Any debate as to whether Jeffrey Herlings is the best sand rider in the world were ended in incredible fashion at the Dutch MX2 title leader’s home GP at Lierop today.
The factory KTM rider put on an absolutely devastating display of sand skills and speed – perhaps the greatest ever – to go 1-1 in front of his home fans and move to within striking distance of his first world title, a feat matched by KTM’s MX1 king Tony Cairoli, who motored to both 450 class wins in style and can now wrap up his sixth world title in the opening moto in Italy next weekend.
Cairoli is used to being the centre of attention, but there was no doubt who was the star of the day – Herlings was simply incredible. Realistically everyone in MX2 knew that they were racing for second place, but even Herlings rivals couldn’t have expected the beating he handed out to them. Lapping multiple seconds faster than anyone every single lap, he simply destroyed the field on the toughest track in the world.
Nailing the holeshot both times out, he was out of sight of the rest by the end of the opening lap each time and just kept on going away at an incredible rate that was hard to believe. Visibly so much faster and smoother than anyone else everywhere on the track it was almost embarrassing how easily he could lap some of the fastest riders in the world.
The first moto performance was simply one of the greatest GP rides ever seen, Herlings lapping all the way up to second in a spellbinding effort that left only his KTM factory team-mate Jeremy Van Horebeek on the same lap. Moto two was almost as good, arch title rival Tommy Searle the last man left on the same lap as Herlings in fourth – but only by 100 yards! Amazing doesn’t do it justice and Herlings now holds a 65-point lead over Searle in the championship, setting up a potential title conformation in Italy next week.
Searle faced a tough day in the Dutch sand and finished off the podium for only the third time all year with 4-4 results, but there was podium joy for Britain in the shape of Max Anstie instead, who claimed his first ever GP podium with a sensational pair of rides to go 3-3 for third overall behind Herlings and Van Horebeek.
Jake Nicholls made it three Brits in the top-six with a pair of solid heats that netted him sixth overall, a result that moved him up to superb fourth in the MX2 world standings, but there were no points for KTM UK’s Elliott Banks-Browne, who crashed out of the opening heat after starting in the top-five and struggled in the second feeling the effects of the spill.
Making it yet another golden day for KTM, Tony Cairoli took his sixth GP win in a row and another 1-1 at Lierop with two typically classy rides to best team-mate Ken De Dycker and surprise package Tanel Leok.
After making a poor start in moto one champion elect Cairoli was made to work hard for his win by Max Nagl, who had opened up a big lead in the first half of the moto after nailing a massive holeshot. Nagl hung tough, but Cairoli’s fitness and flair ground the German down and Tony skipped past and on to the win.
Nagl was flat out of luck in moto two, breaking a footpeg off his KTM 450 on the opening lap and ending his hopes of the overall, but Cairoli lead from gate to flag. De Dycker kept the Italian great honest and a small fall by Tony allowed Ken to close to within a couple of seconds at the three-quarter distance, but unsurprisingly Tony was able to regroup and turned in a series of blistering laps in in the last three laps to again pull clear and win in style.
With closest title rival Clement Desalle struggling in sixth overall, Cairoli now holds a 76 point lead in the championship and can wrap up the title in the first moto of his home GP in Faenza.
After being passed over for Nations selection, Shaun Simpson had one of his best GPs of the season to score fifth overall with 8-5 finishes. His race long scrap with fourth overall Evgeny Bobryshev for fourth spot in the second moto was the race of the day too. There were points too in both motos for STR KTM’s latest fill-in Bry MacKenzie, who put in a solid ride on a 450 in such hard conditions to go 19-17 for 17th overall, but it was tougher going for STR’s second man Jamie Law and JK Yamaha fill-in Graeme Irwin, who could only net points in the brutal second moto.
KTM didn’t dominate every class at Lierop, Yamaha basked in the glory of victory in the European EMX250 championship and it was Britain’s Mel Pocock who gave them the win with a sensational double victory in the sand that leaves him needing just eight points at the final round in Italy to wrap up his first International title.
After a tough weekend at Matterley Basin two weeks ago, Pocock was simply stunning at Lierop and showed superb skills and fitness to dominate both motos in front of Stefan Olsen, Mike Krass and a host of low countries sand-specialists to wrap-up his fifth overall win in six championship rounds. Barring disaster it is going to be party time in the Monster Bike-It Yamaha camp next weekend and Pocock will thoroughly deserve the title.
Words Ben Johnson
Images by Ray Chuss
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