Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MXGP’s Kevin Strijbos barrelled around the new circuit in Leon, Mexico and defied a challenging layout as well as complications from the 1800m of elevation above sea level to finish third in the qualification heat for the 17th and last round of the 2014 FIM Motocross World Championship yesterday.
The Grand Prix of Leon represents not only the final fixture for the series in South America (after the GP of Goias in Brazil last week) but also on this year’s slate and the Suzuki man is gunning for an eighth podium-finish of the campaign.
Cloudy skies and cool temperatures greeted the inauguration of Leon as a Grand Prix host and the local organisers quickly-fashioned a suitable layout after several weeks of poor weather. Long and high jumps were demanding for the riders that were coping with reduced horsepower and performance due to the high altitude. The Mexican soil was also a strange mix of rock-hard terrain and grippy dirt.
Strijbos posted the second fastest-lap in Timed Practice for the same slot in the gate for the Qualification Heat after the team had done what it could in terms of adjustments to surge the RM-Z450’s power. The Belgian nudged-up to third-place in what was a largely static race and chased Tony Cairoli for a solid classification and pick on-the-line for tomorrow’s closing motos of 2014.
“It was a good day and I was riding well from the first practice. The first session was quite muddy, actually, but the second was much better. In the qualifying race I got a good start and was in third by the second corner. I stayed there the whole moto. Max [Nagl] was gone already. Sometimes I caught Tony but I made a few mistakes today and will have to smooth those out for tomorrow. The bike was slower because of the altitude but we made some changes - like using another flywheel so the engine was a bit snappier - and I think it was pretty good. We also started in first-gear and not in second. I think the jumps are a little bit too-high and far for the conditions we have.”
MXGP Qualification Heat Classification:
1. Maximilian Nagl (GER, Honda), 23:50.792; 2. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:05.280; 3. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki), +0:08.464; 4. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:27.834; 5. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), +0:34.518; 6. Davide Guarneri (ITA, TM), +0:36.612; 7. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), +0:40.175; 8. Steven Frossard (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:43.057; 9. Milko Potisek (FRA, Yamaha), +0:44.807; 10. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), +0:46.236;