In what was a truly historic day in Belgium, the mighty Lommel circuit managed to do what it had always promised to, ending the American domination of the event and crowning new Nations champions. In an impressive display of measured and confident riding, the Grand Prix stars put on an awesome performance to silence any hope of another US win. Whilst Germany’s three man team did not necessarily dominate the races in the style of Cairoli and Herlings, the steady point scoring from Roczen, Nagl and Schiffer was enough to outstrip the other teams and claim their first ever Nations title and Roczen the individual MX2 win.
The first race saw Roczen get the hole shot, but it was an unexpected Rui Goncalves that started the lap out in front, ahead of Cairoli, Nagl and Paulin. Ryan Dungey was comfortably placed towards the front of the pack, but team mate Baggett was buried far behind him. It didn’t take long for Cairoli to snatch the lead and from then on, he didn’t look back. Ken Roczen started the race well in fifth, and although he was able to move up to fourth briefly, he finished the race in the same position. Nagl was soon past Goncalves as was Paulin, the French rider passing the KTM rider by lap five. Meanwhile Dungey was unable to make much progress from his seventh position and was being steadily gained on by the Honda of Evgeny Bobryshev.
With Baggett’s progress from his first lap twenty third place, the American challenge was looking far from strong. Cairoli’s lead was briefly under threat from a hard charging Paulin, but as Antonio can always do, he found more speed and stretched out his lead once more.
In a crash that was quite similar to Baggett’s qualifying incident, Dungey found himself stuck under the advertising hoardings, but thanks to an electric start and a cool head was able to restart quickly without losing out too much. But the crash had clearly thrown his rhythm and in the final four laps of the race, Bobryshev was able to slip past.
By the end of the thirty minute race, the top three places were taken by Cairoli, Paulin and Nagl, but more importantly the points tally gave the lead positions to Germany from France and Russia, Holland and Great Britain tied in third place.
Germany 8, Belgium 14, France US 21, Russia Netherlands & GB 24
Race two saw the MX2 pilots joined by the open class, and there was really only going to be one winner. Jeffrey Herlings was masterful, leading every single lap to take the chequered flag by over a minute. Barcia was in a strong second at the start of the race, but with the on form Ken De Dycker behind him, his position was always in threat, and fairly soon the pair were dicing for the position. On lap four a collision between the two saw the American on the floor and De Dycker chasing after Herlings. Fresh from his strong first race, Ken Roczen was managing to ride strong, moving from an initial sixth to third within a few laps before the pressure from Leok and tiredness from the first moto saw him drop one place.
But the drama came in the very last lap of the race when Justin Barcia took a fall on the same turn that had seen his misfortune on the previous day. With two more falls as he tried to restart, it became evident that his front wheel was not turning, latterly proving to be caused by his front wheel being totally wrecked from the earlier collision. A frantic few minutes within the pit lane saw his mechanics managing to free the wheel and the unfortunate American rider limped across the line for a poor fourteenth place finish. Team mate Blake Baggett had managed a far better sixth place, and though the American hopes were not looking bright, all was not quite lost. Germany and Belgium were still ahead on the points but lying in fifth place, a disastrous last race both of these teams could maybe allow Barcia and Dungey to salvage a result.
From the moment the gate dropped in the final race, it was clear that whatever happened behind him, Antonio Cairoli was determined to make this Nations the one to show the Americans just what he was capable of, taking the lead from the very start and proceeding to give a sand racing god. In second place behind him, Dungey and Barcia looked to have regrouped and perhaps capable of bringing in a pair of good results. Yet this wasn’t the script that Lommel had in mind, and in a bizarre coincidence, the crash that ended the American hopes happened on the same turn that had seen so much misfortune for Barcia. Dungey got seriously out of shape as he entered the turn, the bike twitching violently sideways and smashing into the trackside hoardings, taking both machine and rider through onto the infield. Dungey remounted quickly against a barrage of jeering from the crowd, but unable to easily find a way back to the track, his race and indeed his team’s title were gone.
Back in the pack, Herlings was himself putting on a master class, managing to go from sixteenth on lap two to second by lap six , slicing his way past the world’s best 450 riders without hesitation. He couldn’t quite get past Cairoli, but for a few moments it looked like he was actually going to do just that.
But all this meant little to the overall result of the event. Max Nagl’s safe ride to an eventual sixth place finish was enough to back up Roczen’s great scores and Marcus Schiffer’s seventh place in race 2 and deliver Germany the win ahead of the Belgians.
In the press conference after the event, the Germans were delighted, the Belgian pleased and the Americans magnanimous in defeat, acknowledging the skill of the riders that had beaten them.
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Words Julian Challis
Images by Ray Chuss