship lead.
Ramon traded the lead with De Dycker for much of moto one before losing the front end in a long right hand corner and crashing on lap 13. Taking some time to dig his handlebars from the deep sand, he got going again in fifth place but struggled to return to full speed as debris from the fall caused his throttle to feel strange. Able to make a move on Pourcel before the finish, Ramon finally finished fourth and moved into the series lead ahead of David Philippaerts who'd tangled with De Dycker and crashed early in the race.
Ramon powered his factory RM-Z450 to an awesome holeshot in race two but lost the lead on the opening lap as Jon Barragan and Max Nagl set an unrealistically-fast early moto pace considering how rough the track had become and the length of the moto ahead.
While battling with Barragan for second on lap 10, Ramon slid from the racing line and crashed into the soft sand losing several spots as he remounted. Chasing Philippaerts hard in a scrap for fourth place, he benefitted when the Yamaha rider crashed allowing Ramon to increase his series lead by one more point.
Although physically and mentally drained at the end of the long and tiring weekend, Ramon was satisfied to have finally taken the championship lead in front of his home fans at his home Grand Prix.
"I took a good start in moto one and I was riding well until I crashed," said Ramon. "After that it was difficult to get my speed and rhythm back especially with the track being so rough. I was happy to finish the race fourth because I know that I could have done better but yeah it was still good to take the series lead.
"I knew race two was going to be tough because of how rough the circuit looked on the sighting lap. I got another good start and took the holeshot this time. I didn't hold on to the lead for long though because Nagl and Barragan were very fast in the beginning. My riding was going okay and I tried to follow the leaders but I crashed. I got going again and I could see Philippaerts in front of me and I knew it was important for me to get by him.
"Luckily for me he crashed but then two corners later I hit neutral going into a corner and stalled the motor. It took a long time to start the engine again because my legs were tired but I managed to get going ahead of Philippaerts and pulled away before the finish to end up fifth in the race and fifth overall."
Despite not enjoying the circuit as much as he thought he might, De Dycker acquitted himself well on the tough technical circuit. Not grabbing the best of starts in either moto, he was forced to power through the pack in his own unique style. By finishing third in each moto De Dycker was able to secure second overall on the day.
"The track wasn't really how I expected it to be today and I didn't like it so much really. It was very fast with lots of small bumps which is not what Lommel is normally like."I didn't get such a good start in moto one and I had to use a lot of energy coming through the pack in the early laps but it was good to lead the race. Then I made one or two mistakes because I wasn't concentrating so much and they were able to come back by me but to finish third was not too bad.
"In the second moto I got another not-so-great start and then in the fourth or fifth corner I crashed but I was up and away quite soon. It was a hard race and so I just took my own rhythm to ensure that I could keep going until the end of the race.
"My intention coming into this race was to take points from the leading riders in the championship and I've done that so I'm quite happy."
As well as creating extra difficulties for the riders the unrelentlessly-deep sand and heavy nature of the Lommel circuit mean that technical solutions to the potential problems of extra fuel consumption and the additional heat created by the extra load on the engines must be considered. This meant the Teka Suzuki WMX1 team technicians made certain changes to their factory RM-Z450s for this race as General Manager Sylvain Geboers explained.
"This is the first time we've raced a Grand Prix in this type of conditions for a good few years so after extensively testing fuel consumption with Ken De Dycker - because he is the largest consumer of fuel in the team - for this race we have fitted a fuel tank with one litre more capacity.
"The heavy conditions also put extra strain on the engine and this can raise the temperature significantly so to combat this the bikes are fitted with larger radiators - the riders might lose a little bit in comfort but it's important to us to cross the finish line. Aside from that the only real change is to the final drive ratio which is shorter than normal due to the heavy conditions."
The MX1 World Championship series continues next weekend with the Grand Prix of the Czech Republic that will be held at the fast and exciting Loket circuit.
MX1 Moto 1: 1 Marc De Reuver (Honda - NED) 41:40:370, 2 Jonathan Barragan (KTM - ESP) +0:09:075, 3 Ken De Dycker (Suzuki - BEL) +0:12:520, 4 Steve Ramon (Suzuki - BEL) +0:13:904, 5 Josh Coppins (Yamaha - NZL) +0:15:320, 6 Max Nagl (KTM - GER) +0:15:422, 7 Sebastien Pourcel (Kawasaki - FRA) +0:54:062, 8 Clement Desalle (Suzuki - BEL) +0:55:888, 9 Billy MacKenzie (Honda - GB) +0:57:210, 10 Manuel Priem (Kawasaki - BEL) +0:58:543.
MX1 Moto 2: 1 Jonathan Barragan (KTM - ESP) +40:19:697, 2 Max Nagl (KTM - GER) +0:02:470, 3 Ken De Dycker (Suzuki - BEL) +0:31:172, 4 Sebastien Pourcel (Kawasaki - FRA) +0:39:137, 5 Steve Ramon (Suzuki - BEL) +0:40:906, 6 David Philippaerts (Yamaha - ITA) +0:42:976, 7 Kornel Nemeth (KTM - HUN) +0:43:557, 8 Josh Coppins (Yamaha - NZL) +0:57:923, 9 Aigar Leok (Yamaha - EST) +0:59:150, 10 Marc De Reuver (Honda - NED) +1:16:595.
World Championship standings (after 10 of 15 rounds): 1 Steve Ramon (Suzuki - BEL) 362, 2 David Philippaerts (Yamaha - ITA) 360 points, 3 Josh Coppins (Yamaha - NZL) 345, 4 Ken De Dycker (Suzuki - BEL) 336, 5 Jonathan Barragan (KTM - ESP) 331, 6 Sebastien Pourcel (Kawasaki - FRA) 306, 7 Max Nagl (KTM - GER) 290, 8 Billy MacKenzie (Honda - GB) 257, 9 Tanel Leok (Kawasaki - EST) 245, 10 Marc De Reuver (Honda - NED) 214.
Manufacturer World Championship standings (after 10 of 15 rounds): 1 Yamaha 426 points, 2 Suzuki 419, 3 KTM 411, 4 Kawasaki 382, 5 Honda 350, 6 TM 31, 7 Aprilia 12.