Grand Prix of The Netherlands – Valkenswaard

by Bart De Jong

The first MX Grand Prix of the season took place in Valkenswaard this past weekend. 26,000 spectators showed up over the weekend which started with all sorts of team presentations on Friday, followed by the qualifying races on Saturday and the actual GP on Sunday. The best thing about the first GP is the excitement. New trucks, new gear, new posters, and everything just looks brand new. The bikes have been worked on since the last GP ended and are all well prepared. Aprillia even showed a 2009 model which is already being tested and looks different to say the least. The five main brands (Kawasaki, Honda, KTM, Suzuki and Yamaha) presented their teams in their own way and they all sounded ready for the first GP victory of 2008. In the (co-)sponsor corner Red Bull is facing some competition from Monster Energy, Suso and Relentless who are all supporting several GP teams for 2008, a welcome sight.

The MX2 qualifying races and MX1 time practice on Saturday were finished in horrible conditions. Red Bull KTM’s Tommy Searle and Tyla Rattray won the MX2 qualifying races while Teka Suzuki’s Ken de Dijcker clocked the fastest time in the MX1 class in front of Dutch favorite Marc de Reuver (Honda Martin). American Bradley Graham (Sturm) steered his Kawasaki to 19th place in the MX2 heat and had to use the last chance time practice to get in the main program. He finished 23rd in that with the first 6 transferring to the main program on Sunday. Team mate Jacob Saylor wasn’t liking the conditions either as he finished last in the MX1 time practice and also had to sit out the Sunday program. On the gate however representing the USA was Mike Brown (19th gate pick) of the Cas-Monster team.

On Sunday morning the sun had come out. The weather forecast ranged from sun to rain to snow so when the sun was out in the morning it was just a matter of time until some wet stuff would come down. Or at least that’s what people were told. The track was still very wet and muddy. With the heavy sand it had the mechanics running overtime trying to come up with ways that would bring an advantage to their riders. Radiators were treated with some interesting ways to keep the dirt off, helmets were modified with foam and extended peaks, and the goggle crew added a few extra tear-offs to the set-up. The sandy track was nasty and got worse during the day.

It really was an open game before the gate dropped in both classes. With Stephan Everts gone, and Josh Coppins dealing with a foot injury it was interesting to see who would do well in the MX1 class. But first the MX 2 heat was on the program and in that class there were a few favorites but we had to find out who had done their homework.

MX2 Heat 1:

RedBull-KTM is making a big effort in the MX2 class this year with title favorites Tyla Rattray and Tommy Searle on their roster, together with Rui Goncalves. They also run a few satellite teams with fast riders too. Jeremy van Horebeek (Belgium) showed the power of his Champ KTM to grab the holeshot and lead the race for two laps and then was passed by the KTM’s of Tommy Searle and then Tyla Rattray. Antonio Cairoli (Yamaha) lost some time getting to the front and by that time Rattray was too far away and won the first moto. The defending world champ got second and Searle had a crash and fell back to finish third.

MX2 Heat 1 Results:

1. Tyla Rattray (KTM)

2. Antonio Cairoli (Yamaha)

3. Tommy Searle (KTM)

4. Erik Eggens (Suzuki)

5. Shaun Simpson (KTM)

6. Rui Goncalves (KTM)

7. Jeremy van Horebeek (KTM)

8. Xavier Boog (Suzuki)

9. Nicolas Aubin (Yamaha)

10. Joel Roelants (KTM)

MX2 Heat 2:

The other Champ-KTM rider by the name oJoel Roelants got the holeshot in the second heat. Joel barely made it to the main program and all of a sudden he was leading the race for four laps. Rattray moved past him at lap five. With Rattray running away from the rest of the field, Roelants was passed by Cairoli then crashed while he was third. Cairoli chipped away at the gap from Rattray to arrive very close to his rival at the final lap; the Italian was not able to make his way through and had to settle for a wise second behind winner Rattray. Eggens worked his way up to third ahead of solid Goncalves and Searle, who crashed again.

MX2 Heat 2 Results:

1. Tyla Rattray (KTM)

2. Antonio Cairoli (Yamaha)

3. Erik Eggens (Suzuki)

4. Rui Goncalves (KTM)

5. Tommy Searle (KTM)

6. Nicolas Aubin (Yamaha)

7. Stephen Sword (Kawasaki)

8. Xavier Boog (Suzuki)

9. Shaun Simpson (KTM)

10. Joel Roelants (KTM)

MX2 Rider Comments:

Tyla Rattray:
“I feels good, my trainer has me on a good program and I feel like I have my attitude of 2005. We won’t be celebrating just yet, we will celebrate at the end of the year if we get a world title. I just go home tonight and take it easy. After my knee injury I went back to South African after watching the MXoN and we did some work and I did some cycling races. My trainer knows what I need for my body and that is really making a difference.”

