Red Bull KTM Factory Racing continued their streak of premium results and podium presence in the 2021 FIM Motocross World Championship as Jeffrey Herlings celebrated his sixth MXGP victory of the season ahead of Jorge Prado around the Spanish hard-pack of Intu Xanadú Arroyomolinos for round 13 of 18 in the current series.
Tom Vialle finished runner-up in MX2 for his sixth rostrum appearance in a row.
The curving and rutty hardpacked soil of Intu Xanadú Arroyomolinos entertained MXGP for the second time after the new circuit opened its gates in 2020. For the 2021 Grand Prix of Spain the facility was able to welcome some of the large catchment of spectators, thanks to the close proximity to the centre of Madrid and the trackside fences were full to capacity to see the likes of home hero Jorge Prado in action. The sun shone for the one-day event and the terrain was technical and demanding.
For the fifth Grand Prix in a row – and for the ninth time this season – Jeffrey Herlings secured Pole Position in MXGP Timed Practice. The Dutchman was just seven-hundredths of a second ahead of Tim Gajser as Jorge Prado qualified fourth and Tony Cairoli in 11th.
Herlings was buried deep in the top 10 at the start of the first moto. He had to charge hard to reach fourth and then profited from a mistake by Gajser to take third. Jorge Prado was second. The 20-year-old was pushed all race by the noisy crowd and jostled for the lead briefly before being passed by Romain Febvre. Prado – who could only make 16th and 12th last Sunday in France in the wake of surgery to fix a cut under his left arm – resisted Herlings’ threat on the last lap to bank 22 points. Cairoli struggled with an errant stone in his boot but the Italian classified seventh.
In the second moto Herlings started brighter to immediately put pressure on the holeshotting Prado. Cairoli was also inside the top five and set the fastest lap in the opening stages. By mid-race distance Herlings was able to find a spot to relegate his teammate and pulled clear. It was his 10th moto win of the year and ensured he has taken the flag once in seven of the last eight Grands Prix. Prado kept Cairoli at bay for third position as the teammates crossed the line 3-4. For Prado the result permitted his first podium visit for three rounds. Cairoli’s fifth overall was his best finish since the GP of Turkey prior to the Motocross of Nations.
Herlings has stretched his world championship lead to 12 points over Romain Febvre, 15 ahead of Tim Gajser, 65 in front of Prado and 86 adrift of Tony Cairoli. Five rounds and a maximum of 250 points remain.
Jeffrey Herlings: “We started off strong in Timed Practice and I had a good jump off the gate in the first moto but rode into the first two turns too careful; like an old grandma! I got up to 10th but a good start is crucial now because the guys in seventh-eighth are riding so fast and when they have good lines it is hard to pass. It took me some time to get going. The first 15 minutes were awful but the last 15 were really good. I came from far back and closed up to the leaders.
“The second moto start was better. Tim [Gajser] made a mistake and I was into second. Jorge was tough to pass but he was riding the right lines. Once I managed it, I was able to check out and control the race. It was good. I’m looking forward to Arco and the shorter start straight there!”
Jorge Prado: “I loved it with the fans today. It’s the first time I’ve had such support. After my two MX2 titles we haven’t had a home GP with a full crowd, so this is the first time I’ve felt this positive energy. They were amazing today.
“Last weekend was a real struggle but I managed two days of riding this week and could get a bit more into the rhythm. Even though I was not 100 per cent coming into the weekend I gave my all as always. I think you could see it. I had two good starts and those were key. I rode quite okay, and I was difficult to pass! I think I will make it even harder in the next couple of rounds with even more bike time.”
Tony Cairoli: “A tough race today but I’m actually happy about my feeling, and my health is getting better. I didn’t have the same problem as the last few races where I had to ride with painkillers.
