Team Suzuki Press Office – July 1.
Arminas Jasikonis – 1st MXGP
Kevin Strijbos – 8th MXGP
Jeremy Seewer – 5th MX2
Bas Vaessen – 21st MX2
Arminas Jasikonis took the first qualification race victory of his career, and the first win for the new Suzuki RM-Z450WS in what was a great day for the Suzuki World MXGP team in Agueda, Portugal. Returning Kevin Strijbos also impressed as he came through the field to get eighth gate pick for tomorrow’s races. However it is Jasikonis that really impressed the Portuguese crowd, leading from start to finish and holding off the challenge of some much more experienced riders in what was also the first win for any Lithuanian rider.
In the MX2 class, Jeremy Seewer came home in fifth place after a solid ride on a track that was proving very difficult to pass on. Teammate Bas Vaessen overcame a first lap crash to end up in 21st, but showed towards the end that he has the speed to once again finish inside the top 10 on this tricky Agueda surface as they prepare for tomorrow’s races.
The day belonged to ‘AJ’ though and he had this to say about his breakout performance: “The start wasn’t great but I managed to come out of the turn in first as everyone pushed wide and I cut inside. From then on I led the whole race and I took the qualification win. I certainly didn’t expect it before the race; I expected to fight of course but to win was a very nice result. It was a really big win, I never really thought about it too much as a year ago I wasn’t even a GP rider. Since then I’ve put in the hard work and it’s really paid off. It’s crazy how hard work can change everything and I must give a big thanks to Stefan and Harry Everts for helping make this happen. Thanks to my physical trainer and my whole team who have done such a great job.
“It’s still tough for me to lead races, I need to get used to it more. I started to make some mistakes for a couple of laps which allowed Max Nagl to close up, but then I reset myself and told myself not to let him get too close and to just keep on working. I managed to do some good laps after that and that made me quite safe when I crossed the line for the win.”
General Manager Everts was also delighted with the rider that he plucked from obscurity 12 months ago: “I’m super, super happy to see AJ win the race. The initial start wasn’t that great but what he did in that first corner was unbelievable. I literally couldn’t believe my eyes as he just cut inside everyone and went from dead last right up into the lead. He then rode really well from then on and we could see that his speed is there now; he is right up there with the top guys. He did fantastic for the whole race, especially after coming so close last weekend when he lost the lead with one and half laps to go in Italy.
Today, he did it, he held on and it’s a really big step for him. He’s now proved he can win races, he can beat these other riders and he can lead an entire moto. He’s still a rookie out there and he’s found it hard to realise that he’s racing a bunch of world champions like Cairoli etc. One year ago we picked him up, and now one year later he’s winning qualification races. No one could have seen that when we put him in the team. It’s only a Saturday, but overall it’s very positive for the RM-Z450WS, as you can see that the bike is working well, winning races. Kevin also put in a great display on his return to action, coming eighth after very little preparation. It was a very good day for the team.”
Strijbos echoed the thoughts of his boss, after coming into the event with zero expectations. “The day went pretty good I think. In the first free practice I was fifth and had a good feeling on the track. In timed practice I wanted to do well again but I was overriding the track which resulted in me only coming 16th. I wasn’t too disappointed though as I knew my riding was good and the gate pick isn’t too important here. In the qualifying race I took a good start into the first corner, but in the second corner I touched Cairoli and a few riders passed me and then the same happened a few corners later. That messed up my rhythm a little bit and it took some time to find it again but once I found it, I was happy with my riding and I managed to come back to eighth place. The last few laps were a bit difficult as I started to get some arm pump but eighth is good and gives me a good platform for tomorrow’s races. Coming in I didn’t set a goal so we’ll see how it goes, but it’s all good progress for the next few rounds after this.”
For MX2 rider Seewer, he wasn’t quite able to match Jasikonis’ efforts, but he still gave himself a good chance at glory in the main races tomorrow. “I had a solid day and a good feeling on the track. My start was good, but perhaps not good enough as it’s quite hard to make passes on this track. It’s not so bad if you can make the difference but it’s quite hard to find that extra time on this track. They put so much water down and I was just too careful; I could have done better but fifth position is more than good enough for tomorrow. I will try and improve the bike a little bit for the races and focus on the starts and try and get the RM-Z250 out front. I’m quite confident that we can make that happen.”
Teammate Vaessen didn’t have the result that he wanted but he proved once again that the speed is there as he looks to continue his upward trend in the MX2 class. “The day started off slow with both the free practice and the timed practice. I wasn’t comfortable early on but we gradually improved throughout the day for the qualification race. I had an ok start in that race but on the first lap I went outside the track and collided with a banner that meant I was dead last when I re-joined. At the beginning I had to find my rhythm again as I was riding too stiff but at the end I felt much better and I put some good laptimes in and with those laptimes I think I can place inside the top 10. I’m pumped for tomorrow and I think it will be good, continuing my good run of form.”
Unfortunately Hunter Lawrence wasn’t able to line up this weekend after sustaining a couple of compressed vertebrae in a crash a couple of weeks ago. The Australian was in attendance though and is still hoping that this will be his last missed race of the season.
For the rest of the team though, they can all look forward to tomorrow’s races with buoyed enthusiasm as they hope to put Suzuki on the podium in both classes.
MXGP Qualifying Times: 1. Arminas Jasikonis (LTU, Suzuki World MXGP), 24:04.032; 2. Maximilian Nagl (GER, Husqvarna), +0:06.018; 3. Romain Febvre (FRA, Yamaha), +0:10.033; 4. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:11.122; 5. Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda), +0:14.978; 6. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), +0:20.141; 7. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), +0:26.464; 8. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Suzuki World MXGP), +0:31.059; 9. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), +0:32.402; 10. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Husqvarna), +0:32.898.
MX2 Qualifying Results: 1. Thomas Covington (USA, Husqvarna), 24:17.202; 2. Pauls Jonass (LAT, KTM), +0:03.632; 3. Brian Bogers (NED, KTM), +0:05.109; 4. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, Husqvarna), +0:06.817; 5. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, Suzuki World MX2), +0:08.505; 6. Julien Lieber (BEL, KTM), +0:28.202; 7. Ben Watson (GBR, KTM), +0:33.592; 8. Anthony Rodriguez (VEN, Honda), +0:35.389; 9. Alvin Östlund (SWE, Yamaha), +0:36.901; 10. Henry Jacobi (GER, Husqvarna), +0:37.443; 21. Bas Vaessen (NED, Suzuki World MX2), +1:21.768.