Romain Febvre proves his mettle and Jessy Nelson rocks the house at the Monster Energy MXGP of the USA; Tim Gasjer crowned MX2 World Champion.
Just like Antonio Cairoli, the man he displaced for the FIM World MXGP Championship in 2015, Yamalube Yamaha Factory Racing’s Romain Febvre can truly claim the title of World Motocross Champion anywhere on the planet.
The 24-year-old Frenchman, who clinched the FIM MXGP crown two rounds ago, came to Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, Sunday, for the final stop of the 18-round World Series and showed his versatility as he scored and exciting come-from-behind win in Moto 1 and a steady second-place finish in Moto 2 to score his eighth MXGP win of the season on the long, fast, hard-packed Glen Helen track, while American Jessy Nelson made his debut FIM Grand Prix a memorable one by sweeping the MX2 class aboard his Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil/Red Bull KTM. The event was also memorable for Gariboldi Honda’s Tim Gasjer of Slovenia, who wrapped up his first career FIM MX2 World Championship with a steady fourth-place overall finish.
Naturally, there will always be lingering questions when the European contingent comes Stateside, as it is rare that a true head-to-head battle with the top American stars takes place. That was the case at Glen Helen as well. Reigning Lucas Oil 450cc Pro Motocross Champion Ryan Dungey did not compete in the event, nor did former champions Ken Roczen and James Stewart, but the USA was arguably still well-represented by Glen Helen favorite son Josh Grant, who was aboard a Monster Energy Kawasaki, and Monster Energy AMA West Coast 250SX Champion Cooper Webb, who was stepping up to the 450cc class in preparation for the upcoming Motocross of Nations. With Febvre ultimately taking the overall win, it’s a question that remains largely unanswerable, but it is safe to suggest that the talent gap between America and Europe is perhaps as narrow as it was just before America emerged as a motocross superpower in the early 1980s. Febvre was certainly motivated to prove that point.
“For sure, I wanted to win here,” Febvre said. “It was my goal. It is always special to win at Glen Helen. Not all of the Americans were here, and I am disappointed about that, but now we will just work on the des Nations [Motocross of Nations].”
The first moto, which took place in 97-degree heat, was telling. Many of the 22,000 fans in attendance expected the Europeans to wilt in the sweltering conditions and be unable to maintain a strong pace on the fast and rough Glen Helen track, setting up an American runaway. When the gate dropped for Moto 1, Webb got the holeshot, but six-time World MXGP Champion Cairoli put his Red Bull KTM at the front of the pack. However, fresh off the arm injury that derailed his 2015 championship run, Cairoli was not be able to hold the lead for long, and he was soon swallowed up by Grant and the impressive Webb. The two Americans treated the fans to an epic battle for the lead early in the race, with Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Webb passing Grant, only to lose the lead and then comeback again with a strong charge to the top of Mount St. Helens.
Febvre, meanwhile, was trapped behind Cairoli for a few laps while the Americans got away, and it looked as if the Frenchman would be settling for third place in the moto. However, Grant suffered a setback when he ran over his own foot in the pit turn while chasing Webb late in the moto, and the pain forced him to slow his charge.
“It was kind of difficult to manage the pain and the instability of my foot, so I just kind of took it easy and tried to keep the pressure off it, but it really screwed me up.”
Webb, too, began to feel the effects of wrangling the more powerful, heavier 450, and his lap times dropped off toward the end of the race.
That allowed Febvre to advance with each lap, and he caught Webb, making a banzai, late-braking pass at the bottom of the St. Helens dowhill with just two laps remaining. Webb gamely tried to fight back, but Febvre crossed the line first, winning the race by just over two bike lengths.
“That was very good for me,” Febvre said. “I was very happy with my riding and everything. The start was not so good. I was sixth, maybe, and I caught everybody and passed Cooper [Webb] with two laps to go. In the first moto, everyone was fit and everyone was pushing so hard.”
Grant held on for third place, and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Jason Anderson also found his way around the clearly gassed Cairoli to finish fourth.
In-between motos, Grant spent time in the Asterisk Mobile Center to get his swollen ankle taped, and the injury appeared to have little effect on Grant once Moto 2 got underway. Cairoli again pulled the holeshot, ahead of Webb, Rockstar Energy Suzuki’s Glen Coldenhoff and Grant. Team HRC Honda’s Evgeny Bobryshev was also in the mix, and he quickly got up to fourth place while Coldenhoff fell back into the pack. Meanwhile, Febvre was near the tail end of the top 10 and had work to do if he wanted a shot at the top of the podium.
Grant passed Webb for second place on lap three, and Webb nearly threw it away over one of the jumps in the back section of the course, allowing both Bobryshev and Febvre to slip past him. Cairoli yielded to Grant on lap four, and the American set sail in the lead. Cairoli would drop out of the race on the next lap, allowing Bobryshev into second place for a couple laps before the flying Febvre passed him and took over the position. Grant had a healthy lead by then, but Febvre continued to chip away at it while Webb also fought his way past Bobryshev to move into third place.
