Mackenzie walks the podium in Spain after dramatic Grand Prix


Bike it Yamaha Dixon Racing’s Billy Mackenzie gained his first podium of the season this afternoon at a warm and sun-kissed Bellpuig circuit in Cataluyna. The steep inclines of the hard and short track that despite constant watering proved to be dry, dusty and very rough with the formation of unforgiving ruts and numerous braking bumps. It was not easy to overtake. Excessive watering to help the terrain cope with all four motos meant that the initial race of the day, MX2 moto1, was a particularly slimy affair.

The two MX2 motos of 35 minutes and 2 laps duration threw up two different sets of results. Yamaha managed to own the chequered flag in both races thanks to the resurgent Kenneth Gundersen and a flying Antonio Cairoli respectively but it was Mackenzie with an eighth place and a third position in the second sprint that got to spray the champagne and walk the rostrum.

Ricci Racing’s Gundersen was again a proactive force in the MX2 field after scoring an emotional top-three finish at Zolder two weeks ago in the wake of more than a year with injury problems. The Norwegian started in third place and soon moved past his team-mate Alessio Chiodi for his first moto victory since 2002, claiming the chequered flag by three seconds from ‘Chicco’.
Defending World Champion Cairoli was on impressive form during the first qualification heat yesterday as he holeshotted and escaped from the pursuing pack; earning Pole Position. The young Italian hoped for more of the same in the first race but a crash on a slow tight left hander and problems getting re-started meant he fell out of the top twenty and one lap behind the leaders.
Mackenzie set his best time on the penultimate lap after earlier making a strong move on Luigi Seguy to take eighth position, however the Scot, who won his debut GP moto here in 2005, was too far behind Carl Nunn in seventh to scale the classification further. The 13 points he bagged would later prove vital in an exciting climax to the day’s racing.

Gundersen was immediately ruled out of the possibility of a double race win when he fell on the first lap of Moto2. De Carli Yamaha representative Cairoli had already taken the holeshot and proceeded to re-enact his Saturday performance, fuelled by the frustration of his opening race faux pas. Eventual winner Tyla Rattray gave chase but was not able to get within touching distance. Mackenzie meanwhile had held onto the back of the leaders after a better jump from the gate but soon had his hands full deflecting the attentions of Rui Goncalves. The 22 year old needed third place to confirm his podium while also requiring JK Racing’s Luigi Seguy to keep Chiodi away from ninth position, which the Frenchman managed to accomplish. The outcome of the top three went down to a nail-biting last lap with both duels extremely close. Finally the race order did not change and Mackenzie was again able to celebrate in front of Spanish on-lookers thanks to his better race position although he was tied on points with Chiodi.

Gundersen spent the entire race trying to catch the riders ahead and squeezed into 19th spot. He remains Yamaha’s top rider in the young World Championship standings, holding third place, 19 points behind Rattray. Cairoli, Chiodi and Mackenzie are also in the top ten. His team-mate Davide Guarneri was 8th after having earlier retired after a crash.

Cairoli’s team-mate Mateo Bonini was unable to compete after breaking his right wrist in a Belgian Championship meeting last weekend. The Italian underwent surgery this week and the team will have a better idea in terms of his racing return once the cast is removed in a fortnight and his rehab begins.

Billy Mackenzie, Bike it Dixon Yamaha:
“To be honest I was expecting a little bit more from myself this weekend. I have been feeling comfortable riding but I know I am still not close to how fast I can go. The guys at the front are quick but there is a lot more to come and I will keep on improving. We have had a few problems at the start of the year but we must build from here. This is the start of the podiums and I want to try to get on the podium steps as much as I can for the rest of the season.”

Antonio Cairoli, De Carli Yamaha:
“I crashed after five laps and I could not start again quickly because the bike was caught in the green fence and I lost one lap there and also many points. I was faster than De Reuver and Rattray but stopped after the crash because I was so far behind. For the second heat I really wanted to win and started very well. The battle between Tyla and I was nice and it was good to come back and win. I am happy with my condition and the speed.”

Alessio Chiodi, Ricci Racing:
“I made a mistake at the start of the second moto and touched Philippaerts out of the gate. I think I was around 15th on the first lap but it was so difficult to pass and it wasn’t a good race for me. I tried my best but there was only one line and it was hard to get Seguy at the end. The result is better than Zolder for sure because I was sick there. The first moto today was good because my riding, my condition and the bike were all working well.”

Kenneth Gundersen, Ricci Racing:
“The first race was perfect. I had a good start, passed Chiodi and controlled it the whole way. It was a great feeling to finish first again. In the second race De Reuver cut my line at the start and I was down somewhere between 15th and 20th but then I crashed on the first lap and twisted my knee. After that I rode just to try and get as many points as I can. It is the same knee that I injured last year but it is not a big problem.”

Claudio De Carli, Team Manager De Carli Racing:
“Matteo (Bonini) has been really unlucky. He was injured in the Italian Championship and went to Zolder just to get back on the bike and to start to find his speed again. After Zolder we decided to also compete at Neeroeteren because he was getting better and needed more race time. At the start of the third moto a rider crashed in front of him and he had nowhere to go. He hit the fallen bike very hard and broke his right wrist. He had an operation the day after and now is in a cast that has to remain there for two weeks. He will then have to start a period of rehabilitation to be back as soon as possible.”