Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MX1 got off to a solid start at St Jean D'Angely for the Grand Prix of France and the sixth round of the FIM Motocross World Championship as Clement Desalle took his factory RM-Z450 to third position in the qualification heat for the MX1 class while Tanel Leok established a rhythm after a few early mistakes and finished 10th.
The hilly, fast and hard-pack circuit near La Rochelle was home to stuffy, humid air and temperatures over 30 degrees when the sun broke through the clouds. Set-up work consisted of maximising grip on the stony dirt and some experimentation with tyres, suspension and tweaks to the electronics.
Desalle came into the weekend in difficult circumstances after a sudden family bereavement but applied himself to the job at hand. The Belgian made a half-decent start in the top 6-7 and then circulated in the quartet battling for podium places.
Leok struggled with some errors in the opening laps of the 20-minute and two lap sprint - and also a glitch with his front brake - but then found a consistent pace. The Estonian's pick of 10th in the gate is sufficient with the French layout boasting one of the widest and longest start straights of the series.
Rainy conditions are forecast for the Grand Prix motos tomorrow.
"It is difficult for me this weekend. My family and I are going through a hard time at the moment so there is a lot in my head. The start to the race today was not too bad but I had two guys either side of me who are also really fast starters. I was top five or six but then had some good speed with Pourcel, Paulin and Cairoli. I was doing my own rhythm but it was enough to be right there. The base of the bike is good but we're just looking to see if we can find a little bit more improvement through the Fuel Injection and our tyres."
"In practice I felt great but I struggled at the start of the heat race with too many mistakes and also the front brake would not work like I wanted. It was difficult to stop coming down the hills. If I can limit my mistakes then the riding and position will be better for sure. Physically things are getting better; my hamstring is a bit tight, but in better shape than before."
MX1 Qualification Heat result: 1. Christophe Pourcel (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:00.040; 2. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Kawasaki), 1:38.277; 3. Clement Desalle (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MX1), +0:01.108; 4. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:00.991; 5. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda), +0:00.631; 6. Sebastien Pourcel (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:01.735; 7. David Philippaerts (ITA, Yamaha), +0:02.227; 8. Xavier Boog (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:01.941; 9. Rui Goncalves (POR, Honda), +0:01.411; 10. Tanel Leok (EST, Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MX1), +0:02.392.