Pit Party. Unlike previous year’s, the pits at Lommel seemed cramped and squashed in for such an enormous and prestigious event. In between the races it became almost gridlocked with race fans trying to get a peek at their heroes, whilst at the same time those same heroes were struggling to get themselves and their bikes to the line. A ludicrously enforced route from the pits to the infield only made things worse. On the plus side the chips and mayonnaise were scrummy and the beer tent enjoying very brisk trade – some of the fans in there weren’t even British.
Brit Pop. Talking of the British fans, we have to salute the legions of UK fans that made the trip over to Belgium to cheer on out boys and enjoy world class racing and duty free lager. From the group of boys in the blue morph suits to the eccentrics in the Union Jack Three pieces suits and trilby’s, the British supporters were vocal and enthusiastic throughout the weekend, even if at times there was little to be enthusiastic about…
Fancy Dress and Two Stroke. It wasn’t just the Brits that had gone for a bit of dressing up, with all nationalities happy to don silly outfits for the occasion. Belgians with Afros, blokes in wedding dresses, Italians in togas – it was all going on. Add into this mix the wail of air horns and the deafening scream of hordes of chainsaws running at full throttle and the spectator banking looked like some kind of disco cross dressing lumberjack convention. Classic Nations.
No Numpties. Aside from the pantomime of the crowds, the event saw some truly fantastic racing, with the Saturday races severely improved by not having representatives from Nations that clearly have no decent riders. Without the wobblers from far flung climes, proper racing in all three qualifiers was witnessed, even if the final moto was severely unpleasant in the deluge of rain that fell. Even the Thailand team did OK and they’d never race in sand before. Oh and Ireland made it through without having to win the B Final – brilliant.
Rocking Roczen. In the same way that he has done for an impressive three years, Germany’s MX2 pilot won the overall MX2 class, with a straight win in qualifying on Saturday and 5 – 4 scores in the main races to help his country to the historic first victory. Roczen looked strong and focussed on the bike and rock star cool in the paddock. OK so he now has lost all trace of any German accent and sounds more Westwood LA than West Berlin, but hell if you had the chance you’d do the same thing.
Leok Lock Down. The quiet Estonian had a stunning MXoN as his swansong ride from the Factory Suzuki squad, scoring a staggering 4 – 2 score in his races, and leading his country to a fantastic seventh place finish behind the usual Nations big hitters. Leok rode probably better than he has all season, starting well in each race and working his way forward whenever he could. With Tanel signed for MVRD Honda next year, the Maxxis just got a heap more interesting and Team Boss Mark Chamberlain must have had a very big grin.
USA No Way. From the moment you saw the America team in the paddock, you knew they were backs to the wall this year. For the first time the Drinks company rivalries had seen them spilt across the paddock rather than the usual team compound, and the 80 or so hangers-on had to mill round in the Alpinestars Hospitality van. In qualifying they were OK but far from stunning – not helped by the ‘Chuck Sun’ incident – and on race day they were just hands down not good enough to even mount a challenge to the top GP riders. Baggett had hoped to beat Herlings, he ended up being lapped. Dungey may have come over early to practice, but he had nothing for Cairoli and Herlings speed in the sand. And as for Barcia, he fulfilled the role of weak link and strongest performance. Either way they were beaten and were man enough to take it on the chin and praise the winners.
Hurricane Herlings. After winning the MX2 title only a few weeks before and with the prospect of another sand track ahead of him, Jeffrey Herlings must have entered this event with a touch of swagger in his step. And hell did he pull out all the stops on the track, putting in incredible performances from start to finish. He whooped qualifying on Saturday, lapping three second faster than anyone else on the track, and in the first of Sundays MX2 and MX3 races was so far ahead of the pack it was like he was in a parallel universe. In the final moto of the day, it was all set for a 222 vs. 84 showdown for the Sand Crown, but a poor start saw JH coming from near the back of the pack to second within six laps to go after Cairoli. Herlings couldn’t quite manage it after just having ridden a 30 minute moto, but he was bloody close. The two fantastic rides saw all the crowd cheer for the GP bad boy, and in a year that has seen a lot of controversy, this can have done him no harm.
Champion Cairoli. Finally the six time World Champion had a Nations to remember, with a display of sand riding that simply took your breath away. Some of Tony’s moves on the track literally drew gasps of admiration from the crowd as he floated across the sand with astonishing speed. The US team could only look on in awe as he turned a hard track into an easy track and left the rest of the world behind. It had to be fate that Cairoli was running Valentino Rossi’s number 46 on the factory KTM; his ride was as legendary as some of his fellow countryman’s achievements. If only team mate Lupino had not injured his thumb in a bizarrely unnecessary Friday night karting incident, Antonio’s efforts might have even got Italy on the podium. For the moment he had to be content with being simply the best motocross rider in the world.
That’s all done for 2012 – it’s a shame our lads didn’t do better but Jake, Tommy and Max gave it their all for the country and you can’t ask for more. Next year the Germans will be defending their title on home soil at Teutschental, and the USA team will come back like an angry junk yard dog. Book your tickets now.
Words by Julian Challis
Images by Ray Chuss