Romain Febvre of the Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team was the big winner of the day in the opening international motocross of the season at Riola Sardo on Sardinia.
With the opening round of the FIM MXGP World Championship still 12 weeks away neither the Frenchman nor his new team-mate Ivo Monticelli from Italy has yet sought to reach peak race form, indeed both riders have been commendably reserved in their training schedule during the winter after each had suffered separately a Covid infection.
Their emphasis in recent weeks has been directed to maximise the power delivery and handling of the KX450-SR to their personal styles and the success of this venture was immediately evident in morning training as Febvre qualified second, just a fraction of a second off pole, with Monticelli fourth.
The smooth power delivery of the 2021 KX450-SR was further emphasised at the start of the MX1 race as both Kawasaki riders powered through the energy-sapping sandy first turn alongside Jorge Prado, the king of the MXGP holeshot.
Monticelli, who admitted that his physical strength is still affected in the aftermath of the Covid infection, immediately settled into a regular rhythm at which he felt comfortable in sixth place, while the Frenchman tested his race speed by pushing Prado for the lead so effectively during the early laps that he recorded the fastest lap of the race before gradually slackening his pace and taking no risks as he became aware of the inevitable early-season effects of arm pump. At the finish, Febvre was sixth, Monticelli seventh.
Both Kawasaki riders again swept through the first turn of the prestigious Supercampione in the top three and Febvre again shadowed the early leader before taking over the lead in the closing stages for his first race victory of the new season. Monticelli again rode a consistent race to finish fifth.
Romain Febvre: “This morning I posted a good result in the timed practice session and later I got two great starts which is just what we wanted! In the MX1 race I had a good rhythm racing with Prado but after 10 minutes I suffered arm pump and there was no other option than to reduce my pace. I didn’t want to take any risks — I just finished the race and I knew that I wouldn’t have similar troubles with my arms in the SuperFinal.
“Once more I had a good start in second and took the win — it’s nice to get my first victory of the season, even if it’s not so significant as the first GP is still some months away. This week we will test some more parts to prepare for the next races.”
Ivo Monticelli: “In the end we had two good motos — we took two good starts, which is what we wanted for this first race. I knew I was not yet ready to race for the win so I just did my best and treated it like a training [exercise].
“It is my temperament that I always want to push to stay with the other top guys but I still didn’t have so many hours on the bike and I need to work on my physical condition after my illness — the team appreciates this and was happy with me.
“I had a good rhythm, I stayed in control and I didn’t make too many mistakes — that was our goal. We still have a lot of work with fine-tuning and to regain my physical condition but I am confident we can be there when we need it in a couple of months. A big thanks to the entire team — the management and the mechanics make me feel very welcome and comfortable and that is a good atmosphere to work together successfully.”