St. Jean d’Angely promises to be an exhilarating event and, based on the track conditions currently, one that will please the hundreds of riders in attendance. This could all change in the blink of an eye though, as storms should roll in at some point. The spectacular hillside could quickly turn into a treacherous circuit that makes the world’s greatest rider look mediocre.
The Grand Prix contingent cannot complain about the prospect of a mud race though, as the weather has been particularly kind thus far this season. The previous season was just horrific, with regard to the amount of poor weather, as it seemed as though every other round was sloppy, but that has certainly not been the case this year. If anything it has been too hot! It is arguably the right time to have a mud race that could change the way in which the championship standings currently look, as both classes have settled into a bit of a pattern.
Jeffrey Herlings is expected to win every single time that he takes to a starting line, which is not exactly new, and Pauls Jonass has begun to gradually stretch out his advantage too. Even if those two things do not happen this weekend, it is likely that the pair will manage to finish in second and minimise the damage on a dry track. The same assumptions cannot be made if it is a wet race, however, and the doors would be swung wide open for a new winner to emerge. So, although the thought of a wet race may prompt sighs, it could create an intriguing weekend of racing.
It is also worth noting that the rain may just completely dodge this French facility. How many times has a mud race been predicted, only for blue skies to emerge victorious on race day? The forecast for the Grand Prix of Great Britain was actually bleak, for instance, but riders were struggling with the heat by the end of the weekend. There is just no way to predict what the weather is going to do. It is still worth noting that the weather forecast for the weekend indicates that there will be scattered thunderstorms on Saturday and Sunday. Be prepared to expect the unexpected, both on and off of the track.
Returning to the French facility of St. Jean d’Angely has left some in a reflective mood, as so much has changed since the last time that the trucks rolled into the historic facility. Romain Febvre was the man to beat at that point and won his home Grand Prix, which was actually the last time that he stood atop the podium. It was a big weekend for him away from the circuit too, because he signed a massive contract with Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing. The three-year deal will finish at the end of next year and, based on recent form, it is unlikely that he will have the same bargaining power.
Speaking of contracts and negotiations, those are well underway within the paddock. There is not much to report at this stage, especially nothing official, but conversations are taking place and some deals have already been signed. It seems as though the most change will occur within the MX2 class, where certain EMX riders will be moving up and some big names will be vacating the division. Based on the spots that are available in the premier division, it is likely that most of the big names will just continue with their current teams. Those further down the order may not have that option though.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Monster Energy Media/Ray Archer