Tony Cairoli:
“I am happy with this place, I know I am not in good condition and I started (the pre-season) with the MX1 and we lost time on the MX2 bike, I had to work to get the speed in the beginning of the motos. The beginning of the race I slept a little bit and Tyla took a gap. I am working really hard with the MX1 bike (for next season) and we test a lot, now we stop and do more on the 250. I feel good on the bike and take confidence with that. Tyla is really fast on this type of track and I know that. I keep control of my race and not make a mistake. The races that now come I like, Spain, Portugal and the others. I didn’t train in the sand, but it comes better. I don’t think too much of the speed, I have the speed, but the first 10 minutes I need to start faster.”

Erik Eggens:
“It was really hard, first heat a bad start, I came back to 4th position, I have never seen Valkenswaard this rough before, but it was a good race for me. I don’t know what to expect in Spain, last year it was muddy and that is a bit like riding sand. I don’t know what to expect from the rest of the season. I go to Italy for hard pack practice.”

Overall MX2 standings after the first Grand Prix:

1. Rattray (1-1) 50pts

2. Cairoli (2-2) 44pts

3. Erik Eggens (4-3) 38pts

4. Tommy Searle (3-5) 36pts

5. Rui Goncalves (6-4) 28pts

6. Shaun Simpson (5-9) 28pts

7. Nicolas Aubin (9-6) 27pts

8; Xavier Boog (8-8) 26pts

9. Joel Roelants (10-10) 22pts

10. Jeremy van Horebeek (7- 14) 21pts

MX1:

Now who could win the MX1 class? Going into the race Josh Coppins’ goal was two top ten finishes. Marc de Reuver had shown speed but could he pull it off in front of the home crowd? Was Kevin Strijbos ready for the win or his Kawasaki team mate Sebastien Pourcel? Was 2007 world champ Steve Ramon going to win a GP? or did Billy Mac and Mike Brown turn into Monsters to fight at the top of the pack? Maxi Nagl or Baragan anyone?

Ken de Dijcker showed that you don’t need style to go fast. Nagl got the holeshot but the tall Belgian held that throttle open and hung on to his Suzuki and passed Nagl and Mackenzie on the first lap and never looked back. In the past Ken has slowed down towards the end of the races but not this time. With a seven second lead he passed the finish line in first in front of Nagl and team mate Steve Ramon. David Philippaerts did not show Coppins any love as he (mistakenly) crashed Coppins while they were battling for third. David could continue straight away but Coppins lost several positions because of the strange move. He managed to score a 6th which still was good considering his situation. Kawasaki’s Manuel “Diesel” Priem rode a consistent race to finish fifth.

MX1 Heat 1 Results:

1. Ken de Dycker (Suzuki)

2. Max Nagl (KTM)

3. Steve Ramon (Suzuki)

4. David Philippaerts (Yamaha)

5. Manuel Priem (Kawasaki)

6. Josh Coppins (Yamaha)

7. Kevin Strijbos (Kawasaki)

8. Marc De Reuver (Honda)

9. Kornel Nemeth (KTM)

10. Billy Mackenzie (Honda)

MX1 Heat 2:

Josh Coppins took the holeshot which put him out in a good position. The entire pack was chasing the injured rider though and a few corners later it was Jonathan Barragan who passed the Kiwi. By the end of lap one Ken de Dijcker had moved his bike through the ruts at speed and made it into the lead. Keno started showboating a bit during the race which shows he actually is in good shape. Others were having a hard time making it through the rounds where Keno was waving to the crowd on the jumps. Billy Mac finished in a strong second as the UK squad had expected and fast started Barragan got a third. Again Steve Ramon showed his consistency that got him the world title in 2007. A fourth and a second gave him second overall, something he was happy about since he got the flu earlier that week. Max Nagl finished 5th in heat two and climbed on the podium in the MX1 class as the third place finisher.

MX1 Heat 2 Results:

1. Ken de Dycker (Suzuki)

2. Billy Mackenzie (Honda)

3. Jonathan Barragan (KTM)

4. Steve Ramon (Suzuki)

5. Max Nagl (KTM)

6. David Philippaerts (Yamaha)

7. Josh Coppins (Yamaha)

8. Manuel Priem (Kawasaki)

9. Kornel Nemeth (KTM)

10. Aigar Leok (Yamaha)

MX1 rider comments:

Ken De Dycker:
“I didn’t expect this, everything is new, the team, also the bike, but the bike is good both (Suzuki) guys on the podium, nothing bad about our bikes. This is really wonderful to be here and get two heat wins. You don’t really have a strategy I thought get the lead and pull away and control the gap at the end. I think another year in life has given me experience. I can’t see why I can’t be fast in Spain, if you can ride sand you can ride hard pack and I will fight for it.”

