Analysis: MXGP of Turkey

Insight and analysis from Afyon

· 10 min read

The Turkish Grand Prix, the eighteenth round of the FIM Motocross World Championship, was an unknown quantity. Very few people actually knew what to expect from the round and even now that the event is in the rear-view mirror, it seems some still do not know what to make of it. There will always be varied opinions, which is not a bad thing at all, as each person in the pits has different needs and those who view the event on television do not quite get the full picture.

This is exactly why MX Vice are at every round of the FIM Motocross World Championship though, to bridge that gap and bring insight from the facility. Were there certain areas of the circuit that could have been improved? Undoubtedly, but the same could be said for many of the stops on the tour. The greatest issue that most had was the fast nature of the circuit that made it tough for some to make the type of progress that they would typically expect to. This was the battlefield that every guy faced over the Grand Prix though and therefore each rider knew exactly what they needed to do in order to put their best foot forward.

Most would agree that the Grand Prix of Turkey at Afyon was a success (KTM Images/Ray Archer)

Afyon, an all-new track, would have been much slower and more technical had there been support classes present. There were effectively one hundred guys missing in comparison to the last man-made facility, the Swiss Grand Prix two weeks ago, which puts that into perspective. This is a problem that is already going to be tackled head on in the future though, because there will be two support classes in the paddock when international competition graces the facility for a second time in August next year. Turkey will return to the calendar and honestly seems as though it will become a firm fixture in years to come.

The effort that was made by the organisers and community is something that has to be seen in order to be believed. There was not a single fault with the organisation, facilities or amenities. It was a venue fit to host a FIM Motocross World Championship round. If there are fans who want to mix a regular holiday with some motocross, then this is certainly a stop that could be recommended. Everything that one needed was within five minutes from the facility and that tends to create a good atmosphere within the pits. Does that impact the racing? No, but that is not the point with this line of thinking.

It is important to have a variety of different tracks and facilities on the calendar, as that is the reason why fans across the globe respect the Grand Prix contingent. An old-school circuit like St. Jean d'Angely is simply amazing and the same can be said about the bottomless sand of Lommel in Belgium. It would soon become tedious if all twenty rounds were held at tracks like that though. Seeing different tracks and facilities at each round is a huge part of the appeal and it seems that Youthstream have found the right mix at this point. The last time that there was a flat man-made circuit on the calendar was Pangkal Pinang two months ago.

Jorge Prado ensured that the first race at Afyon was a memorable one (KTM Images/Ray Archer)

Anyway, onto the action that unfolded on Turkish soil. Jorge Prado and Pauls Jonass have been civil thus far this year, in comparison to the way that their relationship deteriorated towards the end of last year. It all came crashing down, quite literally, in the first moto at Afyon though, as the pair collided at the halfway point in a fall that has sparked debate across the globe. It really seems as though no one can agree on who is actually to blame. Does that not mean that it was just a racing incident? It is an easy way to opt out of the discussion, but the fact that it occurred in a fast chicane means that it makes sense.

The fact is that no matter what side of the track either guy was on when they returned to earth after soaring off of the finish jump, both lines funnelled into the inside at the end of the chicane. There was just nowhere else to go at that point. It is not like one of the riders cut across the track in an effort to desperately defend a line. In all honesty, it just came down to the fact that someone had to back off and concede the position. It is funny because one could argue that it was stupid that neither guy backed out of the challenge, but just listen to what was said in the MX Vice post-race podcasts. It is quite clear that they both believe they were in the right and therefore did not need to do that. The debate rages on!

It seems that one thing most fans are desperate to nail down is who was actually ahead at that point. The incident was filmed from head on, so those who watched on television could not exactly figure that out. It was quite clear from pit lane that Jorge Prado was ahead by a hair. There was not much in it though, like maybe a wheel, so that does exactly mean that he was in the right. A common opinion is that he should not have taken the risk and that is something that most can agree on, as he does not need to be pushing the limits quite as much as that. The pace that those two guys, Thomas Covington and Hunter Lawrence were doing in moto one was quite mind-blowing.

Pauls Jonass is twenty-four points behind Jorge Prado at this point (KTM Images/Ray Archer)

Whoever was to blame in the crash, there is no doubt that it cost Pauls Jonass yet again. It is actually funny in a way, not that he would understand that line of thinking, as the fall summed up the season. Pauls Jonass hit the ground and stretched knee ligaments, hence why it took him some time to get going, whereas Jorge Prado managed to roll out of the whole deal and re-join the race with a shot at the win. It could have ended so differently. Things worked out in the end and the deficit between the pair has tightened up by six points, so this thing is not quite over yet. Assen could be the decider though.

