With just three points separating the top three in the MXGP championship headed into the final three rounds the atmosphere for the third GP in eight days at the Pietramurata switchback in the shadow of the Italian Dolomites was electric already before racing.
Fourth-fastest time in Qualifying, having set three laps within half a second of pole, for Kawasaki’s French ace was the perfect scenario as he could carefully choose a gate away from the potential bar-banging of his rivals to ensure a clean sweep through the first two turns.
He emerged safely in sixth place, sandwiched between his title rivals, behind a quartet of quick gaters. Each of the title candidates was clearly aware that a single error could prove costly as they stalked each other initially but ten minutes into the race it was Febvre who started the first assault; after trading places half-a-dozen times with the rival ahead of him, he finally made the pass stick and immediately raced clear, leaving the other championship chasers to get in each others’ hair.
Within a couple of laps the Kawasaki was putting others riders between himself and his rivals and, having moved second at half-distance, he built a twelve-second advantage before either of them could command third. The race-long leader was still several seconds clear but the Frenchman edged closer and with a lap to go had the leader, and another potential three-point gain, in his sights. Now holding a safe twenty-two second advantage over third the man in Green threw caution to the wind but, pitched sideways on a rutted take-off, was cast into the trackside fence. The incident ended any hopes of the moto win but didn’t cost any points as he had plenty of time to pick himself up and still finish a secure second.
A switch of gate for race two backfired and Romain was boxed in at the start to leave turn two way outside the top ten but an inspired opening lap saw him advance to sixth and he maintained the momentum in a hard-fought leaderboard to finally make third secure after eight turbulent laps. The riders still ahead of him had already taken advantage of a clear track to escape so, secure in the knowledge that he would take the red plate of the series points leader to the penultimate round next weekend, he sensibly settled for third. With two GPs remaining next Sunday and then the following Wednesday at Mantova, 135 kilometres away, just three points separate the top three in the championship … with the Kawasaki in the driving seat!
Romain Febvre: “We worked on the start again this week and the first moto was good, but not the second. But I was feeling really good today and could make some nice passes to come to second in the first moto. Jeremy was riding really well in front but with two laps to go I saw that I was catching him; we had a gap so I knew that if I made a mistake I could still be second. Unfortunately I had quite a big crash but it didn’t affect me; I went down hard but luckily I don’t even have scratches. My start was not so good in the second moto and I was a long way back but I passed something like eight guys on the first lap, worked my way to third and came close to Jeremy when he made a mistake. Then I started thinking too much – do I go for the GP or settle for the red plate? – and in the end I lost my pace. It feels good to take the red plate with two to go. I don’t feel any pressure; I always take everything as it comes. It is several years since I have been in this position and we are so close; again just three points for three riders. It’s good to be where I am but in the end one of us will be champion and two will be disappointed. If I crash, then I crash but for sure I will give my best and let us hope it is enough. I can smell the taste of the championship!“
KRT teammate Mathys Boisrame started the day impressively with eleventh-fastest time in Qualifying but his first moto was effectively over already on the opening lap as another rider cannoned into him at the end of the waves, damaging the bike. Keen to take advantage of race track-time he persisted to the close, moving back forward to twenty-fourth and staying on the same lap as the leaders until he gallantly moved over on the run-in to the chequered flag to avoid interference. The MXGP newcomer finally got a clean run through the first few turns in race two to hold a secure tenth in the early early stages, moving forward to ninth to hold off one of teammate Febvre’s championship rivals for three laps mid-moto before eventually finishing eleventh.
Mathys Boisrame: “Of course I’m still learning my new class; we changed several things on the bike since Arco 2 to suit my riding style and I had a good Qualifying session for eleventh gate-pick. My first start was not that great and then another rider hit me at the end of the waves; the bike was damaged but I wanted to finish the race even if I was out of points as track time is the way you learn the bike and the class. My start was much better in the second moto and I found a good rhythm to score an eleventh position. I’m happy with my riding; physically it was not easy to do three races in one week on a new bike but I’m happy with the progression and I can’t wait to arrive at Mantova.”
Words and photos: Kawasaki eu