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Alexandre Kowalski - In France

Alexandre Kowalski - In France

May 21

  • Interview

The Monster Energy MXGP of France brought a gruelling run of three consecutive Grands Prix to an end this weekend, with riders once again faced with the challenge of contrasting conditions.

The iconic Saint Jean d’Angely, France, played host to the seventh round of the 2024 season in front of a packed and boisterous French crowd on both days despite the weather.

Running in the stunning YZ50 livery to mark their home Grand Prix, both the MJC Yamaha Official MX125 team and VRT Yamaha Official EMX250 teams had strong results, including an overall podium for Mano Faure, while the MXGP and MX2 riders faced a challenging weekend in the changing conditions. Here’s what Yamaha Motor Europe’s Off-Road Racing Manager, Alexandre Kowalski had to say on the weekend’s performance:

Benistant Out After Practice Crash

It was another weekend of mixed circumstances and emotions. We arrived in Saint Jean d’Angely excited for the weekend with both of our official EMX teams sporting the iconic white and pink YZ50 livery for their home Grand Prix. Both teams are based in France, so it was a fitting event for them to run this livery celebrating 50 years of YZ.

At the same time, there was a positive vibe and buzz surrounding the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MX2 team with lots of local fan support for home hero Thibault Benistant, who as we know, has a habit of performing for the French fans.

However, Thibault unfortunately had a huge crash in Timed Practice in one of the steepest, fastest and most challenging sections of the track. He fell really hard and took a big hit. He sustained a small crack in the wing of his C5 vertebra, which is unfortunate but on the other hand given the size of the crash, this could have been much worse! He will need some time to recover, during which we will support him as much as we can. It’s a tough blow for him as he was in the hunt for the title, but this is racing and injuries are part of that.

Remaining in MX2, Rick Elzinga showed glimpses of his potential, but was not feeling himself this weekend so he was a bit off his usual pace. He had a couple of small crashes and made a couple of mistakes which cost him a good result. He needs to move on from this race and look to bounce back in Germany in two weeks’ time.

Challenging weekend in MXGP

In MXGP, both Calvin Vlaanderen and Andrea Bonacorsi showed good speed all weekend, but both ran into a deep patch of mud right off the gate in the first race which swallowed their speed and drive, leaving them to fight forward from the back. Calvin recovered well to charge back to seventh, with Andrea finishing 12th. In Saint Jean, the start is everything. If you miss the start; you miss your chance of a good result.

This weekend overall was not the best, but not the worst either. Both riders finished inside the top ten, which again, in such challenging conditions, is not too bad. Calvin is still chipping away at the top five in the championship; he has the speed and ability to be there with the top guys but he needs to believe in himself. Andrea is making good progress as he continues to learn the YZ450FM and once he does this I think he will be near the front.

14 year old Mano Faure impresses with third overall

In EMX125, we had much better results with Mano Faure on the box in front of his home crowd. Mano is only 14 years old, so it was quite impressive to see him handle his home round with such maturity despite the conditions. He was second in race one and fourth in race two after a small mistake, which put him on the third step of the podium. He is still in the title hunt, which is quite incredible, because while we knew he is super talented, we entered the season with no real expectations. The initial aim was to give these three young kids, all new to the team and the GYTR-kitted YZ125, a chance to gain speed and experience on the world stage.

As for Jarne (Bervoets) and Dani (Heitink), Jarne rode well this weekend. The result sheet doesn’t reflect his speed because he fell in race two and got his leg caught in his rear wheel. He was pinned to the ground until someone could help him free his leg. When he got back to the paddock, he was in a bit of pain, so he went to the medical center to get it checked. Fortunately, the scans and x-rays came back clear. Dani had a tough weekend and didn’t feel the best on the track, and it showed in his results.

EMX250 riders bounce back on Sunday

Finally, we had a strong end to the weekend after a tough Saturday in EMX250. Again, the start is so important here and unfortunately Ivano van Erp crashed at turn one and Karlis was not very strong off the gate. However, both bounced back strong on Sunday morning with Karlis finishing second and Ivano fifth in the second race.

All in all, this was the third of three Grands Prix in a row. This is very intense for the riders and the teams, it’s difficult to be consistent especially when you take the weather into account as well as two of the three were very wet and muddy. Now we have a short break with a weekend off before we re-group for another three in a row starting in Germany.

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