Those in the Grand Prix paddock were braced for a mudder of epic proportions, but are melting beneath the beating sun instead. The thunderstorms that were forecast have not materialised at St. Jean d’Angely, round ten of the FIM Motocross World Championship, so instead riders are tackling a hard-baked circuit.
It is understandable that the track crew were reluctant to douse the French circuit in water yesterday, as it was unknown what the weather was going to do overnight. Conversations about how circuits are not being ripped and watered enough have already started again though, as elite riders mentioned that before they even ventured out onto the track for the first time. It is already so slick in places that it is just going to be impossible for them to water it too much before the end of the day as well. Thunderstorms are forecast for tomorrow as well, so the staff will be faced with the same predicament this evening.
Jeffrey Herlings was the quickest in both sessions, which is just normal now. It will be a bigger story when he fails to post the fastest time! A lot of eyes were on Antonio Cairoli, however, who is nursing an injured knee. The knee is swollen and not at one hundred percent currently, but it did not look like it hindered him too much in timed sessions. Cairoli raced to the third-fastest time in free practice, with a time that was a little over a second slower than Herlings, but that was actually a strong showing for him. The last time that he was higher than that in the free session was at the Grand Prix of La Comunitat Valenciana in March!
Another interesting point to note is that Gautier Paulin was second in the free session, seven tenths slower than Jeffrey Herlings, but appeared to have the potential to do more. Paulin logged the quickest time in sector one towards the end, but then had to abandon the lap. The same thing happened on the following lap, except he set the best time of the session in the second sector. It is obviously easier said than done to string those times together to create a perfect lap. The speed is there though and that is the most important thing to consider at this point in the weekend. Paulin could do with some sort of boost like this anyway, following a horrific showing at the previous round.
It was interesting to see Evgeny Bobryshev roll out onto the track with a slightly different look this weekend. His RM-Z450, which was completely white at the first nine rounds, now has a yellow front fender. Why is that? Although most immediately presumed that it was because parts had been provided from Japan, it is because Suzuki France and Suzuki Germany have increased their support and shown more interest. The latter has played a big role in some of the previous Suzuki teams. It is likely that this thing is going to continue to grow too, so do not be surprised if the bike is completely yellow by the end of the year.
The practice times may not be a true reflection of what will unfold in the races, as some sections are so tight and twisty. A lot of guys struggled to register clean laps at points, hence why a lot of guys had to give up on their quickest times, although the MX2 times did not stray from what is considered normal too much. The most noteworthy point is that Conrad Mewse appears to have returned to form, although it may be a bit premature to expect a similar showing in the races. Putting the pieces of the puzzle together in a full-length moto has been a troublesome task recently.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Sean Ogden