The 2017 Monster Energy MXGP of USA took to the sandy, rough, and demanding circuit of Jacksonville, Florida's WW Motocross Park. The event brought thousands of fans to view the best riders in the world go against one another. The racing didn't disappoint the fans with close racing, epic actions, and demanding conditions. The two riders who handled the challenge best and winning their respective classes were Red Bull KTM Factory Racing's Jeffrey Herlings and GEICO Honda's RJ Hampshire while Red Bull KTM Factory Racing's Antonio Cairoli and Pauls Jonass kept their Red Plate to take back to Europe next week.
2017 MXGP Of USA | MX2 CLASS
When the Monster Energy MXGP of USA MX2 riders took the track, Florida native GEICO Honda's RJ Hampshire excelled on his home soil and so did Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing's Thomas Covington and while Covington took both Fox Holeshots, Hampshire took double race wins.
Both race started nearly identical with Covington leading the first laps and Hampshire chasing. MX2 points leader Red Bull KTM Factory Racing's Pauls Jonass had a horrible start to race 1 where he fell off of the start and had to come from last position. Jonass gained 12 positions on the first lap and kept fighting from there eventually making his way to 10th by the finish just behind title rival, Suzuki World MX2's Jeremy Seewer.
For the first portion of race one Covington held off Hampshire but the speed of the Honda rider proved to be too much and he took the lead on lap 5. Meanwhile Yamalube Star Racing Yamaha's Mitchell Harrison and Team Suzuki World MX2's Hunter Lawrence battled over 3rd position. Harrison had the spot but eventually lost it the relentless charges of Lawrence.
Hampshire looked to have the race under control but with three laps to go he fell and all of a sudden had both Covington and Lawrence right on his back wheel. Covington rejuvenated after seeing the mistake of Hampshire tried to jump to the inside and take back the lead even trying the opposite line through the inside outside section, all were to no avail. Hampshire took the win over Covington, Lawrence, and Harrison.
Race 2 was similar but with a better start for Jonass inside of the top three behind Hampshire and Covington. While Covington had the FOX Holeshot Hampshire took the lead quickly. Lawrence was again up front in 4th while his teammate Seewer started 8th.
After 5 laps Seewer caught Lawrence in 4th and started to pressure the #96. Lawrence responded perfectly though by passing Jonass and Seewer followed his move to take fourth from Jonass. The teammates then paired up to take on Covington as they moved to second and third.
Lawrence made a charge the last lap to close right next to Hampshire but it wasn't to be as Hampshire crossed the finish first to take double race wins and the overall. Hampshire in the press conference said: "I was excited to come racing here as it is my home state. I felt good in the warm up and knew that we could make something happen today. In the first race I didn't have a great start but made some quick passes. It was cool to battle with Covington today, I was excited especially to come to race with him. The guys from Suzuki were coming for me there at the end of the second race, I mean they're lying if they say they weren't. I was just trying to stabilize some breathing room and he was right there at the end but honestly I did not want to go any faster than what I had to because I was hurting."
Lawrence's 3rd and 2nd secured him second overall tying his career best overall result. Lawrence in the post race press conference said: "I'm really happy, it is my first time in America so I'm happy with a second position, it's cool, it is awesome for the team, everyone that helps, and also me."
Thomas Covington would finish 4th in race 2 and take 3rd overall. In the press conference Covington said: "I was feeling really good on the track out here, I was having a lot of fun and even in warm up this morning I had a good feeling on the track. I pulled the FOX Holeshot on the first one and I just couldn't get away from RJ as he was riding really well in both races."
MX2 Championship leader Pauls Jonass took 7th overall losing points to Seewer dropping his championship gap to 40 points. Jonass in the press conference: "I felt really good all weekend actually except the two races. Yesterday everything went good and also this morning in the warm up I felt good but the first race a had a really bad start, I almost hit the gate and then crashed straight on the start straight and that made it tough. I came back from dead last to tenth and in the second race I got a pretty good start but the guys were really fast today and it was difficult to hang with them. After 15 minutes I got a little tired, the last few laps I just tried to survive and still finished 5th so I didn't lose too many points which is good and I'm really looking forward to Assen.”
