The two bikes were locked in a fierce battle around the challenging circuit of Loket, Czech Republic. The stone spray raised by the rear wheels grappling for traction ensured that the rider behind was enduring a hailstorm of sorts, with large pebbles peppering him black and blue, and clattering off his helmet like bullets. He was unfazed by this, remaining focused on the rider ahead of him. At a sharp corner he feigned an outside move, then quickly changed his line, squared the bike off and passed on the inside. It was a beautiful move, well- thought out and executed with clinical precision.
This maneuver, halfway through the first heat of the Czech Grand Prix, brought Romain Febvre into the top ten. Though only in hisdebut GP year, he tackled this, the most challenging of tracks, like a seasoned veteran, and reinforced yet again that he is a rider whose star is on the ascendancy. The young Frenchman’s weekend started off very well, what with him posting the sixth fastest qualifying time and riding to a comfortable ninth place in the qualifying race. By the time we pick up the story, however, he had already had a hard first heat behind him, with half of it yet to go. A bad start had left him in 18th position, with a whole heap of work to do on a track that is not universally renowned as a paradise of passing opportunities. Unassuming as he is, though, we have got to know him as a little fighter, and he never let off, finally battling his way to eighth at the end of the race.
Romain started his second race where he ended the first, in eighth spot. This was a far more suitable platform for the Bodo Schmidt Racing KTM rider on which to build his final result. His maturity and patience on the track have astounded observers, and where it was once only his team and supporters that sang his praises, by now he has garnered universal acclaim for his racing abilities. He has an uncanny knack of deciding when to risk and when to wait, and has become a beacon of consistency as a result. This time he carefully weighed his chances, and gained two positions, amongst others disposing of compatriot Valentin Teillet, before crossing the line in sixth position, his best ever Grand Prix Race result.
With two top ten results in the bag, it was no surprise that Romain had clinched yet another overall top ten result, and the results sheet made for pleasing reading indeed. Fifth overall in a world championship race for a rookie rider is nothing to be sniffed at, and signifies a definite march towards podium territory. As if that weren’t reason enough to make him hang his pearly whites out to dry, the world championship table now shows that he has leapfrogged all the way to 12th position in the world standings.
One builds a wonderful data bank of memories over the course of a racing career. Some of those are exceedingly pleasant, others agonizing in the extreme. One can not but think that Romain Febvre will from here on in forever think back on the 2012 Czech Grand Prix with a fair measure of fondness – the race at which he finally put down his stamp as a Grand Prix podium contender.
Reporting by Tinus Nel