Well, the streak has started again! Jeffrey Herlings was the quickest in free practice at thirteen rounds of the FIM Motocross World Championship in a row, but that obviously ended when his gear bag did not arrive at the previous event in Russia. It was a meaningless streak and one that he certainly was not aware of, but it was still interesting to follow from one race to the next.
Jeffrey Herlings returned to the top of the charts with a bang at the Grand Prix of Latvia though, as he went more than three seconds quicker than his competition in free practice. It was obviously a phenomenal lap. When was the last time that an MXGP (previously named MX1) rider was that much faster in the free session? Ken De Dycker did it at the Dutch Grand Prix, held at Lierop, in 2008. That was three thousand five hundred and forty-four days ago. Unbelievable! Anyway, back to the Grand Prix of Latvia that is taking place at the moment.
Where did Jeffrey Herlings actually make up that time? Based on the various results, which can be found elsewhere on MX Vice, he was a second quicker than Tim Gajser and Antonio Cairoli in sector one, then another second quicker in sector three. It seems that the final sector is where the rest of the premier-class riders are closer to the current series leader, as he was just six tenths or so faster on that part of the track. It is going to be a long weekend for the competition, based on that and the fact that he was almost two seconds quicker in the timed session. It is also worth noting that Herlings will become the winningest rider at this Grand Prix if he stands atop the box tomorrow.
Tim Gajser appears to have the best shot at stopping Jeffrey Herlings, seeing as he was in the top three in both sessions. Gajser did not sound too excited to come to this circuit, despite the fact that he has won here in the past, but these times will probably alter his mood somewhat. "We do not have very good memories of Latvia from last year, but we will try to go there and give our best and see what happens," Gajser said in a team statement. "Actually it is not my favourite track on the calendar, as it is sandy on top but quite hard underneath. Race starts will be very important!"
Jorge Prado has proven to be the quickest MX2 rider thus far, which is hardly surprising. It seems as though these conditions are where he really thrives. Pauls Jonass was a little out of sorts in free practice, on the other hand, and had a small fall in that session, but rebounded in a big way in time practice. Those two were so close that a repeat of Valkenswaard could be on the cards. It will be most interesting to see if Jonass can stand atop the podium here, as it is undoubtedly something that he desperately wants to do. It may even be his final goal as an MX2 rider!
It was also interesting to see how Ben Watson fared in practice, as he admitted in an exclusive MX Vice podcast that he has not ridden this week. "At the ONK at Mill on Sunday, I had a little crash in the second race on the first lap," Watson said. "I finished the race no problem, but woke up on Monday morning with a real stiff wrist. I could not ride this week, so I will go out there and give it my best this weekend. I am sure that when the races come I will not even feel it." Seeing as he was fourth in the timed session, finishing on the podium this weekend is not unrealistic.
An additional note from these sessions is that Iker Larranaga Olano and Michele Cervellin, two young stars in MX2, had their quickest times taken away in free practice. Both riders stopped on the track at some point to look at lines, hence the penalty. It obviously means nothing, seeing as those times do not count at all, but it is still interesting to consider. Davy Pootjes was later penalised for the same thing in time practice, which is actually going to hurt his gate pick for the qualifying race that is just moments away.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Sean Ogden