GP of Portugal - Round Six

Posted on May 15, 2019

Amazingly, despite the five-week break between rounds four and founds five, when the Grand Prix of Portugal is run this coming weekend, we will be a third of the way through the 2019 season. We know a year goes past quicker and quicker and for sure once you reach 40 years old a year seems like a month.

As many expected with Jeffrey Herlings out injured Antonio Cairoli would dominate. We got glimpse of the Tim Gajser of 2016, but unfortunately, we also got a lot of the 2017 and 2018 version of, which mean Tim eating dirt and making crash highlight reels for years to come.

So how does MXGP sit now five rounds into the season. Cairoli has a 40-point lead, Gajser is an easy second, and the old guard of Clement Desalle and Gautier Paulin are battling with the Lithuanian giant Arminas Jasikonis for the top five.

We have seen brilliant battles between Cairoli vs Febvre in Argentina, Cairoli vs Gajser at Matterley and Trentino, and Cairoli domination in Valkenswaard and Mantova. We all know the Italian legend was preparing for the toughest battle of his life, and an expected charge from the MXGP champion Herlings, and while the Dutchman won’t make the opening six or seven rounds, the preparation made sure that Cairoli had the best start to a season in his whole career.

The fact he is the only rider ever to win a Grand Prix every year for 16 years is just amazing and shows the brilliance of the legend. We can enjoy him now, because he can’t ride forever. Or can he?

While Herlings is working hard for his return and wanting to come back and win, that return race will be closely watched, and no doubt, if the four time World champion can beat the nine time World champion first time up, then that would be something very special.

I had mentioned at the time of the injury that maybe the Dutch round his national championship in Rhenen on May 30 might be the place to return. It is a sand track, and the competition will be strong. The perfect place to get some confidence. The next GP after Rhenen will be Russia, and seriously, if Herlings want to make a statement, why not wait a round and return to the MXGP series at Kegums in Latvia. A sand circuit and a GP that seems to have a really casual feel about it, so less pressure and in some ways out of the eye of the public.

While the old guard of Desalle and Paulin seem out of contention for a World championship and maybe both missed the boat with the domination of both Cairoli and Herlings, but respect to those two, they are using their experience to stay in the picture and one slip up from Cairoli and who know what those two veterans can do.

No doubt the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team are excited about their two riders. As mentioned Jasikonis is showing that he might be the next one in line to start to fight for a championship, and former MX2 champion Pauls Jonass is also starting to put together results we all know he is worthy of. Don’t be surprised to see these two moves into third and fourth place in the championship over the coming months.

Of course, riders to also impress have been Jeremy Seewer and Shaun Simpson. Both top ten in the World and continually putting together solid performances. Simpson suffered disappointment in the second moto in Mantova and picked up his first zero points of the season, but in general he has been brilliant on his RFX KTM machine.

In MX2, well, the sad story is, Jorge Prado holeshots, and wins easily. Apart from his DNS at Matterley Basin, he is in a class of his own, and his opposition must be waiting for him to get a bad start, make a small crash or anything else to get close to him.

A long list of riders impress in MX2 and as it should do, the future are in this class with names like Thomas Olsen, Henry Jacobi, Mitch Evans, Tom Vialle, Jed Beaton, Jago Geerts, Ben Watson, Davy Pootjes, Dylan Walsh and Calvin Vlaanderen show that the MXGP class is going to be even better in a year or two.

So, bring on Agueda in Portugal, and the sixth round of the MXGP and MX2 championship and hopefully a return of Tim Gajser to the front of the 450 class and somebody else get the holeshot and lead Prado home.

So looking at Portugal, can Cairoli score his 90th Grand Prix victory and move just 11 away from Stefan Everts all time 101, and can Prado score GP victory number 17 and move just three GP wins from joining the all-time GP winners top 25?

Both love the red clay of Agueda, and no doubt, the chances of a KTM podium double is very good. 

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