Red Bull KTM Factory riders Tony Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings took control of the races at the first ever MX1 & MM2 GP of Thailand on Sunday leaving this exciting new venue with both red plates in their kits.
Successfully conquering the special new three-race format (MX1, MX2 and Super Final), the lead KTM factory riders have already thrown down the gauntlet to their opponents in only the second GP of the season. Cairoli led superbly from the front on both of his trips to this new track with a masterly display of riding skill and tactics on the KTM 350 SX-F that left riders on the bigger 450 cc bikes little chance to match him.
Herlings, the Dutch teenager who only arrived in Thailand on Friday morning followed up his convincing (by 40 seconds) win in the MX2 race with a fourth place behind MX2 riders Cairoli, Gautier Paulin and Clement Desalle in the hard-fought Super Final. This effectively put him in front of 17 other MX1 riders on the track. It also underlined his personal brand of tenacity and skill, as well as the quality of his KTM 250 SX-F factory bike. Herlings almost made a pass on third placed Clement Desalle in the closing lap of the Super Final but decided to back off and settle for fourth. He will now have to wait for the GPs in Mexico and Brazil for another attack on the bigger machines. In this new race format, being adopted this year only for the four races away from Europe, the top 20 MX1 and MX2 riders advance to contest the Super Final.
The other two KTM factory riders, Ken De Dycker and Jordi Tixier finished fifth and eighth in the MX1 and MX2 classes for valuable points in the championship. De Dycker had a great race in the MX1 outing, finishing second to Cairoli, but he found himself buried in the pack at the start of the Super Final. He did well to recover enough to finish tenth and overall fifth in his class. Tixier was racing with a vicious cut to his chin that required 14 stitches after a nasty crash on Saturday. He finished sixth in the MX2 race and was rated overall eighth in MX2.
The presence of the KTM brand is also being felt in the MX2 class this year with a slew of young riders like Romain Febvre of France, Glenn Coldenhoff of Netherlands and Jose Butron of Spain already delivering impressive results on the KTM 250 SX-F.
Following the GPs of Qatar and Thailand, the factory teams now return to Europe where action will resume on the Easter weekend in Valkenswaard, Netherlands, a track where Herlings and Cairoli are known to excel in its soft sand. Having already laid the foundation for a solid start to their seasons they and their KTM teammates will be looking to garner more points at this popular European race venue.
What the top KTM riders said after the races:
Tony Cairoli: “It was a good weekend for me and I was happy to take both races today. It was a difficult race for everyone because of the heat but you have to manage your energy and know your body, especially for the second motos when you start to get tired. The second race was better for me because the track wasn’t so bumpy and the best part of the weekend is that we got the red plates.”
Jeffrey Herlings: “I had two good starts and I showed after the first race that I am the man to beat this year in MX2. I almost got a podium in the Super Final and I hope that’s going to happen this year. I’ll be working towards that.”
Image courtesy KTM