Red Bull KTM Factory Racing riders launched their bid to retain the MXGP and MX2 world titles on Saturday night at the Losail circuit in Qatar with a win in MX2 for Jeffrey Herlings and a podium third for Tony Cairoli in MXGP.
But both KTM riders had to work hard for their result with Herlings back on the track after only one pre-season race and almost six months off with injury while Cairoli was hampered with pain from a knock on the ankle in a qualifying crash.
Despite the win, the 19-year-old Herlings was visibly disappointed with his performance. “I am still having problems with my starts, we’re working on them but I need to improve. But tonight I just wasn’t happy with my riding. All I can do is keep working on it and hope to be better next weekend in Thailand,” Herlings commented after the race.
It was also a hard night’s work for Red Bull KTM’s Tony Cairoli in the newly named MXGP class. He was fifth at the start of his opening moto and took his time to settle in to study overtaking possibilities. In a typical last minute dash, Cairoli was on the back wheel of second-placed Gautier Paulin with just a couple of minutes of regular race time to go. Then with three laps to go he had slipped by the Frenchman and gave chase to Max Nagl in the lead. They crossed the line with the German only meters in front.
But KTM’s seven times world champion was clearly feeling the effects of his sore ankle by the time he started his second moto. He was sixth at the start and had advanced up to third behind Paulin and Steven Frossard by the half way mark and the three riders rode out the race in that order. Cairoli’s 2-3 secured him the third spot on the podium.
The Losail circuit also hosted the opening round of the WMX and Irish KTM racer Natalie Kane picked up a second and a third place in her two motos for second overall in the women’s GP. The competition returns to join the MXGP program in 2014 and entails a six-round championship.
Next race: MXGP of Thailand: March 9, 2014