After a 5 year hiatus, MXGP and the FIM Motocross World Championship returned to Russia today. In the qualifying day it was the pair of Swiss riders, Wilvo Yamaha MXGP's Arnaud Tonus and Team Suzuki World MX2's Jeremy Seewer, who claim the pole position for Sunday.
2017 MXGP Of Russia | MX2 Qualifying
Though it is the MXGP of Russia the Swiss have been impressive, and in MX2 it was no different as Suzuki World MX2's Jeremy Seewer launched off the starting grid ahead of the competition. Running in second the first 3 laps of the race Seewer looked comfortable and smooth on the new circuit. After a bike issue took the once leader Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Pauls Jonass out of contention on lap 4 Seewer inherited the position and kept it through to the finish. Jonass on the other hand would pull into pit lane resolve the issue and rejoin the race in 23rd but work his back to 17th. Seewer later in the press conference said, "I feel pretty good here in Russia, we didn't know what to expect but we have a good hotel and good food so I'm happy with that. The track is cool pretty natural. I feel good I had good start and Pauls had some technical problem and I took over the lead. It is finally a good Saturday."
After a successful home GP in France, Kemea Yamaha Official MX Team's Benoit Paturel matched his previous result in qualifying today, scoring 2nd. Paturel had a first race win and Holeshot in France and his 2nd gate pick sets him up well to do the same tomorrow.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing's Thomas Covington has shown he is winning speed but has only been able to put the #64 on the top step of the podium once this season. Traditionally when Covington does well it's on the heels of a strong qualifying race. If today's 3rd place qualifying finish is any indication of tomorrow you can expect the American to be fighting for the podium if not the win.
Another rider who is capable of producing a win is LRT KTM's Julien Lieber. The lone privateer in the top 5 of today's qualifying showed some impressive speed. Lieber ran in the 2nd position for 8 laps before an issue resulted in him dropping to 4th. Lieber has yet to place higher than 3rd overall this season and will strive to do so at the inaugural MXGP of Russia in Orlyonok.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing's Thomas Kjer Olsen rounded out the top five in MX2 qualifying today with 5th. Olsen started in 8th but battled his way forward swapping between 5th and 6th position with HSF Logistics' Brian Bogers on his way to the finish.
Monster Energy DRT Kawasaki's Vsevolod Brylyakov sat out today's racing at his home GP with injury and the press conference said: "It is great to be here and we don't have a lot of Russian GPs, it is really nice that we have one here in this special place next to the Black Sea. Me and my team made the decision to just stay focused on my recovery. I actually built myself up in this region and I grew up on these tracks. This is a happy moment for me to be at the races and watch them at least."
2017 MXGP Of Russia | MXGP Qualifying
Wilvo Yamaha MXGP's Arnaud Tonus put himself in great position for Sunday by winning today's qualifying race. The #4 came into the first corner in the 4th spot and worked his way forward by making an early pass on 3rd and capitalizing on the mistakes of others. Tonus in the press conference said: ""I had fun in practice, I felt pretty good on the track, it is similar conditions here to what we can find in Switzerland or near where I live, it is definitely something I fell comfortable on. After winning the qualifying race I'm expecting a good Sunday."
One of the riders fighting for the lead early on was Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing's Gautier Paulin. Paulin was bar to bar with his Rockstar Husqvarna Factory Racing teammate Max Nagl as they battled for the lead. Eventually Paulin made it past with an inside line into a corner. Nagl remained second for several laps before falling just in front of Tonus. Paulin's lead lasted for 6 laps until he slid out which allowed the quick approaching Tonus an easy way by.
Just outside of the battle for the lead was Red Bull KTM Factory Racing's Antonio Cairoli. Cairoli had a third place start but he was quickly passed by Tonus. The veteran wisely latched on to the back of Tonus and by the finish worked his way back into the third position. For Sunday Cairoli will look to grab the Holeshot that he has become accustom from the past few races.
Last GP's winner, Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team's Clement Desalle followed up his French victory with another good race today, the Belgian was consistent on lap after another resulting in fourth. Desalle looks comfortable and motivated to continue to challenge for race wins and he is definitely one to watch closely tomorrow.
Two weeks after his home GP Monster Energy Yamaha's Romain Febvre is riding with a renewed energy. The 2015 Champion has struggled lately but today was another step in the right direction. Febvre moved from 7th to take 5th on what is a harder surface. The experience of similar soiled French circuits may help the #461 to reach the podium here in Orlyonok.
Russian motocross hero, Team HRC's Evgeny Bobryshev, returned from injury to race what is his home GP today and only 3 weeks after surgery showed impressive speed. Starting in the top five the #777 fell during the later stages dropping him to 11th across the finish. Bobryshev in the qualifying press conference said: ""The race and this Russian event I wouldn't miss it even if I couldn't race I would come here anyway because it is a special event in Russia. I'm really happy to be here with all the crowd and support. I think tomorrow will be a really good day."