Febvre worked for the entire moto to catch Grant, and he finally moved to within a few bike lengths of Grant at the top of Mount St. Helens just before the two-lap board came out, only to lose precious time with an innocuous low-speed tip-over just before the drop off to the downhill. That gave Grant all the breathing room he’d need to take the moto win, and he crossed the finish line with over 12 seconds in hand, a margin that didn’t accurately reflect how close the race really was.
“I just put my head down,” said Grant, who is currently without a ride for the 2016 season. “I’ve put in a lot of time here at this track, and I really wanted to do well. I just wanted to overcome that [injury], and in that second moto, I just left it all on the table. Honestly, this [MXGP] experience was really cool. It was new for me, and just to be part of the experience was awesome. Racing with these guys is cool. Unfortunately, I just didn’t have the right preparation for the end of the year. I was just sitting on the couch for a couple months before the last few AMA Nationals. Fortunately, I was able to come out here and practice to get ready for this event. I hope that shows for anyone who might want to help me out for next year.”
Grant added that he would seriously consider any offers to ride the MXGP series.
“Sure,” he said. “I love motorcycles, I love motocross, and that is just the way it is. I would love to [race in Europe].”
Febvre’s second-place finish handily wrapped up his eighth overall win of the season and also marked his 13th podium finish in 18 rounds.
“It has been an amazing year for me,” Febvre said. “This is a difficult track because it is so wide and so fast. We needed to adapt, a little bit, the bike, because I am not used to this kind of track, and it was really hot out there. The start was not so good, but I managed to come back strong, and with three laps to go I made a small mistake and crashed. Josh Grant was really fast in the second moto, so I could only manage second, but I took the overall, so that is good. The fitness was good again, which is good for me because it was really hot out there.”
One question that Febvre did answer, and favorably, was about his own ability to adapt to the higher-speed American-style track. When Americans travel to Europe, the slower, tighter, sandier and more technical tracks can be an issue. Febvre looked like a Glen Helen veteran.
“The speed does not bother me,” he said. “I know that when Americans come to Europe, it can be difficult to adapt, as we saw with Ryan [Villopoto]. We just had to adapt the bike. For myself, it was more the weather that was the big difference.”
Webb’s 2-3 performance was about as good as anyone might expect in his MXGP debut–and on 450 no less. He was certainly pleased with his results.
“This was a whole new experience for me, a whole new format, racing a machine that I just got on not too long ago,” Webb said. “It was a nice warm-up [for the Motocross of Nations], and I got to see how these guys race. The one thing for me, was my starts, because I’ve struggled with those, but I got some good ones today. For me, it was an awesome experience, and I am looking forward to it next week. I definitely think I will be more relaxed.”
In what was his FIM Motocross World Championship debut, California’s own Jessy Nelson gave the partisan crowd the kind of European butt-kicking performance they had hoped to see in both classes when he sped to a perfect 1-1 sweep of the MX2 class. In fact, the Lee Designs/Lucas Oil/Red Bull KTM dominated the event, as Nelson’s teammate, Shane McElrath, came through with 3-2 finishes to land second overall, ahead of Standing Construct Yamaha’s Valentin Guillod. In recognition of his dominance, Nelson was also awarded the Marty Moates Cup, which is given to the top American at an American-based Grand Prix. Nelson led every lap of both MX2 motos.
“The MXGP series is awesome,” Nelson said. “I like the way it was run, with the schedule. Having the two-day thing was cool, with more time to relax. The track was awesome. Qualifying was a little rough yesterday, but to go 1-1 on the day, I really can’t complain.”
Nor can Gariboldi Honda’s Tim Gasjer, who fulfilled his dream of becoming a World Champion by adding to his point lead over closest rival Pauls Jonass in both motos to lift the MX2 crown.
“I’m really, really happy, and I just want to say thank you to all my team and my family,” Gasjer said. “This season was very long, 18 races, and we all made mistakes–I made a lot! It was tough, but in the end it went pretty good, and I am so happy. I had 18 points [over Jonass], and that is a pretty good gap for the last GP, but I was not really looking at the championship today because anything can happen. But anyway, it worked out, and I am really looking forward to coming back to Glen Helen next year.”
Nelson grabbed the early lead in moto one and never looked back, pulling 12 seconds clear of yet another American, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Chris Alldredge, who had a strong moto as he ran ahead of McElrath to give America a podium sweep of Moto 1.
But fans also got to witness a heated battle for the MX2 title between Gasjer and Jonass. The Red Bull KTM rider got off to a strong start, running in fourth place, but Gasjer caught and passed his rival, who was unable to answer and eventually dropped back to 10th place in the moto, watching his points deficit to Gasjer widen to 22 points with one moto remaining after Gasjer finished sixth. To win the title, Jonass would have to win Moto 2 and hope that Gasjer suffered a DNF–astronomical odds.
In moto two, Nelson simply checked out on McElrath right from the start, while Alldredge ran into problems on the first downhill when he tangled with fellow American and MX2 series regular Thomas Covington. Both rider wound up in a heap on the ground, and Alldredge finished outside the top 10, ruining his chances for a podium finish. Alldredge was credited with sixth place overall. Nelson crossed the finish line about 5 seconds ahead of McElrath.
