Monster Energy Yamaha’s Arnaud Tonus picked up his performance level significantly in what was just his third FIM Motocross World Championship appearance of the season to finish 5th overall on the factory YZ250F at Bastogne for the Grand Prix of Belgium. After a tough event in Portugal last week the Swiss found a strong speed and flow around the rutted but excellent course on the outskirts of the historic town and his second moto finish of fourth position shows he is nearing contention for the MX2 podium.
It was a weekend of contrasting weather conditions for the eighth round of sixteen and the meeting that dragged the GP campaign to the halfway point. ‘Monsoon’ rainfall on Saturday flooded the natural, grassy and tree-lined layout and paddock. The relentlessness of the bad weather led to the qualification heats being cancelled and the gate order for the grand prix motos on Sunday were decided by a chrono session. The terrain actually held up well in spite of the natural watering and after good work by the organisers and track staff the surface that the riders faced on a sunny Sunday, and in front of a crowd of 18,000, was in superb condition: gnarly, rough and with plenty of line choice.
Tonus fluffed the first start. ‘7’ then embarked on a trail of overtaking and decent, consistent lap-times to reach a ranking the same as his race number…all in spite of ending the first circulation in the depths of the top twenty. Buoyed by his good feeling around the Bastogne bumps Tonus – on his 21st birthday no less – made a better job of his launch in the second moto and completed a relatively lonely 35 minutes and 2 laps in fourth position.
Mel Pocock entered a Grand Prix gate for the fifth time this season as a worthy call-up to replace the injured and ailing Zach Osborne and Michael Leib. The nineteen year old performed admirably again (despite a hefty crash in one of the motos) to forge another top ten finish. In the first race the European EMX2 series leader rode to 9th and then managed 12th at the second time of asking for the classification of 10th overall.
Shaun Simpson equalled his best MX1 qualification slot through the wet on Saturday and went to the gate with fourth position in what is still just his second term in the premier class. Misfortune struck at the first corner as the Scot could not avoid a fallen Ken De Dycker and he also hit the ground. A vibrant attempt at a comeback through the field was interrupted by broken goggles and the need to pit for a fresh set. The former British Champion finished 16th and then 12th later on, after another bad start, for 13th overall. Simpson is not filling the positions he wishes to be in the immensely competitive category but is holding a steady 12th in the MX1 championship standings.
The Grand Prix series might enjoy a small hiatus now but the racing campaign does not stop for Monster Energy Yamaha with the team shifting to the sand of Desertmartin in Northern Ireland for the fifth round of the Maxxis British Championship next Sunday. The crew are next on international duty with the Grand Prix of Sweden at Uddevalla on July 1st which could see either Osborne or Leib back in action. Monster Energy Yamaha is likely to have some American presence come the trip to Latvia for round ten in mid-July.
“In the first one I had a bad, bad start. I didn’t jump out of the gate and then was blocked on the first corner. From that I took a bit of time to get my rhythm and from mid-race I was coming back pretty good. To reach seventh and find that speed after Portugal was really positive. In the second moto the start was OK, around tenth, and then I came up for fourth quite quickly. I rode my own race pretty much. I feel like I am improving after the long break I had. They did a great job with the track. Yesterday it was muddy and one-line and I didn’t expect it to be that good. There were a lot of lines and it was in a fine state for the races. I can’t say I thought about my birthday much! When you are ten or something you always want another year but I think when you hit the twenties you want the years back!”
“I had a little bit of a get-off and caught a rut badly in the corner on the pitlane straight. It was a bit of a gnarly crash but that was the only low point of the day. I’m pumped to have tenth overall. Top ten speed in both motos and I’m really happy if I am close to establishing myself as a rider who can do that regularly. The schedule is pretty stacked now with Desertmartin – one of my favourite tracks – next week and then to Latvia and Russia for the next rounds of the European MX2.”
“The weekend was about contrasts really and not just with the weather. My speed was good in difficult conditions on Saturday and I excel in those types of circumstances. I was happy with the fourth gate-pick because I thought it would be important to get up the inside of that first turn. I tried that in the first moto and De Dycker crashed taking me with him. It was pretty bad. I got up and starting fighting my way back through and – had I kept on going – then it might have been OK but my goggle lens popped out when a stone hit it and I had to waste time going through the pitlane to get some more. That was a freak thing and I was annoyed about it. 16th is not where I want to be. On the second start I was next to Desalle and wheelied out of the gate, not really getting any traction. I came around the first lap in eighteenth or so and set some good lap-times. I battled the whole moto and caught Boog, Paulin and those guys. Although there were a lot of different lines it was hard to pass. There are positives to take from the weekend. I am riding strongly and I feel good but we have an issue with starts and it has to be worked on.”