Bitter Sweet Start to 2019 MXGP Season
A dramatic MXGP season opener saw Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP's Romain Febvre return to his winning ways with an incredible Qualifying Race victory followed by an impressive top-three finish in Race 1. Unfortunately the tenacious Frenchman was unable to finish the Grand Prix after a heavy fall in the closing stages of the final race. Monster Energy Wilvo Yamaha MXGP's Gautier Paulin stole the show as he utilized the impeccable power and handling of his YZ450F to finish inside the top-five after falling at turn one. Paulin was fifth in the overall classification only 3-points shy of the podium, while Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP's Jeremy Seewer finished ninth.
Romain Febvre was the man to beat this weekend. After topping the charts in Time Practice, the former World Champ charged to a stunning victory in the first Qualifying Race of the season.
As the pole man, the 27 year-old chose gate number one in both races, which gave him the inside line going into the first sweeping left-hand corner. In Race 1, he entered a raging battle with Antonio Cairoli for the first fifteen minutes, and controlled second place for all but three-laps with Gajser taking advantage of a slight error in the latter stages.
Behind the gripping action at the front of the field, Monster Energy Wilvo Yamaha MXGP's Gautier Paulin started inside the top-seven and showed some good speed as he forced his way into the top-five. Monster Energy Yamaha Factory MXGP's Jeremy Seewer got off to a good start but after more than 3-weeks off the bike, he was sucked back to tenth-place by the time the flag was waved.
After spinning up on the start-gate, Arnaud Tonus' start was less than perfect. Nevertheless, the Swiss rider ran a hot-pace as he charged from outside the top-fifteen and up into the top-ten before he spectacularly high-sided on a fast-paced section of the track. Fortunately, he was not injured in the crash, it only cost him championship points as he lost too much time after the shake-up and did not finish the race.
Tricky conditions caught out a number of riders this weekend. The final race started with Paulin and Seewer being hit by the bike of another rider, while Febvre fell heavily from third place with 6-laps to go.
Bouncing back from the chaos of the opening lap, Paulin brought the crowd to their feet as he used his masterful line-choice to surge from the back of the pack and up into the top-five, which was enough for fifth overall. Seewer, who also fell at turn-one had to dig deep as he fought back to eleventh. He was rewarded for his efforts with ninth in the overall classification.
To the amazement of the highly animated crowd, Tonus lined up for Race 2 after his enormous crash in Race 1 and managed to finish inside the top-ten. With no points scored in the first race, he wrapped up the MXGP of Argentina in 16th.
Febvre has been taken to hospital for further medical examination. An update on his condition and his return to racing will be published when available.
The next round of the FIM MXGP World Championship will take place at the popular Matterley Basin circuit in Winchester, England, on the weekend of March 24th.
5th MXGP Overall, 5th MXGP Championship Standings
"The bike was working good today. We have been working hard this winter and we had to put the bike in the crate even with some more things to work on. But today, I just had to put my helmet on and go racing. We know there are things we still need to improve but it is what it is. The bike is working really good. The chasis is awesome on the Yamaha, I really enjoy it, and the engine too. With the little improvements we can make, I am really looking forward to it, and I need to keep working myself also. I feel like I had a good weekend, just had bad luck with another rider hitting me in the first turn. I think his bike hit my bike and I went over the 'bars big time. But overall I feel strong and fifth place to start the season, close enough to the podium is a good start. I really enjoyed the racing."
9th MXGP Overall, 9th MXGP Championship Standings
"The weekend was tough as expected. Today was better than yesterday. We have some positives to take away, like my starts were good. My endurance is not so bad, I just struggle with the quick laps especially in Time Practice. I am missing some riding hours, but starting the season inside the top ten is good points on the board and we have some weeks now to get stronger for the next GP."
16th MXGP Overall, 16th MXGP Championship Standings
“It was a difficult Sunday for me. I had a huge crash in the first moto. I made a small mistake and went a little bit off the track on a really fast part of the track and had a really big crash. I didn’t know if I was going to ride the second moto, but Yamaha’s physiotherapist worked some magic and helped me a lot to line up for the second race. It was not easy, but I am glad I was able to line-up again. I finished tenth, and like I said, I am happy I went back out there, it was like a mental test and it’s all good.”