Defending Champions fire the first warning shots of 2018 MXGP season


The 9 time and 2017 MXGP World Champion Antonio Cairoli hasn‰Ûªt skipped a beat and though a year older he appears faster than ever. Photo: Youthstream
The first day of the much anticipated 2018 FIM Motocross World Championship racing season is in the books from the scenic landscapes of the Patagonia Argentina.

In front of many enthusiastic fans it was the pair of defending FIM Motocross World Champions, Antonio Cairoli and Pauls Jonass who took the first qualifying race wins of the new season against fierce Competition.

The 9 time and 2017 MXGP World Champion Antonio Cairoli hasn‰Ûªt skipped a beat and though a year older he appears faster than ever.

The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider had some of the fastest lap times in the free and time practice sessions before jumping to the front of the field in the qualifying race. Out front Cairoli was the class of the field and rode a strong race to fire an ominous warning shot to the rest of the MX1 field.

‰ÛÏIt is nice for me to start another season, I am really happy that we are here in Argentina, nice weather, a nice track and one of my favorites I would say. I was good off the start and I was 3rd then after the first half lap I could take the lead and I had good rhythm.‰Û
The MXGP class of 2018 head into battle for the firs time. Credit: Youthstream
Behind Cairoli the racing was filled with action as Cairoli's Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team-mate Jeffrey Herlings ran in second position. However a crash put the #84 further back and though he tried to rebound from the mistake, apparent arm pump hindered his progressr. Jeffrey qualified in 7th position and will look to reach the podium at the very least tomorrow.

Benefitting from the mistakes of Herlings was Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team‰Ûªs Clement Desalle who took over second position. It wasn‰Ûªt to last though as Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP‰Ûªs Jeremy Van Horebeek overtook his fellow Belgian.

‰ÛÏIt was a pretty good start to the season," Desalle declared. "I had a good rhythm but I made a few small mistakes and Van Horebeek passed me near the end but third was a good result. There‰Ûªs one section of the track where I want to find more speed; we‰Ûªll analyse that this evening."
Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP‰Ûªs Jeremy Van Horebeek passed Clement Desalle for the position. Photo: Youthstream
Behind the top three it was Van Horebeek‰Ûªs Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP teammate Romain Febvre and Wilvo Yamaha Official MXGP‰Ûªs Shaun Simpson. By the end Febvre almost caught Desalle finishing just over half a second behind the Brit. Simpson however was another 10 seconds back of Febvre where he battled throughout the race with Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing‰Ûªs Max Anstie.
Monster Energy Kawasaki's Clement Desalle rounded out the MXGP podium, 8 seconds back from Cairoli. Credit Youthstream
The MXGP rookies, Wilvo Yamaha Official MXGP‰Ûªs Jeremy Seewer and Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team‰Ûªs Julien Lieber both qualified inside the top ten split by MXGP veteran Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing‰Ûªs Gautier Paulin in 9th with Seewer 8th and Lieber 10th respectively. Lieber in the post race press conference saying: ‰ÛÏI am really satisfied with my day, I think I was consistent with the result and my speed was actually really good in the qualifying race.‰Û
Red Bull KTM racing's Pauls Jonass also took up where he left off in 2017, at the front. The 2018 Champion will start the MX2 GP as the man to beat once again. Credit: Youthstream
In MX2 Pauls Jonass imitaded Caairoli's form, a defending champion himself, set the tone for his weekend as well after getting a good start then passing his Red Bull KTM Factory Racing‰Ûªs Jorge Prado for the win.

"I am really happy with the new bike and we did some good testing this winter and also we had a really good off season," Jonass said. "Today in the race I got a good start and in the first laps I just rode my own race. I always enjoy coming here to Argentina, it is a nice place and like Tony said there is also nice weather this year and it for sure always nice to start the season with a win.‰Û
2017 regular front-runner Thomas Kjer Olsen is also in good form and finished 6 seconds adrift of Jonass. Creedit: Youthstream
Taking second position from Jorge was the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider, Thomas Kjer Olsen who earlier found a way around his teammate Thomas Covington. Covington continued to drop positions throughout the remainder of the race and eventually finished 7th even with his good start.

One rider who turned heads in his first showing of 2018 was the new recruit to the Kemea Yamaha Official MX2 Team, Ben Watson. Watson worked his way forward throughout the 13 laps and came away with a strong 3rd place.

One of the guys to watch in the 2018 season after a strong finish to 2017 is Honda 114 Motorsport‰Ûªs Hunter Lawrence. The Australian had the third fastest lap time in the time practice session earlier in the day and continued to show speed in qualifying finishing in 4th position. Compatriot Jed Beaton finished and encouraging 11th place
Brit Ben Watson surprised a few in the paddock with an impressive third in the MX2 qualifying race. Photo: Youthstream
Following Lawrence‰Ûªs privateer Honda was Team HRC‰Ûªs new MX2 rider Calvin Vlaanderen. Vlaanderen has had a successful preseason leading up to this weekend and showed why as he flew by riders such as Thomas Covington on his way to 5th.

"There‰Ûªs always excitement and a bit of nerves too before the first GP, but I‰Ûªm happy we got the day out of the way smoothly and safely," Vlaanderen said/ "We did what we have to do and we have a good gate pick for tomorrow, so I‰Ûªm feeling good; the bike works well and I hope we can get a better start in the races and get in the mix at the front of the field."

Another notable rider to mention is Bike IT DRT Kawasaki‰Ûªs Darien Sanayei who had one of his best performance here last season. Sanayei will head to the starting line 6th tomorrow.

Main Photo: Tony Cairoli.

MXGP Qualifying Race Top Ten
1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 24:39.667
2. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), +0:05.845
3. Clement Desalle (BEL, Kawasaki), +0:08.115
4. Romain Febvre (FRA, Yamaha), +0:08.868
5. Shaun Simpson (GBR, Yamaha), +0:18.621
6. Max Anstie (GBR, Husqvarna), +0:20.276
7. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), +0:23.435
8. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, Yamaha), +0:23.747
9. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Husqvarna), +0:28.444
10. Julien Lieber (BEL, Kawasaki), +0:41.447

MX2 Qualifying Race Top Ten:
1. Pauls Jonass (LAT, KTM), 24:47.569
2. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, Husqvarna), +0:06.321
3. Ben Watson (GBR, Yamaha), +0:12.151
4. Hunter Lawrence (AUS, Honda), +0:21.926
5. Calvin Vlaanderen (RSA, Honda), +0:27.266
6. Darian Sanayei (USA, Kawasaki), +0:29.347
7. Thomas Covington (USA, Husqvarna), +0:35.985
8. Alvin ÌÐstlund (SWE, Yamaha), +0:40.054
9. Michele Cervellin (ITA, Honda), +0:43.362
10. Conrad Mewse (GBR, KTM), +0:43.727

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