Van Doninck storms to first MX2 podium in maiden Grand Prix season
The Grand Prix of the Netherlands brought MXGP together again for the second time in a week and the paddock expanded into the copious space of the famous Assen circuit for the sixteenth round of eighteen on the schedule. Yamaha were able to count on a rampaging performance by Kemea Yamaha's Brent Van Doninck as the youngster rode to a brilliant third position overall to lift his - and the Belgian team's - first trophy at the highest level.
Massive quantities of sand had been imported to create a compact and difficult layout covering the final chicane and down part of the start straight of the road racing bitumen. 37,000 fans filled the 'wall' of seating to create an atmospheric and spectacular setting.
Standing Construct Yamaha Yamalube's Valentin Guillod suffered a crash early in Saturday's Qualification Heat and hurt his right shoulder. After checks there was no serious damage but the Swiss was sore and struggled for movement and strength in the joint. In the same race Van Doninck showed his prowess and comfort in the sand by pushing the leaders hard to take a season-best fourth (which he further backed up with the second fastest lap in warm-up on Sunday morning).
In the first moto it was Standing's Julien Lieber who made the better start and was fourth at the end of the opening lap. The Belgian pushed up to second place but did not have an answer to Tim Gajser who surged through to the front. Julien's third place on the YZ250F was his best moto finish since Lommel and his fifth top three result of the season. Just behind was Van Doninck whose ride to fourth was a career-highest in just his first term in Grand Prix. Benoit Paturel was seventh to help place three Yamaha motorcycles in the leading group of the sprint. Guillod did his best to collect six points for fifteenth.
After the quick lunch break MX2 was again in the gate and it was Van Doninck again near the front. The youngster rose as high as third place and motored across the line in fourth by the end of the thirty minutes and two laps. With Lieber gaining ground from tenth on the first lap to sixth there was a battle between the Yamaha stars for the final step on the box, which was decided in 'BVD's favour by just one point. Paturel took another solid finish with seventh while Guillod managed fourteenth.
In the final standings Van Doninck headed three Yamahas in the top ten with Lieber fourth and Paturel ending the long European stint of the calendar with eighth place.
Assen was the stage for the last meeting of the EMX250 European Championship and a demonstration of the skills and determination of Kemea Yamaha's Damon Graulus as the Belgian earned overall victory with a 1-1 for the second time this season. '172' confidently controlled proceedings on Saturday but it was his mammoth charge through the pack to pass Frederik Van Der Vlist on the last lap - with a time four seconds faster - that earned his a well-deserved double on the YZ250F. Graulus made sure of runner-up status in the standings thanks to his full bag of fifty points.
The MX2 standings show that Guillod is now 28 points from Max Anstie and third position. Lieber is eighth and Paturel ninth with Van Doninck thirteenth. Grand Prix dates in Mexico and the United States are all that remain on the 2015 calendar. MXGP will head to Leon for the second year in a row on September 11-12 and then to the hills of Glen Helen in San Bernardino in California the following week.
Brent Van Doninck
4th and 4th for 3rd overall. Championship Position: 13th
"Amazing! A first podium and first for the team also. I think we will celebrate! I liked the track; it was brutal but hats-off to the organisers. It was a nice experience this weekend. I didn't expect a podium this year and my goal was more towards the top five. It should have been possible in Lommel but I was too aggressive there and I was not ready mentally and I learnt from that race. I was more calm this weekend and it went pretty good."
3rd and 6th for 4th overall. Championship Position: 8th
"Today was not so bad. I had a pretty good start in the first moto and although I tired at the end of the race the result was OK. In the second moto my start was not as good and I had a problem with my goggles. Fourth again was not too bad but missed the podium again. I really want that podium before the end of the season. Anyway, for the championship and points it was a decent weekend."
7th and 7th for 8th overall. Championship Position: 9th
"I think I can be happy with my performance this weekend. Another top ten in a sand race is good. The first race I was struggling a little bit but after a better start I felt more comfortable in the final moto. I had the right speed to follow the top five guys but a little mistake made me lose contact with them. I was able to battle until the last lap and was happy with the result. I'm happy for the team with the podium place and I hope to add another one before the end of the year!"
15th and 14th for 14th overall. Championship Position: 4th
"Bad luck in Lommel and a crash in Mantova that was not my fault - on Saturday the crash that hurt my shoulder was actually my fault - and the situation is a bit disappointing for the title. There is now two races to go and I think third place is still possible and everything can happen. My shoulder should be OK in a few days. Today I took some important points and I'm happy to finish the races."
1st and 1st for 1st overall in EMX250. Championship Position: 2nd
"I'm really happy to finish the championship like this. I felt comfortable all weekend long and had a lot of fun on the track. I knew the Dutch riders would be fast at the beginning so I didn't push from the start on. Second race it amazed me they faded so hard at the end of the race. I could go on until the end and that proves I'm in a good shape. It's good to finish the year on a good note, it has been a strange year and I learned a lot. I really had fun again while riding with the team and with everybody around me, so thanks for all the support from them!"