Kawasaki riders were in the thick of the action at the FIM Motocross of Nations, the annual contest for national teams, with six top 10 placings and a medal for Blake Baggett with Team USA.
The deep unrelenting sand of the Lommel facility in the north-eastern corner of Belgium was a severe challenge for each of the 99 competitors from all over the world and in the end victory went to the sand specialists as Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands took three of the first four places in the team classification.
Blake Baggett of the Pro Circuit Kawasaki team was the most successful member of the USA team, which defied the strange conditions to separate the sand specialists by taking third place on the podium; the Kawasaki rider was only beaten in his class by Ken Roczen, of the victorious German team.
Gautier Paulin of the Kawasaki Racing Team led France forcefully and recorded a superb second place in the opening moto. He appeared poised for third place in the final race of the day until he flew over the handlebars, a fate which befell most riders during the day, but battled on to finish the day third overall in the MX1 class. Xavier Boog, his teammate at KRT and for France, was ninth in the Open class after unselfishly accepting his team’s least satisfactory starting place.
Marc de Reuver of Team ICE1 Kawasaki scored significantly in both races as he helped the Dutch team to take fourth overall in the team classification, while Tommy Searle of Team Floride Monster Energy Kawasaki Pro Circuit faced a difficult baptism in the MX1 class as he is not recognised as a sand expert, but he responded with his usual tenacity to top score for his country as Great Britain finished eighth in the team classification.
Blake Baggett: “We don’t have tracks like this in the USA so we came here early to be ready for the sand. I feel that we did our best, but this track was a nightmare. We learnt a lot this weekend and at least we got a podium. In the first moto I had a crash and then came back to fourteenth, then in the second one I had better lines and could finish sixth.”
Marc De Reuver: « I should be happy with our fourth position overall, but when I see the result I’m disappointed as we missed the podium by only five points. The first race was good; the track was flat and I got a top ten result but at the start of the last race another rider crashed in front of Herlings and me. We both crashed but this rider had his foot in my rear wheel so I lost too much time; I came back and was battling with Boog, but I went over the bars and had to take it easier after that.”
Gautier Paulin: “I had a good feeling today with the track, and I had a good start in the first race. I finished second behind Cairoli and I was happy with that result. In my second race I lost several positions in the first corner, but again recovered strongly and fourth, waiting to pass Barcia for third position in the last few laps. I was trying some new lines and in one fast section I went over the bars so I lost my rhythm for the last fifteen minutes and finished eighth. I had a good feeling with the bike and the track, and it was a disappointment to miss the podium with France by just a few points.”
Xavier Boog: “I had the twenty fifth gate in both races, and even though the first corner was wide I got pushed outside both times. In the Open/MX2 race I was able to come back from nearly last to tenth, but in the Open/MX1 race it was difficult as a rider crashed in front of me in the third corner. I stalled the engine and it took me so much time to restart that I could only recover to sixteenth. It’s frustrating to be so unlucky at the starts, for me and my teammates as we all did our best.”
Tommy Searle: “I didn’t feel like I rode as well as I could, but we just didn’t have enough time to test the bike and racing in sand is not my strongest point. We tried our best but Lommel was my worst GP last year; for sure I could have done better if the race had been somewhere else.”