Joel Roelants of Team Floride Monster Energy Kawasaki Pro Circuit scored his maiden victory in the FIM World MX2 Motocross Championship round at Kegums in Latvia today.
The 23 years old Belgian, now in his sixth year of GP competition but in his first year with Kawasaki, was in dominating form as track conditions changed by the minute as a series of showers hit the scenic track in the Baltic state. After a patient start to the opening moto on a rugged track which had to be treated with respect, Joel took over the lead on the eighth of 19 laps and immediately pulled away for a clearcut victory, more than ten seconds ahead of his nearest rival. A heavy storm immediately before race two left the track waterlogged and the Belgian star was forced to discard his goggles after only a few laps, but, after stopping for fresh eye protection, he surged back through the field until he held second place, sufficient to clinch his first-ever GP victory.
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Teammate Tommy Searle suffered wretched luck in his challenge for the world title as misfortune beyond the control of either the rider or the team forced him out of both motos within a couple of laps. In the first moto a rock damaged an oil pipe as he moved up to challenge for the lead, whilst in the second race a tyre defect caused his retirement as he again looked set for a major points haul. The double helping of bad luck was a savage blow after Tommy had moved ever closer to the pace in recent GPs. He now trails the series leader by 41 points, but with six GPs remaining can still turn this around and both rider and team will continue to battle for glory.
GP rookie Dylan Ferrandis of Team Rockstar Bud Racing Kawasaki found the Latvian track, so different to those which he has raced back home in France, difficult but he displayed the perseverance for which he has already become renowned to record a top ten finish in race one. As conditions became even more severe in race two he was forced to pit for fresh eyewear, but once again scored points to confirm his top ten series ranking. Teammate Valentin Teillet hopes to return from injury next weekend in Russia if a midweek test session goes well.
Joel Roelants: “ I’m so happy to win my first GP today after six seasons of racing in the World Championship. We worked hard this winter and the season started well, but it has taken me some time to recover from my big crash at round three in Italy. In Sweden I had a good feeling again, and I was confident here as rain has never affected my riding. In the first moto I waited patiently for a few laps and then passed both Butron and Nicholls in the same corner. My goggles got filled in already at the start of the second moto because of all of the water on the track and I had to stop for fresh goggles, but I had good speed all day and was able to recover to second in the moto and that was enough to secure my first-ever GP win.”
Tommy Searle: “I started third in the first race and was confident of another victory as I moved up on the leaders, but I soon realised I wasn’t going to see the chequered flag. I could see the oil coming out and it seized on the third lap because of the damage from a rock. I was determined to fight back in race two, but bad luck stopped me even sooner as the rear tyre came off the rim. I am absolutely devastated; I just lost all of my gains of recent weeks through no fault of my own or the team. But there are still six more GPs and I will not give up chasing the title; it could be the turn of my rivals to have bad luck next weekend.”
Dylan Ferrandis: “I didn’t have a good feeling with this track and found it difficult to find grip. I had two good starts but I was pushed at the outside in the first corner because I only had the 14th gate; in the first moto I fought back to tenth and was pretty happy with that. The rain before the second race changed everything, and after a few laps I had water in my goggles so I had to stop to get a new pair. It was a difficult race for everyone but at least I scored a few points and hope the weather is better in Russia next weekend.”
Images by Sarah Gutierrez