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The final Grand Prix of the season was all about minor bragging rights for the #mxgp faction of the works team. Tony Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings had already confirmed KTM’s first ever 1-2 in the premier class with the 450 SX-F the previous weekend at the Grand Prix of the Netherlands and Glenn Coldenhoff was competing with a sore left arm after his unlucky accident at the Assen circuit.
The steep hill of Villars sous Ecot was battered by showers both before and during the meeting, creating thick and sticky mud and a slow, carved and very technical course that involved a degree of luck and rewarded those quickest out the gate.
Herlings secured his fifth win from the last six rounds by recovering from a first lap crash in the opening race, watched by 39,500 spectators (weekend figure) to find third position by the flag. A second #moto holeshot allowed him to follow the lively Max Anstie on the FC450 and the pair circulated close together for the duration and through more rainy spells. Finally the Dutchman was able to pounce with two laps remaining and his twelfth #moto win of the year (the highest of any rider in 2017) permitted a third celebration in a row.
Herlings: “The starts were key in the mud. I got covered at the start of the first #moto and then had a pretty big crash and somehow only lost a few positions. I knew it would be tough to take the overall win so I had some luck with that one. I had my first holeshot of the year in the second moto! I had some good lines and Max also, it was hard to pass him and you had to be lucky with the lapped riders, especially in the last two laps when it was really slick. Six overall wins this year and eleven podiums: it has been good and I really want to thank Red Bull KTM. They have always believed in me and stuck behind me. There are a lot of good people in the team and they are all motivated. Whatever I have asked for they have tried to deliver it and whenever I wanted to test we went. I really appreciate the hard work they have put in and without them I wouldn't have been able to come back that strong.”
“The second part of the season we were good and strong and have won five out of the last six and I’m super-pumped about that. It was a shame about the beginning and the injury but congrats to Tony again because he was the most consistent and maybe also the smartest rider this season. I have learned a lot and I underestimated the guys. I was living in a cloud in the winter and I should have been doing other things. I had a reality-check at the first round and I knew I had to change and stick to my programme. I think I am good to go for next year. Our bike set-up is good now and we have experienced a lot. Hopefully next season we can move one step up.”
Glenn Coldenhoff was facing an uphill struggle in more ways than one at Villars. The Dutchman persevered despite originally being doubtful to participate in the Grand Prix. Glenn managed to finish seventh and ninth for ninth position overall. He finishes 2017 with tenth spot in the championship standings.
Coldenhoff: “Not so happy today. I picked up an injury in the second #moto in Assen and I had a very tough week. I didn't recover well so coming here was difficult and the conditions were not on my side. Two top ten results are quite solid with how I feel at the moment. I was still looking at seventh in the championship before Assen and I’ve finished tenth so I’m definitely not happy, but it is what it is. Now we have two weeks before the Nations and some injuries have struck [other teams]. I feel that we can win it this year.”
World Champion Tony Cairoli was understandably feeling the effects of a busy week and since the celebrations of his ninth title in Holland last Sunday. The Sicilian hit the ground in the first #moto and took ninth place and then fell again while running sixth in the second outing and retired with a slight tweak to his knee.
Cairoli: “I’m very happy with the season. We worked to win ‘the war’ and we made it. We have lowered our pace in the later part of the season but that was part of the plan with such a big points lead. I still enjoy riding so much and we are already looking forward to next year. I want to do some testing. The bike is already in a good place and I really like it but we have some things to do. This week was very tough because after the title we partied a little bit! It was hard to follow the ruts today! It is part of the job. You need to enjoy when you win. It is nice to race with these ‘kids’ because they are quite a bit younger than me but we will come back next year full of fire for the #mxgp class again.”
The three riders in the #mxgp class posted a total of twelve wins and twenty-five podium appearances from nineteen rounds. They claimed twenty-one motos and led the most laps. The Grand Prix of Belgium at Lommel, one of the hardest and most demanding tracks, saw a clean sweep by the orange trio.
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