Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MXGP opened the Grand Prix of Italy and the 10th round of 17 in the FIM Motocross World Championship with a solid showing in qualification at the Maggiora circuit today.
The steep and daunting venue north-east of Milan was the setting for Kevin Strijbos and Clement Desalle to seal fifth and sixth positions respectively on their works RM-Z450s in the qualification heat for the premier MXGP class.
Humid and ominous skies clouded the first day and sessions of the second GP this century at Maggiora (slated site for the 2016 Motocross of Nations) and the hard-pack terrain was narrow and hard for passing. There is barely a flat section on the layout as it weaves across the hillside with some hefty jumps.
Desalle, riding at the venue where he scored a moto victory last summer, made a decent start in the qualification heat after starting from third position. The Belgian lost control and slipped off while pushing for a top-three finish and then circulated behind his team-mate.
Strijbos experimented with several small modifications to his set-up but generally felt happy and fast at Maggiora, despite experiencing a phase of arm-pump. His fifth position in the 20-minute and two-lap sprint hinted at better things and a shot at a fourth podium result of the 2014 campaign tomorrow.
The weather forecast for the two 30 minute and two-lap motos on Sunday point to more grey skies and a slight chance of rain.
“I have a good feeling on the bike, even if the track is a bit harder than last year. As we see more and more nowadays it is so important to get a good start otherwise it is difficult to pass. My start in the race was good and I was top-three but then Cairoli put us off-line in the second corner. I was fourth and I saw a battle in front of me. I was going easy but then made a mistake and lost the front and this dropped me back two positions. I came back to my team-mate but just could not overtake. Anywhere in the top-10 is good for the gate. We have to get away well tomorrow and battle as soon as we can for that good result.”
“It was quite a good day. The track is nice. There are a few difficult places and a few for passing. We didn't change that much on the bike during the day but we might look at the front fork and rear shock again for some improvement tomorrow. My start was not great but I had good speed. I had arm-pump – I don't know why – but I was able to keep the rhythm which was positive and I think the situation will be better for Sunday.”
MXGP Qualification Heat results:
1. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), 24:02.932; 2. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:02.571; 3. Steven Frossard (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:04.533; 4. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda), +0:05.447; 5. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MXGP), +0:07.621; 6. Clement Desalle (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MXGP), +0:08.533; 7. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), +0:16.343; 8. Ken de Dycker (BEL, KTM), +0:27.807; 9. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), +0:29.674; 10. David Philippaerts (ITA, Yamaha), +0:31.162;