Monster Energy Yamaha blasted through the desert night at the FIM Motocross World Championship with the very first Grand Prix of Qatar at Losail. Under lights, in the Middle East and working through the maiden ‘Superfinal’ of GP racing Steven Frossard emerged from a novel opener to score ninth position overall on his factory YZ450FM while new team-mate Joel Roelants was fourteenth.
Eventful start for Frossard and Roelants
The soft and rutted Losail terrain (the result of imported soil and over two months of work) offered a variety of tests to the riders in terms of speed and technicality, and the added reduction of light thanks to the night schedule also complicated the mix as some holes and bumps were harder to judge. The racing layout and surface was positively received and the pleasant temperatures and paddock camaraderie made for a memorable opening event.
Frossard had some bad luck with his starts that left him scrapping to recover ground from the depths of the pack. A first race crash also limited his possibilities and he could only snare nine points for twelfth place. In the second outing – the Superfinal – the Frenchman had to find a way through some of the MX2 machines sharing the same track and this time improved his standing by four slots to eighth.
Roelants is still in a period of acclimatising to the demands of MX1 racing and placing a 450cc machine at the sharp-edge of competition. The Belgian rookie took fifteenth and twelfth in two valuable learning experiences.
Round two follows soon in Pattaya, the first ever Grand Prix of Thailand next weekend.
“In the first moto I had a bad start and it was difficult to come back. I crashed and that made it worse. I was far behind and had a goggle problem. Overall it was pretty bad! The second time I had a poor place on the gate and again tried to recover. To finish eighth is not a good result but my riding wasn’t too far away. The season is very long and I know that race by race I will get better.”
“For a debut that was not like I hoped it would be. I think I could have been top ten in the first heat if I hadn’t have crashed. I took bad starts and I have to work on that because it was hard to pass on a track like this. We have quite a lot of fast riders in MX1 so a good start is so important. I wanted two top tens today but it wasn’t to be so I’ll continue working hard. It was a GP that was quite different but it was OK. I didn’t actually expect it to be as hot as it was. Wow, it was tough and I was tired in the end. I think I have to ride more economically and get used to using less energy on the 450.”
Ferris marks career landmark at milestone GPThe MX2 Motocross Grand Prix of Qatar saw Dean Ferris capture his first FIM Motocross World Championship podium finish with second overall. In doing so he became the first Australian to pick up silverware since late countryman Andrew McFarlane did the same from within the confines of Steve Dixon’s Yamaha squad in 2005.
The nighttime special in the Middle East also saw the introduction of the Superfinal race format adopted for the flyaway events in 2013 that mixes the top twenties of the MX1 and MX2 classes. It was a novel meeting to launch this year’s racing campaign and both Ferris and team-mate Christophe Charlier decided to shine under the Losail lights from the ‘off’. The jumpy and rough course in the desert, a short distance outside Doha, saw Ferris excel on his first appointment in Yamaha colours and with the Dixon-fettled YZ250F. The bike was placed on the podium for the second meeting in a row after a double appearance in the season-closing Grand Prix of Germany last September. Ferris enjoyed two good starts and took fifth and second positions (for his class in the Superfinal) to toast a career highlight to-date.
Earlier in the evening it looked as though Christophe Charlier might be looking good for his second career rostrum celebration. The Corsican was very strong on the prototype YZ250FM and kept Glen Coldenhoff close company all the way to the flag for third place. Unluckily a bad start and slip meant he was almost last during the early phases of the Superfinal and would end the evening with eighth in the second MX2 listing. The former Euro Champ was still a decent fifth overall and had plenty of blisters on his hands to show for the hard work against the 450cc machines.
Mel Pocock got out of the gate well in his first meeting as an official factory rider but just fell short of the pace of the leaders. He scored ninth and fourteenth positions. He was almost accompanied by new team-mate Maxime Desprey in the first moto as the young Frenchman obtained an encouraging thirteenth place. Desprey crashed out of the Superfinal but without injury.
The Grand Prix of Thailand next week will see the Monster Energy Yamaha quartet again in action for another distinctive FIM Motocross World Championship fixture.
“I'm happy with my race and had a good feeling on my bike after we made a couple of changes. I hesitated at the start of the Superfinal and I paid for it because it was very hard against the 450s. Now we'll continue to work and I want that podium in Thailand.”
“Obviously it’s good to be on the podium and the season could not have started in a better way. In the first moto I got a decent start and I really pushed to stay with the front group but I couldn’t do it. In between motos we spoke with the team and we agreed to change gearing to try and improved the set-up and it worked. I’m sure my lap-times were better in the Superfinal and I didn’t have to push the limit. I was second and there was not much more I could do so I just brought it home. I didn’t think too much about the Superfinal before we came here but I’m glad we got in the gate before the 450s so they couldn’t close us down too much at the start. I’ve raced quite a bit of supercross in Australia so the lights were OK for me. The hardest thing was trying to see areas of traction in the dirt but the lighting was good. I hope when I get a bit more comfortable I can try to get closer to Jeffrey’s speed but the goal right now is to get on the podium every weekend. I was excited out there, battling all those 450s and I’m well aware that Andrew was the last Aussie rider up here and he also did it with Steve (Dixon, Team Manager) so that was nice. I think the Yamaha is definitely the best bike I have ridden for any team that I’ve represented. The guys put in a lot of work to make it the best and that gives me a lot of confidence.”
“I’m really happy with my starts and they have improved big time but as far as the racing goes I feel like I am struggling to hold the speed in the positions where I’m getting out of the gate. In time I know it will get better. I think that Superfinal was the hardest race I have ever done. I spent the whole time trying to get a run-up on the 450s but they just chop and change around and cut us off; it was pretty gnarly. If anything today was a good point from which to build on.”
“I feel quite good about today. I made a good start in the first race and my riding was OK. A few mistakes here and there but I was quite pleased. In the Superfinal I had a crash and that ended the race but we’ll be back again next week.”
Info from www.yamaha-racing.com press release 4th March