The Grand Prix of France and round twelve of eighteen in the 2021 FIM Motocross World Championship saw Jeffrey Herlings and Tom Vialle own the MXGP and MX2 classes together for the fourth time this season.
LaCapelle-Marival, scene of the popular and traditional pre-season International race, welcomed Grand Prix action for the first time this century. The MXGP and the MX2 classes had to acclimatize to a narrow, twist and bumpy hard-packed course that placed extra emphasis on race starts for podium contention. A vibrant atmosphere was created by a 25,000 crowd (weekend figure), most of whom could get near the action and the close trackside fences.
In the opening MXGP race, it was Jeffrey Herlings who was fastest out of the gate and went on to claim the Fox Holeshot. Jeremy Seewer was second ahead of Romain Febvre and Glenn Coldenhoff.
Team HRC’s Tim Gajser struggled in the start and started the race in around 10th position.
While Herlings led, Febvre was quick to get around Seewer, as he set his sights on the Bullet. Meanwhile a little further behind there was Jeremy Van Horebeek who was having a great ride in fifth place, ahead of Antonio Cairoli.
Gajser was pushing his way up the field as he found himself in eighth place behind Arnaud Tonus. The Slovenian then made a small mistake which cost him two positions, which meant he had to start all over again.
Meanwhile, Jorge Prado was keen to salvage some important championship points as he fought inside the top 20. It was clear that the Spaniard was struggling after the crash in Germany as he only managed to come back to 16th.
Herlings continued to lead, but it was clear that Febvre was not going to let him have the win. The Frenchman set the fastest lap of the race as he worked away at the gap and before he knew it, he was on the rear wheel of the factory KTM rider.
On lap eight we saw Febvre take over the lead, as Herlings dropped to second. Meanwhile, Seewer was still third followed by Pauls Jonass.
Gajser then managed to pass Calvin Vlaanderen to move into eighth and then worked hard to get around Tonus too. Also making moves was Cairoli who finally found an opportunity to get past Van Horebeek, as Gajser also caught onto the Beta rider.
Unfortunately, Van Horebeek did not finish the race as he crashed while under pressure from Gajser.
In the final few laps, we saw Herlings step it up, as he caught onto the back wheel of Febvre, and it was game on for the win! Febvre did a great job to manage under immense pressure from the Dutchman and his efforts paid off as he was victorious in the first race. Herlings was second as Seewer held on to third.
In race two, it was Cairoli who took the Fox Holeshot from Herlings, Febvre, Gajser and Seewer.
Cairoli’s time in the lead did not last long as the Italian made a mistake that allowed both Herlings and Febvre through. Herlings then controlled the race by 2.835 seconds but that gap came down quite quickly as Febvre was on a charge.
Gajser then caught onto the back of Cairoli. The Slovenian needed to make the pass, not only for the championship points, but also for a spot on the podium.
Herlings then has a small bobble which played into the hands of Febvre who wasted no time to get out in front. The Frenchman was the new race leader on lap eight and immediately stretched out his lead to 3.614 seconds.
Gajser continued to search for a way past Cairoli, as Herlings was looking to make up for lost ground. And he did just that. As Herlings closed in, Febvre started to make little errors which proved to be costly in the end as Herlings was able to pass the Frenchman on lap 16.
The factory Kawasaki rider tried to respond but it was not enough, as Herlings took the win with Febvre second and Gajser third. And that’s exactly how the riders finished on the podium, with Herlings taking a 95th career Grand Prix victory.
Herlings is now back in the driving seat of the MXGP championship standings as he leads the way with 460 points, while Febvre moves to second and is just six points behind, while Gajser drops to third on 450 points.
“A pretty good day. I already knew this morning that Romain would be good here and I had to step-up my game,” Herlings explained. “The set-up I had for the first moto was pretty hard and there were a lot of off-cambers I was struggling with some arm-pump. Romain made a pass and I had to let him go. At the end of the moto I tried to close him back but I was just a bit too late. He won fair-and-square. I had another good start in the second moto and tried to pull away but it was tough. I entered a turn too hard and just washed out a front wheel; luckily I didn’t lose too much time and again managed to close it back down to Romain. We had a bit of bar-banging with the pass but I knew on this track you had to make a statement. I won the moto and the overall and now I’m looking forward to next weekend.””
