In talking to Antonio Cairoli at the recent Grand Prix of Latvia, it seemed as though he was very aware of the fact that the next couple of rounds will be rather big for him. Teutschenthal, Matterley Basin and St. Jean d’Angely are all tracks that have served him well in the past and should offer him an opportunity to steal some momentum in the fight for the premier-class title.
If Jeffrey Herlings wins the next six motos in a row, which is certainly realistic based on data that has been collected thus far, then it will be difficult for anyone to bet against him for the title. The halfway point will be breached after these three events as well. All eyes are going to be on whether Antonio Cairoli can respond, especially now that he has claimed that he planned to hit his peak around this time. Are things about to improve? The results over the next month will answer that question, as there will simply be no place for the reigning champion to hide.
It is going to be most interesting to revisit Teutschenthal, considering the way that the on-track fight played out last year. Jeffrey Herlings was just beginning to find his feet aboard the bigger bike and the pair traded moto wins. If he dominates this weekend, then does that mean that he has made significant improvements or that Antonio Cairoli has regressed? It would be interesting to hear how the riders answer that question. If there is one thing that could cause the current series leader to lose points this weekend, then it is starts. Even he admitted that coming through the field from the lower half of the top ten will be harder in Germany than it was in Latvia last weekend.
There is another reason why Antonio Cairoli must be looking forward to the next three events, as the door is open for some of the other protagonists to get between him and Jeffrey Herlings. Clement Desalle, for instance, is very capable on these hard-pack tracks. It is not a foregone conclusion that it will happen, of course, but it is a possibility. In comparison, it is just ludicrous to expect someone to split the pair in the power-sapping sand of Ottobiano. A lot of emphasis should be put on the next three rounds, because of this, as imagine how comfortable Herlings would feel if he exits St. Jean d’Angely with an advantage of more than forty points?
Moving onto some intriguing points from alternative awnings, Kemea Yamaha will continue to attract a lot of attention as they have added an additional rising star to their tent. Anthony Rodriguez, who has focussed on Monster Energy Supercross thus far this year, will fill-in for Vsevolod Brylyakov at the upcoming rounds of the FIM Motocross World Championship. Most will remember him from his stint with HRC last season, but this is going to be different. Why? Brylyakov has a torn ACL and will miss a significant amount of time, so he will have time to grow and develop with the help of Marnicq Bervoets and Jacky Vimond.
An eighth in the second moto at the Grand Prix of Portugal was the best result that Anthony Rodriguez acquired in red. The only other race that he completed aboard factory machinery was Ottobiano and the sand was not exactly kind to him. The next three hard-pack tracks, which were referenced previously, will give him a great opportunity to shine and prove his worth. There is an opportunity for Rodriguez to prove himself for next year as well, as the official Yamaha outfit are going to have a seat free. Vsevolod Brylyakov will be pushed into the premier division when the current campaign draws to a close.
Freek van der Vlist will be another fill-in rider in the pits, but his opportunity is not quite as grand. 114 Motorsports have given him a one-race shot aboard the bike that Bas Vaessen is not currently using. Van der Vlist really needs to make the most of his one-shot deal, as his EMX250 campaign has been dismal. There is no doubt that he is capable, as he was a regular points scorer in MX2 last year. Things just have not been clicking thus far this year and he must remind people of what he can actually do. Most would argue that he should be an EMX250 contender, but instead he has not even gotten close to the top ten.
With new riders entering the paddock, as well as some riders returning from injury, the Grand Prix of Germany promises to be one of the most exciting to follow. Intriguing stories will be rampant throughout both classes and the hard-pack surface will level the playing field somewhat.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: KTM Images/Ray Archer