Steve Ramon:
“I wanted to do better today and Monday I was sick, it was a hard week, I haven’t been training, my riding wasn’t good and I want to do better next time. Ken was just really fast, he deserves to win. I don’t have a different motivation. The track was rough, so it was difficult to ride smooth and I was fighting the track all day. I am second which is pretty good.”

Max Nagl:
“We were working hard on the bike to get a strong engine and the winter I was always in the sand, it is for good for my condition and that is why I was so fast in the sand. Now I have to look at the hard tracks. For me it is always good top eight in a Grand Prix, my goal was top five at the end of the season. I don’t know how fast I can go in the up-coming races, the Suzuki guys are fast, but we see what I can do. I wanted to be around fifth todaie on the first lap and never looked back. In the past Ken has slowed down towards the end of the races but not this time. With a seven second lead he passed the finish line in first in front of Nagl and team mate Steve Ramon. David Philippaerts did not show Coppins any love as he (mistakenly) crashed Coppins while they were battling for third. David could continue straight away but Coppins lost several positions because of the strange move. He managed to score a 6th which still was good considering his situation. Kawasaki’s Manuel “Diesel” Priem rode a consistent race to finish fifth.

MX1 Heat 1 Results:

1. Ken de Dycker (Suzuki)

2. Max Nagl (KTM)

3. Steve Ramon (Suzuki)

4. David Philippaerts (Yamaha)

5. Manuel Priem (Kawasaki)

6. Josh Coppins (Yamaha)

7. Kevin Strijbos (Kawasaki)

8. Marc De Reuver (Honda)

9. Kornel Nemeth (KTM)

10. Billy Mackenzie (Honda)

MX1 Heat 2:

Josh Coppins took the holeshot which put him out in a good position. The entire pack was chasing the injured rider though and a few corners later it was Jonathan Barragan who passed the Kiwi. By the end of lap one Ken de Dijcker had moved his bike through the ruts at speed and made it into the lead. Keno started showboating a bit during the race which shows he actually is in good shape. Others were having a hard time making it through the rounds where Keno was waving to the crowd on the jumps. Billy Mac finished in a strong second as the UK squad had expected and fast started Barragan got a third. Again Steve Ramon showed his consistency that got him the world title in 2007. A fourth and a second gave him second overall, something he was happy about since he got the flu earlier that week. Max Nagl finished 5th in heat two and climbed on the podium in the MX1 class as the third place finisher.

MX1 Heat 2 Results:

1. Ken de Dycker (Suzuki)

2. Billy Mackenzie (Honda)

3. Jonathan Barragan (KTM)

4. Steve Ramon (Suzuki)

5. Max Nagl (KTM)

6. David Philippaerts (Yamaha)

7. Josh Coppins (Yamaha)

8. Manuel Priem (Kawasaki)

9. Kornel Nemeth (KTM)

10. Aigar Leok (Yamaha)

MX1 rider comments:

Ken De Dycker:
“I didn’t expect this, everything is new, the team, also the bike, but the bike is good both (Suzuki) guys on the podium, nothing bad about our bikes. This is really wonderful to be here and get two heat wins. You don’t really have a strategy I thought get the lead and pull away and control the gap at the end. I think another year in life has given me experience. I can’t see why I can’t be fast in Spain, if you can ride sand you can ride hard pack and I will fight for it.”

Steve Ramon:
“I wanted to do better today and Monday I was sick, it was a hard week, I haven’t been training, my riding wasn’t good and I want to do better next time. Ken was just really fast, he deserves to win. I don’t have a different motivation. The track was rough, so it was difficult to ride smooth and I was fighting the track all day. I am second which is pretty good.”

Max Nagl:
“We were working hard on the bike to get a strong engine and the winter I was always in the sand, it is for good for my condition and that is why I was so fast in the sand. Now I have to look at the hard tracks. For me it is always good top eight in a Grand Prix, my goal was top five at the end of the season. I don’t know how fast I can go in the up-coming races, the Suzuki guys are fast, but we see what I can do. I wanted to be around fifth today, so third was great.”

Kevin Strijbos:
“The conditions were very different to last weekend and on this wet sand I didn’t feel comfortable on the bike. We worked on the suspension last week but my main problem here came from the engine. We are late in our testing program but we now have two weeks to prepare the following round of the championship.”