In the opening MX2 race it was Tom Vialle who once again grabbed the Fox Holeshot as he led Jago Geerts, Mattia Guadagnini and Rene Hofer.
Championship leader and home hero Maxime Renaux did not get the best start as he began the race in around 10th position.
Geerts then looked like he was closing in on Vialle for the lead but a couple of laps later, the Belgian crashed and fell back to fourth place, which allowed Guadagnini and Australian Jed Beaton through.
Renaux spent a couple of laps to find his rhythm but once he did, we witnessed the type of intensity from the Frenchman than we did not see before. After eventually finding his way past Roan Van de Moosdijk, Renaux went after Hofer.
A couple of laps later Renaux was in sixth after finding his way past Hofer, and his teammate Thibault Benistant was the next rider he needed to get around. It wasn’t easy but Renaux was able to make it happen to steal fifth position from Benistant.
Geerts was the next rider to come under attack from the hard-charging Frenchman who was looking to put on a show for his home fans. Renaux and Geerts battled intensely for fourth, but after several laps Renaux was finally able to get the job done.
In the end, it was Vialle who won the race on home soil, crossing the finish line ahead of Guadagnini and Beaton.
In race two, it was Vialle once again who grabbed the Fox Holeshot ahead of Guadagnini, Geerts, Benistant and Hofer. Renaux started down in eighth.
Australian Wilson Todd started well and was fifth behind Hofer, before going down and fading down the order. In the end he was able to recover and come back 15th.
At the top end of the field, Vialle stretched his lead to 3.100 seconds over Guadagnini as Geerts kept it close too. But further behind the leaders, Renaux was keen on making some fast passes once again. First to come under attack was Beaton and after it was Hofer.
The pressure only pushed Hofer further as he set his fastest lap of the race and caught onto the back of Geerts who was ahead in third. Despite his best efforts to keep the Frenchman behind him, Hofer lost out on a spot as Renaux went through.
And then it was like ‘Déjà vu’ of the first race as we witnessed a nice fight between Geerts and Renaux. It took Renaux four laps before he was able to pass his teammate and set his sights on Guadagnini ahead in second.
With just a few laps remaining, Vialle was comfortably in the lead as Guadagnini was coming under attack from Renaux. The pair were not afraid to get their elbows out, as they touched at one point coming into a turn and eventually it was Renaux who came out on top and took over second place.
But as the chequered flag fell it was Vialle who celebrated his victory in race two, with Renaux crossing the line second ahead of Guadagnini.
With two race wins, Vialle stood on the top step of the podium which sent the French crowd wild, as Guadagnini celebrated on the second step of the podium while Renaux was forced to settled for third.
Renaux now leads the MX2 World Championship standings with an impressive 91-point gap to his teammate Geerts, while Guadagnini is a further four points behind in third.
“I was a really nice day, it’s the first time I won the French GP, so it’s just amazing to ride in front of the public and it’s really nice to have them at the race,” Vialle said. “There was a little bit more pressure than a normal GP but I managed to do good. I’m really happy because the start was really important today as it was not so easy to pass and I did two great starts. I’m really happy to win both races again and it’s just amazing for the fans”.
The riders will continue their championship battle next weekend in Arroyomolinos at the MXGP of Spain.
