Tony Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings sealed the MX1 and MX2 World Championship titles in Faenza for the Red Bull Factory Racing Team on Sunday with one GP in hand to again write KTM, the Austrian sports motorcycle specialists, into the sport’s history books.
Cairoli’s victory on the KTM 350 SX-F came after the first MX1 moto at the Italian circuit and saw his home fans celebrate their hero and role model with wild enthusiasm. Herlings had to wait till the second MX2 moto for his moment of glory but the fans again rose to the occasion to pay tribute to the Dutch champion who is just several days shy of his 18th birthday.
It was Cairoli’s sixth career victory and his third for KTM. For Herlings, who rides the KTM 250 SX-F, it was his first MX2 World title. The Austrian brand has now dominated the MX2 class since 2008 when Tyla Rattray of South Africa won the title. This was followed in 2009 and 2010 by titles won by Marvin Musquin of France and in 2011 the glory went to Germany’s Ken Roczen. Both Musquin and Roczen now ride for the Red Bull KTM team in the USA.
Cairoli went into the opening moto knowing that he only had to finish ahead of Clement Desalle to secure the title. He shot out of the gate and quickly moved into second place and made the pass on Christophe Pourcel for the lead seven minutes into the moto. From then on the Italian put on a masterly display in front of the ecstatic home fans to finish 20 seconds in front of Pourcel at the checkered flag. Desalle finished third. The second moto was a mere formality but Tony, the consummate professional went out and fought the good fight and wrapped up the GP with a clear 1-1 result. There was a surprise in store for him when he took to the podium to claim his prize because it was his father who handed him the trophy. The day, as the first anniversary of the death of his mother, also had a touch of poignancy for the Italian rider.
Tony Cairoli: “It’s amazing to win in Italy especially after what happened last year with my mum on the same day so its even more special. I believe it’s a really amazing day for me and for all the people … yeah, I have no words. The public was amazing today, cheering me all the time. Yesterday was a little bit stressful with the qualification and everything but now it’s a little better, I had better starts and I could grab first place in each race.”
Herlings, well known for his almost unmatched skills on sand, put on an amazing display on the tricky hard pack surface of the Italian track. He was fluid and graceful and above all, seemingly relaxed as he steadily distanced himself from the rest of the field in the opening moto. While his rival Tommy Searle finished second, he trailed the leader by 32 seconds and the British rider’s chances of bridging the points gap had melt away. Herlings started the second moto with a 68-point advantage and only had to finish with a 50-points margin to secure the title. He grabbed the holeshot and never looked back. When he crossed the line, he was 22 seconds ahead of Searle and the team was out in force in full celebration mode.
Jeffrey said it had been an amazing day and he still couldn’t believe what happened. He also paid tribute to his rival Tommy Searle and teammate Jeremy van Horebeek. “Tommy was always there and he pushed me a lot so it was never easy with the pressure he put on me. He’s a great rider and competitor and knowing hie was always there was a great motivation for me. Also my teammate Jeremy was also always close by but he also supported me right through the season,” he said, also paying tribute to his team and to his KTM 250 SX-F machine.
Pit Beirer, Head of KTM Motorsport paid tribute to both factory riders. “It was always going to be hard to follow on from our success in 2012 so it’s a massive achievement to see Tony and Jeffrey take the MX1 and MX2 titles. For Tony it is his sixth career title and his third for KTM. And to do it in front of his home crowd at Faenza is something he really deserves. Tony is much more than an excellent rider. He’s a master tactician and team player and his performances on and off the track are an inspiration to all young riders.” Beirer continued, saying: “One of those young riders is Jeffrey and this, his first MX2 title will surely not be his last. He showed is his all round talent on the hard pack at Faenza and we all know what he is capable of riding in the sand. Following on from our victory in the US National MX Championship with Ryan Dungey we can really say KTM is a world leader. This success is a team effort and belongs to everyone involved – from our excellent team management on both sides of the Atlantic, to our mechanics, our team support staff, and to all those at the KTM Racing Department and R&D.”
The team’s MX2 rider Jeremy van Horebeek of Belgium joined Herlings on the podium as third in the GP and French teammate Jordi Tixier was fourth. In MX1, Ken de Dycker of Belgium finished overall fifth while German rider Max Nagl crashed in the first moto and did not start in the second.
Image courtesy KTM Racing