2017 MXGP Of USA | MXGP CLASS
Race 1 started with FOX Holeshot from Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing's Max Nagl followed by American hero, Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team's Eli Tomac. Tomac came into the day with a strong time in the MXGP Warm Up after a disappointing qualifying race on Saturday but managed to lead every lap of Race 1 ahead of everyone including the former world champion Team HRC's Tim Gajser for the first 5 laps.
Behind Gajser originally was Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing's Max Nagl, Team Suzuki World MXGP's Arminas Jasikonis, Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team’s Clement Desalle, and Autotrader/JGR/Suzuki Team's Justin Barcia. Jasikonis, while running 3rd, went over the bars on a large tabletop which would end his day painfully. Meanwhile Barcia fell out of fifth early in lap 2 into 10th, which happened to be where Red Bull KTM Factory Racing's Jeffrey Herlings was coming back from off of the start.
By the end of lap 2 Herlings was up to 5th behind Red Bull KTM Factory Racing's Antonio Cairoli. Herlings made it by Cairoli one lap later and moved into third past Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing's Max Nagl 2 laps after that. Cairoli followed and the battle was on between the points leader and Max Nagl.
While Cairoli found his way by Nagl, Herlings had passed Gajser and set his sight on the long gone Eli Tomac. Cairoli was keen to pass Gajser as well and did so relatively quickly. With Tomac out front Herlings had to much time to make up and decided to maintain both his gap over Cairoli and his energy. At the checkered flag Tomac won the race by 28 seconds over Herlings, Cairoli, Gajser, and Nagl.
The Race 2 FOX Holeshot went to the #222 of Cairoli ahead of Herlings, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Gautier Paulin, and Tomac. From there it was an all out sprint from the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Duo. It was clear Cairoli wanted to take home the title as he put in the fastest lap of the Race on lap 3 of 16. Herlings nearly matched the pace of Cairoli as he pushed to keep the championship from being decided this weekend.
Tomac meanwhile had found his way past Paulin, who had a miraculous race 1 crash. Paulin wasn't the only rider who was making a comeback from a disappointing race 1 as Suzuki World MXGP's Kevin Strijbos tried to rebound from a bike issue. Strijbos indeed did rebound and came out with a season best race finish when of 5th.
Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing's Romain Febvre took a nasty spill in race 1 and in turn wisely decided to sit out race 2.
On lap 8 Cairoli made a mistake in a corner while leading which allowed Herlings to take over the top spot. Herlings never looked back and won the race by 15 seconds over Cairoli to take the overall. Herlings in the press conference said: "Today I felt really good, I had a great battle in the first race, obviously me and Tony both had a bad start and Eli … was gone. By the time we were second and third he had a big gap. I was second for the first race, which was pretty good, I kept everything open for the overall. Second race I had a good start, followed Tony and just waited for the last couple of laps, I knew it was going to be brutal and both of would be tired in the end. I didn't want to pass him too quick because I know Tony will fight back and I was actually waiting either for a mistake or to attack him the last 3 or 4 laps. I stayed close to him and he made a small crash and he handed it over to me. So I'm very satisfied with a 2-1 and winning the overall, I had some great battles with my teammate so hopefully many more will come and I'm looking forward to my home GP next weekend."
While Cairoli took second in race 2 he took third overall and lost 8 points in the championship to Herlings. Cairoli in the press conference said: "We are always happy to finish on the podium, in a season like this it is really important to be consistent and that is what we have done. It is one of my best seasons ever and I want to get the title as soon as possible to have some time on the last races because I'm riding a little bit carefully, I don't want to crash or break something. I did my best to close it today, I could let him go easily but I tried to fight back and yes I made a mistake, but this is part of racing."
Eli Tomac took 3rd in race 2 twenty-nine seconds back of Herlings and when combined with his impressive race 1 win he scored 2nd overall for the day. Tomac in the race press conference said: "Yesterday I thought I wouldn't even be here up on the podium, luckily we were able to get things turned around and I came a little bit alive this morning in the warm-up and then race 1 got a good start, put in some good laps, had good energy, and was feeling pretty good. Race 2 though, that one caught up to me, for one these two (Herlings and Cairoli) were laying down a heater pace especially at the beginning and you know I lost touch…third is all I really had in me there. I'm pretty satisfied on the weekend for how we were going yesterday."