A thrilling podium finish for Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Romain Febvre at the penultimate round of the FIM Motocross World Championship, which took place on the rough and rutty sand of Assen, in The Netherlands. Teammate, Jeremy Van Horebeek bounced back from a spectacular crash in Race 1 to finish fifth-place in the final race of the day.
This year the FIM Motocross World Championship has been governed by weather. The series is eighteen rounds deep, and it’s a struggle to think of a round that has not been hammered by rain, or to the other extreme, been stifling hot. The Dutch TT Circuit of Assen has had a significant amount of rainfall over the last three days which left the man-made and typically soft sand circuit, deeper, ruttier and more treacherous than ever.
Another series of good starts is rewarding for the team after they’ve put so much effort into finding a setting that will get the bikes off of the gate quick. In the opening race, both Febvre and Van Horebeek were inside the top-six going into turn-one and before the end of the first lap, the duo blitzed around the outside of Evgeny Bobryshev with ease.
Both YZ450FM’s looked solid up front as they tip-toed around the rugged sand track of Assen. Jeffrey Herlings was one of very few riders that was running a faster lap-time than the Yamaha aces, and as expected, he passed both on his way to victory in Race 1.
Sand waves are always a tricky part of a motocross track as they always tend to get rough and rutty. Immediately after the first session on the track yesterday morning, Van Horebeek said that the wave section was sketchy. Ironically, that exact section he spoke of caught him out while he was challenging Febvre for fourth. The recently dethroned world champion – Tim Gajser – also fell victim in similar fashion a few laps later.
Febvre capitalized on Gajser’s mistake and inherited third-place before he bobbled and stalled his engine. A frantic push on the ‘Starter Button’ saw him get his YZ450FM fired up in time to retain third place. Unfortunately, the stress and spike in adrenalin was detrimental to his energy level and he struggled to fend off a last minute attack from Max Anstie. He was demoted to fourth on the final lap while his teammate, Van Horebeek, tweaked his knee in the spectacular crash which prevented him from rejoining the race.
Frustration from the first race had the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing duo fired up for Race 2. Both riders were blisteringly fast in the early stage of the race as they tussled over third-place. Looking refreshed and re-energized for the final race of the weekend, Febvre got his head down and pulled a gap on Van Horebeek who was fending off a charge from the newly crowned 2017 MXGP World Champion Antonio Cairoli.
Cairoli is certainly deserving of the crown this year and despite having wrapped the title up in Race 1, he showed no signs of slowing down as he charged past Van Horebeek and Febvre to take over third on lap-five.
The sharp bumps, that were sneakily lingering underneath the top-layer of sand made the track incredibly hard to read. Even the champ, Cairoli, fell foul with two-laps to go and handed Febvre third-place which meant the former world champ, Febvre, was able to stand on the second step of the podium for the second time this year.
Van Horebeek put in a courageous ride as he battled through an immense amount of pain for a hearty fifth-place, but because he had 0-points in the first race, he only finished fourteenth overall.
The nineteenth and final round of the FIM Motocross World Championship will take place next weekend, the 16th and 17th of September, in Villars-sous-Ecot, France.
2nd MXGP Overall, 6th MXGP Championship Standings
“It has been a good weekend. I didn’t start the weekend how I wanted to yesterday, but I knew I could get good starts and that’s what I did today. I got two good starts. I only got passed in the last part of the first race because of a lapped rider, so I was really disappointed. But that made me more focused for the second race. Tony Cairoli crashed so he gave me third, but I got really close to Max Nagl at the end but I couldn’t make the pass. I am disappointed to not have finished one place better in both races, but I am still on the podium so that is good for me, and for the team.”
Jeremy Van Horebeek
14th MXGP Overall, 8th MXGP Championship Standings
“The weekend was not too bad for me. It’s just a bummer about the first moto, I had a big crash and I don’t even know why. I hurt my knee and my back pretty bad. It was quite painful, but I managed to ignore it for the first 20-minutes of the second moto, but at the end I was struggling with some pain. It’s a bummer, but also not too bad. I am confident that if this didn’t happen that a top-five finish was easy. Even to finish on the podium would have been possible, but I made one mistake and paid the price.”