The Monster Energy MXGP of USA represented the eighteenth and last round of the 2015 FIM Motocross World Championship and in the 'oven' of Glen Helen Yamaha Factory Racing Yamalube's Romain Febvre signed off a remarkable campaign with another standout performance aboard his YZ450FM.
The Frenchman scored a 1-2 in the motos to claim his eighth victory of the season and a thirteenth consecutive podium result. Teammate Jeremy Van Horebeek was eighth overall.
The steep Californian hills just outside the town of San Bernardino provided a sun-scorched but capable stage for the last round of MXGP. The snaking layout was fast, relentless and offered plenty of elevation changes and some decent air-time for the racers. Loose soil carved rough in places but the pacey trajectory of the course meant it was hard for riders to set markedly different lap-times to their competitors.
Febvre rode to third position in the qualification heat on Saturday after a duel with Star Racing Yamaha Yamalube's Cooper Webb who was making both his Grand Prix and 450 debut at Glen Helen. The youngster had previously taken his YZ250F to West Coast AMA 250SX title success but mindful of his role for Team USA at the Motocross of Nations next week Webb was keen on race mileage.
The first moto got underway in front of a 22,000 crowd (figure for the weekend) and with a sea of crystal clear blue overhead. Romain did not make the best getaway but was soon past Josh Grant and pursuing Webb. The pair had a tasty battle and Febvre reigned supreme with an exquisite overtaking move down the long, steep hill two laps before the flag.
The chase, fight, pass and victory represented one of his best performances of the year.
The second race again saw Febvre needing to thread through to the front from the depths of the top ten. With Webb also in the pack, it was Grant who set the pace. Once more '461' did the running and was all over the rear wheel of the Kawasaki with three laps remaining. Webb was alone in third and it was left to Febvre to depose the Californian.
Climbing the hill a momentary lapse saw Romain drop his bike in the switchback turn at the top and the gap to Grant became too big to breach in the time before the finish. Nevertheless a scorecard of 1-2 was enough to uncork the champagne yet again.
A milestone championship for Febvre has ended with thirteen podium finishes in a row, eight victories (almost half of the calendar and more than double that of the next nearest rider) and a gap of 143 points over Gautier Paulin in the premier class standings. Van Horebeek dealt with injury and form issues but trod the podium twice and rested fifth in the championship after outpointing Max Nagl.
"It has been an amazing year and this is my thirteenth podium in a row." Febvre commented. "When we started riding yesterday I thought it was difficult because the track is so wide and fast so we had to adapt the bike a little bit because we are not used to this type of track. It was also really hot!
"In the first moto my start was not too good but I caught everybody and passed Cooper with two laps to go; it was really good and I was so happy to win.
"I had to do it again from the start in the second moto and with three laps to go I made a mistake at the top of the hill and crashed. Josh Grant was really fast. I could only manage second place but it meant the overall. To win was my goal and especially at this mythical track."
DP19 Racing Yamaha's David Philippaerts has missed the last three rounds due to an arm injury but the veteran ends his ninth term in the MXGP division with fifteenth.
Ernee is the next stop. The atmospheric French circuit west of Le Mans will host the 69th Motocross of Nations this coming weekend and for what is expected to be a repeat of the vibrant and superb event held at the facility in 2005. Febvre will wear the colours of his country for the first time.