Sébastien Pourcel:
“It’s a weekend that we must forget promptly and on Monday I will work harder to prepare for the other GPs. I practiced this winter on sandy tracks but I never found such wet sand as we had here in Valkenswaard. On Saturday I was unable to post a good time and in both races I crashed in the opening lap. I scored some points in the first race but that’s not enough and I retired in the following one after three crashes. I’m of course disappointed but I will never give up and I will work hard to be ready for revenge in Spain.”

Josh Coppins:
“All in all this has been a pretty good weekend under the circumstances. Qualifying went well with 8th place. My starts were good in both motos however I went a bit wide in the first one and slid out in the second but was up there. This weekend was just damage control really and I rode the best I could within the pain, trying not to damage the foot at all. I haven’t been able to do the work to be best prepared for this race. I am quite happy with the result which is a relief after what I have gone through in the last two weeks. I’m sitting in 6th overall now whereas two weeks ago I was looking at the bones sticking out of my toes so I’m happy with the position I am in. I have the stitches removed from my toes tomorrow and then I plan to get some more time on the bike later in the week. We’ll head to France for some guaranteed better weather and hopefully with that time in the saddle I’ll be able to build back some strength for Spain and aim to be strong in Portugal.”

“I did not feel comfortable coming to this GP. I pride myself on being one of the best prepared and hardest working riders out there and the difficult part for me was arriving to this race knowing that I wasn’t ready and hadn’t done the work; for me that was unacceptable but I had no choice because of the injury. If you had told me at the team launch if I could have sixth position overall on Sunday then I would have taken that result with both hands, especially here in the sand. You know that if you are sitting looking at the bones sticking out of your feet then you have something serious, so to be able to be here and have those finishes is great.
I was disappointed after the collision with David in the first moto. I did not have the energy to recover from that. I saw Mackenzie, David and Nagl fighting ahead and I thought ‘you just get on with it!’. I was riding my own pace and staying out of trouble. I lost five points there, but anyway, you have to accept these things. Spain should be easier in two weeks and by the time we get to Portugal I should be near the level I want to be.”

David Philippaerts:
“I have to say that I am happy. For my first GP I had good speed and also a nice feeling on the bike. The first moto was not great because I made some small mistakes and was quite nervous but I was glad to see that I could go at the front. In one corner I almost crashed and was completely off the side of the bike; that caused me to lose a lot of time. I pushed hard again but had a problem with my goggles and that was a hassle with the sand. It was because of this I hit with Josh. I wanted to go on the outside but I ran out of room. It was not something I meant to do and just one of those racing incidents. I wanted third position but Pyrhonen blocked me and I lost speed, so Ramon passed me starting the lasst lap. I was frustrated by this but after I calmed down I was actually content because my goal had been top five and I had taken fourth. In the second heat I started well but lost a lot of positions by getting blocked in the second corner. I came up behind Josh and it took a lot of energy to pass him. I was being extra careful because I did not want to touch again. When I got through I was physically finished. I am happy with the points I took this weekend. I am not far from second place and the championship has started quite well for me.”

Overall MX1 standings after the first Grand Prix:

1. Ken de Dycker (50pts)

2. Steve Ramon (38pts)

3. Max Nagl (38pts)

4. Billy Mackenzie (33pts)

5. David Philippaerts (33pts)

6. Josh Coppins (29pts)

7. Manuel Priem (29pts)

8. Kornel Nemeth (24pts)

9. Kevin Strijbos (21pts)

10. Jonathan Barragan (20pts)

Fortunately the rain or snow never showed up on Sunday. The track was tough as it was and with the elevation changes it could not have used extra water from above. The races showed which riders have done their homework and who need to go back to class. Next race is in two weeks in sunny Spain on a hard pack track. Different race, different game. New chances for all.

so third was great.”

Kevin Strijbos:
“The conditions were very different to last weekend and on this wet sand I didn’t feel comfortable on the bike. We worked on the suspension last week but my main problem here came from the engine. We are late in our testing program but we now have two weeks to prepare the following round of the championship.”

Sébastien Pourcel:
“It’s a weekend that we must forget promptly and on Monday I will work harder to prepare for the other GPs. I practiced this winter on sandy tracks but I never found such wet sand as we had here in Valkenswaard. On Saturday I was unable to post a good time and in both races I crashed in the opening lap. I scored some points in the first race but that’s not enough and I retired in the following one after three crashes. I’m of course disappointed but I will never give up and I will work hard to be ready for revenge in Spain.”

