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Day One: MXGP at Assen

MXGP analysis, insight and comments

· 7 min read

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The Grand Prix of The Netherlands is underway at a road-race facility north of Amsterdam, as qualifying races are complete along with the rest of the Saturday programme. It has been an entertaining day, with a handful of noteworthy points and surprises, which is actually great to see at this point in the season.

The biggest surprise of all was that Jeffrey Herlings dominated proceedings during the twenty-minute heat. Who saw that coming? It is something that everyone expects, even his competition, at rounds such as this. It was a dominant yet controlled ride, as he did not do anything stupid and just logged consistent laps that were quicker than his competitors. It was just uneventful. Herlings did what he has done many times in the last six months and snuck around the inside to take the early lead, despite the fact that he did not take the holeshot. It is something that must infuriate so many of his rivals on a weekly basis.

Jeffrey Herlings claimed pole position for the twelfth time this season (KTM Images/Ray Archer)

An interesting point that most would not have caught is that Jeffrey Herlings was running gold boots in the free practice session, then switched to the regular white pair for the following two sessions. It is likely that he was just breaking in a new pair before racing in them tomorrow, as everyone knows that it takes a while to get adjusted to a new set of boots, so that was a sneak peek of what is to come. It is most likely that the folks at Alpinestars will provide him with some unique gear too, but perhaps that will not emerge until he has won the title? It will happen in moto one tomorrow as long as he finishes in sixteenth or higher and he appears to be more than capable of doing that.

"We did what we had to do, stay out of trouble," Jeffrey Herlings said in a post-race statement. "Tomorrow is going to be D day hopefully. I am very excited. Today was good. Fastest in free practice, fastest in pre-qualifying by two seconds and then winning the qualifying race in a pretty dominant way. Today they flattened the track a lot before the MX2 moto again, so hopefully tomorrow they leave it like it is. It is a sand race, a pretty tight track and not that easy to pass. Hopefully they leave the track like it is and we will work from there. I thought I would be getting more nervous, but I am actually pretty calm and relaxed.

"Even last night I slept like a baby," Herlings continued. "I thought that maybe I would wake up and it would be hard to just have a good night, because you only think about the championship and do not want anything to happen. Everything went well. Even today I feel very calm. Definitely there is pressure, but I don't even feel it that much. Hope to have the same thing tomorrow, you know, and also the riding was good today. It was definitely a crazy week last week, but mainly the last few days. It has been really hectic with so many people texting me and calling me from the media, then also doing the training programme and travelling or whatever."

Jeffrey Herlings will almost certainly take the MXGP title in moto one (KTM Images/Ray Archer)

Antonio Cairoli was the rider who Jeffrey Herlings demoted immediately exiting the first corner, but he was not just dropped. Cairoli did not manage to match the times that Herlings was setting, not that he was expected to, but he just lost a tenth or two on a few of the laps. It was not catastrophic. The times below offer a better look at that. What does that go down to? Was Cairoli just as capable as Herlings? Did Herlings have a lot more in the tank? It is probably best to lean towards the latter, seeing as he has stated that he can go faster on a few occasions this year and was never truly challenged. Who knows what is in store tomorrow, especially once the bigger picture comes into play.

Jeffrey Herlings

Antonio Cairoli

Difference

Lap 2

1:39.615

1:40.063

-0.448

Lap 3

1:39.047

1:40.228

-1.181

Lap 4

1:39.987

1:41.907

-1.920

Lap 5

1:39.952

1:40.037

-0.085

Lap 6

1:40.100

1:40.201

-0.101

Lap 7

1:40.437

1:41.827

-1.390

Glenn Coldenhoff and Max Anstie were easily the next best riders, even without taking their finishes into consideration, and will be vying for a spot on the box tomorrow. Those two guys actually ended up quite close to Antonio Cairoli at the chequered flag, as backmarkers played a huge role throughout the heat. It was actually crazy how many of them were out on track. Those slower guys were not really spread out either. It seemed as though they were in groups of five or six whenever the frontrunners would get near and that made it very chaotic. It is certainly something to watch tomorrow, as it had an impact on the race today. It adds to the risk factor as well.

The start is going to be extremely important in both classes tomorrow (Husqvarna/J.P Acevedo)

There were not really many more talking points in the premier division, as everyone slotted in where they were expected to. The other class, MX2, was just crazy though. Crashes on lap one left Anthony Rodriguez, Thomas Covington, Thomas Kjer Olsen, Adam Sterry, Ben Watson, Hunter Lawrence and Marshal Weltin outside of the top twenty and obviously watching them charge through the field together made for incredible entertainment. Olsen was the most successful, as he made it into eighth, then Lawrence and Watson were not too far behind him. Those two shadowed each other for the duration and proved they will be contenders for a spot on the box tomorrow. The results were not a good indication of what is to come though.

The fact that Jorge Prado won obviously means something though, especially considering that he did so in a dominant fashion. Prado led right out of the gate, just as one would expect him to, and really did not look back at all. It was very similar to Jeffrey Herlings in the way that he did not stand out from the crowd, simply because it was just uneventful. The lap times that he recorded definitely jump off of the page when pulling through the in-depth results though. Those are highlighted in the table below and are stacked up against the times that Calvin Vlaanderen, who finished a very strong second, did. The numbers really do all of the talking.

Jorge Prado

Calvin Vlaanderen

Difference

Lap 2

1:40.120

1:41.929

-1.809

Lap 3

1:40.771

1:41.511

-0.740

Lap 4

1:41.118

1:41.950

-0.832

Lap 5

1:41.804

1:42.316

-0.512

Lap 6

1:42.289

1:43.560

-1.271

Lap 7

1:41.203

1:42.369

-1.166

Lap 8

1:41.348

1:43.041

-1.793

Jorge Prado took pole position for the ninth time this year earlier today (KTM Images/Ray Archer)

"Yeah, I feel really good on this track already since last year," Jorge Prado said in a statement. "Today went pretty good I think. I felt pretty good all day long. Once the gate dropped for the qualifying race I had a good start and that made everything way easier. They flattened a lot of the track, so it was also difficult to get a gap, but it was a good race. I am happy with the win and looking forward to tomorrow."

Pauls Jonass had a mediocre outing, by his standards anyway, and did not really make progress. The riders who he was battling with, Bas Vaessen and Henry Jacobi, were the most impressive though. Vaessen has plenty of potential and has not actually had an opportunity to show it this season, so most have been waiting for some kind of breakthrough similar to what Jacobi had at the Grand Prix of Trentino in April. Perhaps that is going to happen tomorrow? The Dutchman had no issues sticking to the rear wheel of Jonass, although there will be a lot more frontrunners in the mix in the motos and those guys could change the way that the class is viewed.

Who else deserves props? Conrad Mewse was strong in his return, although it was obvious that he would be from the moment that the free-practice session begun, and the same goes for Adam Sterry. The latter actually ended up with a faster time than Hunter Lawrence and Ben Watson, despite the fact that he was a little further down the order. The second guy on F&H Racing Kawasaki, Marshal Weltin, impressed during the heat too, as he charged from the back and slotted into fourteenth. The progress that Weltin, who has very little experience in the sand, has made is unbelievable. Charging from twenty-fifth to fourteenth here at Assen deserves credit.

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

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