“The starts were important again and in the first moto I messed up. My pace was improving when I had a stone come into my boot; something very strange that has never happened to me before. I had to stop and open the boot because it was hurting a lot. So, I lost a couple of positions that I then fought to regain. I enjoyed riding this weekend and made the most of a good start in the second moto. I caught Jorge but never really had the chance to pass him. Fourth was okay and we’ll take the positive thing about my chest and ribs feeling better, which means we’ll hopefully be even more competitive in Arco.”
Dirk Gruebel, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team Manager: “A good weekend again and serious points for Jeffrey but the red plate changes around and it looks like it will go down to the last race because none of these guys are pulling away. It’s tight racing in the top five.
“It’s also tough mentally because one mistake can mean a big cost. The steps Tom has been making are amazing. He had the chance to win here again but didn’t find the good flow like the first moto. He’s one of the fastest guys out there. It’s a shame he missed a couple of rounds otherwise it would be similar to MXGP at the top of the standings. He’s only 10 points away from P2 and nobody would have dreamt of that when he came back from that injury.”
Rene Hofer set the second-fastest lap in Timed Practice and was just a 10th of a second from his first Pole Position. Only one second split the top eleven riders and Tom Vialle (seventh) was in that group while Mattia Guadagnini was 15th after weathering a big crash in the Free Practice.
Vialle produced his customary ‘MO’ in the first moto by seizing the holeshot with his KTM 250 SX-F and set the pace at the front of the pack. It was his 10th checkered flag of the season and eighth from the last twelve outings. Guadagnini had a lonely race to third while Hofer had to recover from a mediocre start to take fifth.
The MX2 world champion couldn’t rediscover his flow in the second moto and had to be content with third position behind Maxime Renaux and Jago Geerts. At one stage Vialle was close to overtaking the Belgian but tipped over in a corner and sacrificed precious ground and time. The 1-3 was enough for the second step of the box. Guadagnini also made some small mistakes and his run to eighth (after initially battling with Jed Beaton for the podium) gave him fourth overall. Hofer entered the top six and his 5-6 scorecard allowed Red Bull KTM to witness all three athletes in the top five of the Grand Prix ranking.
Guadagnini is third in the championship standings and 1 point from second. Vialle, fourth, has caught up to sit just 10 points from second place as well. Hofer’s consistency means that the Austrian has nudged forwards to sixth.
Tom Vialle: “Two great starts and I had a very good feeling on the bike in the first moto. It took me a bit more to get going in the second moto and Maxime had some nice lines. I got faster and was closing up to Jago [Geerts] when I had a small crash, and that was it. Trying to win every moto every weekend is not easy! Sometimes you have to accept that it won’t happen and when the others are faster. I will go again in Arco. The goal is to try and finish second in the championship and I like the track next week, so I’ll give my best again.”
Mattia Guadagnini: “The day started quite badly with a big crash in Free Practice and I had to change the bike and wasn’t feeling too good, especially in Timed Practice. I had a good start in the first race and although I made an error and [Maxime] Renaux passed me I ran some decent lines. It was a pretty lonely race in third.
“I went too wide in the first corner of the second moto but too many mistakes, especially when I was trying to pass [Jed] Beaton for the podium. I jumped too long and lost control of the bike. I then tried not to lose many points and eighth was okay, even though I’m not happy with that second race. I should have been on the podium. We’re close for second in the championship and we’ll have plenty of home races now.”
Rene Hofer: “A solid day: nothing more, nothing less. It was all about the position after the first lap. In both motos I got stuck behind some guys almost stopped in the ruts and lost a few places. My speed was good. I cannot be too disappointed. Perhaps I need to make some better line choices on the first laps. It was difficult to get a flow in the ruts here. Anyway, some decent points for the championship and we’ll try again next weekend.”
The final five dates of 2021 MXGP will all take place in Italy and within the next three weeks. A triple-header line-up at Arco di Trento in Trentino will form rounds fourteen, fifteen and sixteen before the series moves to 2021 Motocross of Nations venue, Mantova, for the final two Grands Prix.