MXGP – Grand Prix Race 1 – Top 10 Classification:
1 Romain Febvre (FRA, Kawasaki), 34:21.708
2 Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), +0:00.755
3 Jeremy Seewer (SUI, Yamaha), +0:37.609
4 Pauls Jonass (LAT, GASGAS), +0:39.792
5 Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:41.014
6 Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda), +0:44.721
7 Arnaud Tonus (SUI, Yamaha), +1:02.787
8 Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, Husqvarna), +1:08.373
9 Alessandro Lupino (ITA, KTM), +1:25.573
10 Alberto Forato (ITA, GASGAS), +1:30.425
MXGP – Grand Prix Race 2 – Top 10 Classification:
1 Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 34:32.068
2 Romain Febvre (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:05.305
3 Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda), +0:21.165
4 Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:28.199
5 Pauls Jonass (LAT, GASGAS), +0:29.453
6 Jeremy Seewer (SUI, Yamaha), +0:30.145
7 Calvin Vlaanderen (NED, Yamaha), +0:50.673
8 Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, Yamaha), +0:55.934
9 Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Beta), +1:14.691
10 Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, Husqvarna), +1:21.171
MXGP – GP Top 10 Classification:
1 Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 47 Points
2 Romain Febvre (FRA, KAW), 47 Points
3 Tim Gajser (SLO, HON), 35 Points
4 Jeremy Seewer (SUI, YAM), 35 Points
5 Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 34 Points
6 Pauls Jonass (LAT, GAS), 34 Points
7 Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, HUS), 24 Points
8 Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, YAM), 21 Points
9 Alberto Forato (ITA, GAS), 21 Points
10 Alessandro Lupino (ITA, KTM), 20 Points
MXGP – World Championship Top 10 Classification:
1 Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), 460 Points
2 Romain Febvre (FRA, KAW), 454 Points
3 Tim Gajser (SLO, HON), 450 Points
4 Jorge Prado (ESP, KTM), 398 Points
5 Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 387 Points
6 Jeremy Seewer (SUI, YAM), 344 Points
7 Pauls Jonass (LAT, GAS), 321 Points
8 Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, YAM), 284 Points
9 Alessandro Lupino (ITA, KTM), 215 Points
10 Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN, HUS), 201 Points
MX2 – Grand Prix Race 1 – Top 10 Classification:
1 Tom Vialle (FRA, KTM), 34:55.130
2 Mattia Guadagnini (ITA, KTM), +0:04.885
3 Jed Beaton (AUS, Husqvarna), +0:07.369
4 Maxime Renaux (FRA, Yamaha), +0:10.833
5 Jago Geerts (BEL, Yamaha), +0:11.843
6 Thibault Benistant (FRA, Yamaha), +0:12.576
7 Rene Hofer (AUT, KTM), +0:18.307
8 Wilson Todd (AUS, Kawasaki), +0:27.206
9 Roan Van De Moosdijk (NED, Kawasaki), +0:32.579
10 Stephen Rubini (FRA, Honda), +0:35.083
MX2 – Grand Prix Race 2 – Top 10 Classification:
1 Tom Vialle (FRA, KTM), 35:06.498
2 Maxime Renaux (FRA, Yamaha), +0:02.020
3 Mattia Guadagnini (ITA, KTM), +0:03.925
4 Jago Geerts (BEL, Yamaha), +0:05.081
5 Rene Hofer (AUT, KTM), +0:05.998
6 Jed Beaton (AUS, Husqvarna), +0:06.966
7 Thibault Benistant (FRA, Yamaha), +0:20.272
8 Mikkel Haarup (DEN, Kawasaki), +0:26.934
9 Roan Van De Moosdijk (NED, Kawasaki), +0:28.185
10 Ruben Fernandez (ESP, Honda), +0:29.173
MX2 – GP Top 10 Classification:
1 Tom Vialle (FRA, KTM), 50 Points
2 Mattia Guadagnini (ITA, KTM), 42 Points
3 Maxime Renaux (FRA, YAM), 40 Points
4 Jed Beaton (AUS, HUS), 35 Points
5 Jago Geerts (BEL, YAM), 34 Points
6 Rene Hofer (AUT, KTM), 30 Points
7 Thibault Benistant (FRA, YAM), 29 Points
8 Roan Van De Moosdijk (NED, KAW), 24 Points
9 Mikkel Haarup (DEN, KAW), 22 Points
10 Stephen Rubini (FRA, HON), 19 Points
MX2 – World Championship Top 10 Classification:
1 Maxime Renaux (FRA, YAM), 488 Points
2 Jago Geerts (BEL, YAM), 397 Points
3 Mattia Guadagnini (ITA, KTM), 393 Points
4 Tom Vialle (FRA, KTM), 372 Points
5 Jed Beaton (AUS, HUS), 359 Points
6 Thibault Benistant (FRA, YAM), 336 Points
7 Rene Hofer (AUT, KTM), 333 Points
8 Kay de Wolf (NED, HUS), 313 Points
9 Ruben Fernandez (ESP, HON), 262 Points
10 Mathys Boisrame (FRA, KAW), 223 Points