Josh Coppins:
“All in all this has been a pretty good weekend under the circumstances. Qualifying went well with 8th place. My starts were good in both motos however I went a bit wide in the first one and slid out in the second but was up there. This weekend was just damage control really and I rode the best I could within the pain, trying not to damage the foot at all. I haven’t been able to do the work to be best prepared for this race. I am quite happy with the result which is a relief after what I have gone through in the last two weeks. I’m sitting in 6th overall now whereas two weeks ago I was looking at the bones sticking out of my toes so I’m happy with the position I am in. I have the stitches removed from my toes tomorrow and then I plan to get some more time on the bike later in the week. We’ll head to France for some guaranteed better weather and hopefully with that time in the saddle I’ll be able to build back some strength for Spain and aim to be strong in Portugal.”

“I did not feel comfortable coming to this GP. I pride myself on being one of the best prepared and hardest working riders out there and the difficult part for me was arriving to this race knowing that I wasn’t ready and hadn’t done the work; for me that was unacceptable but I had no choice because of the injury. If you had told me at the team launch if I could have sixth position overall on Sunday then I would have taken that result with both hands, especially here in the sand. You know that if you are sitting looking at the bones sticking out of your feet then you have something serious, so to be able to be here and have those finishes is great.
I was disappointed after the collision with David in the first moto. I did not have the energy to recover from that. I saw Mackenzie, David and Nagl fighting ahead and I thought ‘you just get on with it!’. I was riding my own pace and staying out of trouble. I lost five points there, but anyway, you have to accept these things. Spain should be easier in two weeks and by the time we get to Portugal I should be near the level I want to be.”

David Philippaerts:
“I have to say that I am happy. For my first GP I had good speed and also a nice feeling on the bike. The first moto was not great because I made some small mistakes and was quite nervous but I was glad to see that I could go at the front. In one corner I almost crashed and was completely off the side of the bike; that caused me to lose a lot of time. I pushed hard again but had a problem with my goggles and that was a hassle with the sand. It was because of this I hit with Josh. I wanted to go on the outside but I ran out of room. It was not something I meant to do and just one of those racing incidents. I wanted third position but Pyrhonen blocked me and I lost speed, so Ramon passed me starting the last lap. I was frustrated by this but after I calmed down I was actually content because my goal had been top five and I had taken fourth. In the second heat I started well but lost a lot of positions by getting blocked in the second corner. I came up behind Josh and it took a lot of energy to pass him. I was being extra careful because I did not want to touch again. When I got through I was physically finished. I am happy with the points I took this weekend. I am not far from second place and the championship has started quite well for me.”

Overall MX1 standings after the first Grand Prix:

1. Ken de Dycker (50pts)

2. Steve Ramon (38pts)

3. Max Nagl (38pts)

4. Billy Mackenzie (33pts)

5. David Philippaerts (33pts)

6. Josh Coppins (29pts)

7. Manuel Priem (29pts)

8. Kornel Nemeth (24pts)

9. Kevin Strijbos (21pts)

10. Jonathan Barragan (20pts)

Fortunately the rain or snow never showed up on Sunday. The track was tough as it was and with the elevation changes it could not have used extra water from above. The races showed which riders have done their homework and who need to go back to class. Next race is in two weeks in sunny Spain on a hard pack track. Different race, different game. New chances for all.

ut I ran out of room. It was not something I meant to do and just one of those racing incidents. I wanted third position but Pyrhonen blocked me and I lost speed, so Ramon passed me starting the last lap. I was frustrated by this but after I calmed down I was actually content because my goal had been top five and I had taken fourth. In the second heat I started well but lost a lot of positions by getting blocked in the second corner. I came up behind Josh and it took a lot of energy to pass him. I was being extra careful because I did not want to touch again. When I got through I was physically finished. I am happy with the points I took this weekend. I am not far from second place and the championship has started quite well for me.”

Overall MX1 standings after the first Grand Prix:

1. Ken de Dycker (50pts)

2. Steve Ramon (38pts)

3. Max Nagl (38pts)

4. Billy Mackenzie (33pts)

5. David Philippaerts (33pts)

6. Josh Coppins (29pts)

7. Manuel Priem (29pts)

8. Kornel Nemeth (24pts)

9. Kevin Strijbos (21pts)

10. Jonathan Barragan (20pts)

Fortunately the rain or snow never showed up on Sunday. The track was tough as it was and with the elevation changes it could not have used extra water from above. The races showed which riders have done their homework and who need to go back to class. Next race is in two weeks in sunny Spain on a hard pack track. Different race, different game. New chances for all.