Gasjer seemed to be loose and relaxed in the second moto as he ran in fourth place while Jonass ran in sixth place and was unable to muster any kind of drive toward the front. Meanwhile, Monster Energy DRT Kawasaki’s Max Anstie did enough to round out the top five and secure third overall in the 2015 MX2 points standings.
2015 FIM Motocross World Championship
Monster Energy MXGP of the USA, presented by Chaparral Motorsports
Glen Helen Raceway
San Bernardino, California
Results: September 20, 2015 (Round 18 of 18)
MXGP Moto 1: 1. Romain Febvre (FRA, Yamaha), 35:54.457; 2. Cooper Webb (USA, Yamaha), +0:00.724; 3. Josh Grant (USA, Kawasaki), +0:23.369; 4. Jason Anderson (USA, Husqvarna), +0:34.642; 5. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:38.012; 6. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, Suzuki), +0:39.495; 7. Dean Wilson (GBR, KTM), +0:41.977; 8. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Honda), +0:48.001; 9. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda), +0:55.692; 10. Marvin Musquin (FRA, KTM), +0:58.982.
MXGP Moto 2: 1. Josh Grant (USA, Kawasaki), 36:17.374; 2. Romain Febvre (FRA, Yamaha), +0:12.621; 3. Cooper Webb (USA, Yamaha), +0:17.132; 4. Dean Wilson (GBR, KTM), +0:18.260; 5. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda), +0:45.661; 6. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, Suzuki), +0:51.367; 7. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), +0:57.887; 8. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Honda), +1:03.920; 9. Tommy Searle (GBR, KTM), +1:07.744; 10. Davi Millsaps (USA, KTM), +1:11.790.
MXGP Overall: 1. Romain Febvre (FRA, Yamaha) 1-2; 2. Josh Grant (USA, Kawasaki) 3-1; 3. Cooper Webb (USA, Yamaha) 2-3; 4. Dean Wilson (GBR, KTM) 7-4; 5. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, Suzuki) 6-6; 6. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda) 9-5; 7. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Honda) 8-8; 8. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha) 12-7; 9. Tommy Searle (GBR, KTM) 13-9; 10. Jason Anderson (USA, Husqvarna) 4-27.
2015 FIM MXGP World Championship Points Standings (after 18 of 18 rounds): 1. Romain Febvre-735; 2. Gautier Paulin-592; 3. Evgeny Bobryshev-567 4. Shaun Simpson-481 p.; 5. Jeremy Van Horebeek-449; 6. Max Nagl-442; 7. Antonio Cairoli-432; 8. Glenn Coldenhoff-423; 9. Todd Waters-354; 10. Clement Desalle-331.
MX2 Moto 1: 1. Jessy Nelson (USA, KTM), 36:33.129; 2. Chris Alldredge (USA, Kawasaki), +0:12.857; 3. Shane McElrath (USA, KTM), +0:18.589; 4. Max Anstie (GBR, Kawasaki), +0:21.210; 5. Valentin Guillod (SUI, Yamaha), +0:21.307; 6. Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda), +0:34.359; 7. Harri Kullas (FIN, Husqvarna), +0:38.327; 8. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, Suzuki), +0:39.762; 9. Julien Lieber (BEL, Yamaha), +0:50.881; 10. Pauls Jonass (LAT, KTM), +0:54.438.
MX2 Moto 2: 1. Jessy Nelson (USA, KTM), 36:37.196; 2. Shane McElrath (USA, KTM), +0:05.211; 3. Valentin Guillod (SUI, Yamaha), +0:32.327; 4. Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda), +0:36.227; 5. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, Suzuki), +0:40.646; 6. Pauls Jonass (LAT, KTM), +0:50.515; 7. Harri Kullas (FIN, Husqvarna), +0:52.303; 8. Max Anstie (GBR, Kawasaki), +1:06.400; 9. Benoit Paturel (FRA, Yamaha), +1:09.669; 10. Ivo Monticelli (ITA, KTM), +1:51.141.
MX2 Overall: 1. Jessy Nelson (USA, KTM) 1-1; 2. Shane McElrath (USA, KTM) 3-2; 3. Valentin Guillod (SUI, Yamaha) 5-3; 4. Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda) 6-4; 5. Max Anstie (GBR, Kawasaki) 4-8; 6. Chris Alldredge (USA, Kawasaki) 2-13; 7. Jeremy Seewer (SUI, Suzuki) 8-5; 8. Harri Kullas (FIN, Husqvarna) 7-7; 9. Pauls Jonass (LAT, KTM)-10-6; 10. Benoit Paturel (FRA, Yamaha) 13-9.
2015 FIM MXGP World Championship Points Standings (after 18 of 18 rounds): 1. Tim Gajser-589; 2. Pauls Jonass-564; 3. Max Anstie-537; 4. Valentin Guillod-511; 5. Jeremy Seewer-496; 6. Julien Lieber-430 7. Jeffrey Herlings- 423; 8. Jordi Tixier-393 9. Benoit Paturel-376; 10. Petar Petrov-324.