The second running of the Qatar MX Cup takes off splendidly with Smets dominating the day
Under a beautiful sun, the first day of the 2003 MX Cup today proved to be a great success, with all involved working together to make the unique event a genuine motocross happening. If last year’s inaugural version was a test, this year’s rendition was the confirmation that the Qatar MX Cup has become a traditional appointment of the top-level motocross season. Confirming his status as the favorite among the protagonists, Joel Smets put together three dominant heats. Demonstrating himself to be a stellar sand rider, Smets won despite only one clean holeshot, advancing from second in the first moto and from about 10th in the second. In the last moto, on the other hand, the factory KTM rider started from the front and walked away with ease, slowing in the final laps to conserve his energy for day two on Monday.
Finishing second overall was Johan Boonen (mounted, like Smets, on a KTM 540cc four-stroke), who finished on the podium in all three motos despite having retired from GP racing prior to the 2002 season. Third was Marc de Reuver, who will race the 125 GPs this season, but who was on a 250 today. The Dutchman had strong showings in the first two heats, but a poor start in moto three limited him to fourth in that race.
“I was expecting more of a battle from the other riders, like Pit (Beirer),” Smets said. “I knew Johan would be good, because he is official the test rider for KTM and WP, and his bike is very strong in the sand. I’m happy to be here for the second time. Last year was good, but this year, I think, is better. It’s a little shorter than I had hoped, but the ground is a little harder on the bottom sections.”
Many riders suffered technical problems, including Yves Demaria (who failed to finish a single heat). The temperature was also on the warm side, giving the riders the perfect opportunity to get in some good training for the upcoming season.
The program was completed by two freestyle exhibitions that proved very popular with the locals, as well as two minibike races.