The incident between the two Red Bull KTM riders has dominated headlines, hence why this feature started with that drama, but there is one thing that needs to be made clear: Thomas Covington did not get handed the overall win at all. There are many theories out there and people love to bench-race. Covington deserves recognition for closing in on the leaders though, as he was the fastest rider on track at the time of the crash and drug Hunter Lawrence along with him. Who knows what would have happened had that incident not gone on? It would have been tough to make passes, but it is likely that the gaps would have shrunk.

Pauls Jonass

Thomas Covington

Difference

Lap 4

1:50.592

1:50.409

-0.082

Lap 5

1:50.674

1:51.196

-0.522

Lap 6

1:51.134

1:50.683

+0.451

Lap 7

1:51.194

1:50.391

+0.803

Lap 8

1:51.686

1:50.345

+1.341

Lap 9

2:09.752

1:50.923

+18.829

It was great to see Thomas Covington actually stand atop the box, as with each round that passed it seemed more unlikely that he was going to end the season without an overall win to his name. There was no denying the fact that he deserved a number-one trophy, as he came close at five rounds earlier this year. It is actually a shame that the beginning of the year was so turbulent for him, as he is undoubtedly deserving of a medal at the end of the year. It is not difficult to make a case for the fact that he is the third-best guy in this class.

It seemed like Thomas Covington was going to make a run at third a few rounds ago, because he was on a roll, but he will just run out of time now. Fifth in the series is effectively locked in at this point anyway. There is a chance for him to add a fifth Grand Prix win to his career total through the remaining two rounds too and it is obvious that he would like to record two race wins on a single weekend. A casual fan would argue that he does not have a shot at Assen, but he won a moto there two years ago. Conditions were gnarly on that day as well! Covington has come so far in his European journey.

Thomas Covington was very close to sweeping both motos in Turkey (Husqvarna/J.P Acevedo)

The MX2 class is clearly very exciting at this time. There is a lot going on! The MXGP class is rather different though, as everyone is waiting for the inevitable. Jeffrey Herlings almost got the job done on Sunday, seeing as Antonio Cairoli fell on lap one and faced a hefty deficit on the fast track, but he missed out by five points and will now almost definitely take the title at his home event. Herlings could even claim the title if he does not score a single point at that round, as Cairoli would have to take forty-seven points (a second and a first) to keep his title hopes alive and carry this thing into the finale.

The Grand Prix of Turkey was yet another reminder of how amazing Jeffrey Herlings is. It is quite important that he gets recognition, as mentioned in this feature previously, even though clean sweeps are considered normal at this point. Herlings had food poisoning over the weekend and really struggled to hold on in moto two, but still put fifty points on the table. The times that he was posting throughout the moto did not even fluctuate too much! The guy has overcome so much already this year, like that broken collarbone that most seem to have forgotten about now that two months have been and gone, and this is just another thing to be in awe of.

Jeffrey Herlings will almost certainly claim the title at his home event (KTM Images/Ray Archer)

The final rider who Jeffrey Herlings put a lap down in moto one at the Turkish Grand Prix, Todd Waters, is actually someone who needs to be acknowledged at this point. Now that Brian Bogers is finally in a position where he can enter a Grand Prix, it seems that his foray in the FIM Motocross World Championship is over. It was an unexpected end, hence why not much was said about it over the weekend, but that almost sums up his experience as a whole. It was just quiet. There was so much excitement and intrigue in the pits when this fill-in deal was announced, but it all fell a little flat.

It was always going to be difficult to jump into a season at the halfway point and the collarbone injury that was sustained in his debut at the Grand Prix of Latvia did not exactly help, but this is a guy who jumped up onto the box three years ago! There is no doubt that the level at the head of the field has grown significantly since then, but still it seems that no expectations were met at the last eight rounds. It almost seemed as though there was some frustration in the quotes that Marcus Pereira de Freitas provided for the HRC press service each week. The results that were acquired have ultimately made this experiment a forgettable one.

What is next for Todd Waters? It remains to be seen at this point. The likeable Australian was planning to contest the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross series as a privateer before this HRC deal popped up, so there is almost no doubt that he will set his sights on that goal once again. The Grand Prix contingent will continue to push forward, however, and tackle the nineteenth round of the current campaign, which may end up being one of the most incredible weekends in the sport.

Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Husqvarna/J.P Acevedo

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