The Grand Prix of Russia had the crowd, the sun, a jumpy, rough and challenging new track and yet more champagne for Monster Energy Yamaha. The eleventh round of sixteen in the FIM Motocross World Championship also hosted the third round of seven in the GP feeder series, European EMX2, as Mel Pocock continued his 100% win record and posted his second complete triumph in the space of a week.
Semigorje welcomed 45,000 spectators and the biggest weekend attendance of the year. The new facility was well prepped for Grand Prix racing and the team rolled into the paddock after their long expedition from Latvia and Moscow (300 miles east of the capital) to find a short but sandy and quick racing surface in store.
Pocock – with Team Manager Steve Dixon filling an emergency position as race mechanic – made a mistake in the first moto in what was a Saturday disturbed by heavy showers and therefore a muddy and slippery terrain. The Brit recovered and closed down a gap of seven seconds to leader Stefan Olsen before a hard-charging move on the last lap saw both hit the dirt. Pocock dove for a gap on the inside of the corner at the end of the pit straight and collided with his rival. Able to keep the Yamaha running Pocock remounted quicker and reached the chequered flag. The win haul – to join victories in France and Latvia – was extended Sunday morning when the recently-turned twenty year old took the holeshot and pulled out a lead of ten seconds to coast to the finish line.
In the MX2 Grand Prix class Arnaud Tonus and Zach Osborne were held back by respective physical problems. Tonus rode to seventh overall with finishes of ninth and tenth on the YZ250F but the arm-pump issues that have been affecting the Swiss appeared again. ‘7’ is now due an operation this week to remove a screw from the scaphoid he broke during pre-season. Tonus will also have a carpal tunnel syndrome procedure to fully erase any hindrance of arm-pump for the rest of the season and the winter. He should be fully fit and ready to go for the next race. Osborne’s designs on the Grand Prix were ruined when the American awoke Sunday morning with a painful back spasm. Despite constant massage and treatment the former British Champ went to the line struggling to breathe and managed to reach the finish in eighteenth. The discomfort weakened in time to attempt the second moto and Zach was able to ride faster and moved up to eighth place, taking twelfth overall.
Monster Energy Yamaha now step on the gas to cover the vast distance west and back to England. The sixth round of eight in the Maxxis British Championship will take place next weekend in the black sand of Hawkstone Park before another drive through Europe faces the crew thanks to the eleventh Grand Prix of the season at Loket in the Czech Republic to kickstart August.
“I’m really happy with how it is going. That second race was great. I had the holeshot and won it from the first corner by keeping it upright. The first moto was really wet and I ran up to a backmarker that put me on the wrong side of the track. I hit a rut that I wasn’t ready for and slid off the side of the bike. I had to fight through and eat the gap Olsen had made. It is good to keep winning and keep the red plate. Huge thanks to Ben, Jordan and all the mechanics behind the scenes because the guys have been away for two weeks. I think that was the first time since 2005 [Team manager Steve Dixon was on the spanners] so it was good to get him off his high horse and into the jet wash bays! It would be a dream to do a perfect season but I’ll take it race by race and see.”
“The track was fun to ride but I still had to deal with my arm problem. I’m happy that the GP is over because now I can concentrate on finding a solution and hopefully we will. I just did my best but for sure this is not what I want or where I want to be.”
“Coming into the weekend I really wanted to do well; two top fives like I did in Sweden but when I woke up this morning I had a muscle spasm the size of a baseball in my back. In the first race it was killing me and I struggled through as much as I could. In the second it was getting a little better all the time and I could actually catch my breath again; something which was much harder to do in the morning. I didn’t get a very good start, maybe top fifteen, and just worked my way through and into the top five. I was a bit off the pace towards the end. After Latvia and the way things went this weekend in the first race it was good to turn it around and get some momentum going.”
Steve Dixon, Team Principal:
“Mel did great and continued his winning ways. He is really coming-on well this year. Zach and Arnaud suffered for different reasons and I think the consecutive races are starting to take their toll and they missed the first half of the season so fitness will be an issue. The tracks have been very rough recently and today Zach was jarring his back and Arnaud had the problem with his arms which we hope will be fixed by removal of the pin and he can hold the bike normally again. It is frustrating for both but hopefully we can start building again. It is a hard sport but we are glad they are here and not on the sidelines. This weekend I had to get on the spanners and it was a good fun and a good experience. I enjoyed working with the lads late last night preparing the bike. It keeps you in touch with what they go through and they do work hard, especially with the busy timetable.”