MXGP World Champion Jeffrey Herlings ended a dominant 2018 campaign with his 17th victory of the year at Imola for the Grand Prix of Italy and the 84th of his career. The twentieth and final round of the FIM Motocross World Championship also saw Jorge Prado win for the second GP in a row and celebrate his first MX2 title with the KTM 250 SX-F.
MXGP made a third visit to Italy this year as the famous ‘Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari’ in Imola staged the FIM Motocross World Championship for the first time. A hard-packed, compact and jumpy course lay over the final section of the asphalt track provided a mix of bumps, ruts and generous air time for the riders of the MXGP and MX2 classes. Late afternoon sunshine complicated some of the visibility but also warmed a packed attendance at the facility located in the town’s ‘park’ to see the MXGP project and who were able to witness the sixteenth ‘double’ by Red Bull KTM in 2018.
MXGP and MX2 title success mean that Red Bull KTM have owned both categories for seven years since the start of the decade and with seven different riders. They missed out in 2015 and claimed just the MX2 crown in 2016. Champions in that time with the KTM 450 SX-F, 350 SX-F and 250 SX-F were Tony Cairoli, Jeffrey Herlings, Marvin Musquin, Ken Roczen, Jordi Tixier, Pauls Jonass and Jorge Prado.
Jeffrey Herlings’ assault on the statistics of 2018 continued at Imola. On Saturday the new world champion topped every session and ran to a thirteenth Qualification Heat victory. The Dutchman had maintained his strict training schedule since his title spoils at Assen two weeks previously. He overtook Tim Gajser and sprinted clear in the first moto on Sunday and offered a repeat showing of his superiority in the second.
Herlings has now reached a staggering 84 career wins just after his 23rd birthday and has won the last eight in a row with his works KTM 450 SX-F. He has claimed 17 of the 20 rounds in 2018, gracing every MXGP podium apart from the one event he missed (the Grand Prix of Lombardia at Ottobiano in the wake of collarbone surgery). Herlings has totalled 33 moto wins from a possible 38 and went 1-1 in 15 of his 17 triumphs.
2018 runner-up, Tony Cairoli, had the attention and acclaim of his home crowd but the Sicilian struggled on the final raceday of the season. A crash during the qualification heat on Saturday meant he suffered with a painful lower back and right hip. #222 finally took the difficult decision to sit out the motos.
Glenn Coldenhoff signed off his third and final year as a Red Bull KTM rider with 9th position overall. The Dutchman missed out on a podium appearance in 2018 but completed one of his most consistent campaigns to-date from his four in the MXGP division to place 7th in the final ranking, missing the top six by just 10 points.
All three athletes will now head directly to the United States and to Michigan to represent their countries at the 72nd Motocross of Nations.
Herlings: “A great way to finish the year. It has been a great experience, a great year and great memories. I especially want to thank my team. If you look to the statistics then it has been pretty unbelievable and almost an indescribable year. It will be hard to accomplish again I think. My goal now is to go 1-1 at the Nations. That would be the cherry on the cake and is the next thing on the wish list. We’ll see!”
Cairoli: “I was really happy to be here and I think this place is a good way to step up our sport but we just need to work a bit better on the track. The location is fantastic and we saw a lot of people. It is a shame I could not take part in the race but I was sore after yesterday and I knew it would be very hard for me from the outside of the gate. I was thinking about the big picture and the Nations is very important for me and for Italy. Our goal is to make the podium there because the championship was already done and Jeffrey won a lot of time and deserved the title. Second place was good for our efforts this year.”
Coldenhoff: “I had a small crash in the qualifying heat yesterday and damaged the front brake, this dropped me back quite far with the sixteenth gate pick today and on a 180 first turn it was difficult. I made the best of it. Our goal at the beginning of the season was to be way-more consistent and I was close to fifth in the championship. Overall I think I can be happy with the season.”
Pit Beirer, KTM Motorsports Director: “We have built this team over years and I feel that everyone in each position is really trying to do his or her best and it looks to be such a strong package. I think all this success is not based on luck or an incident – there is a big ‘machine’ behind it with many working to be ready from the first GP until the last and that means all our partners as well. It is such a strong operation and I think you can feel the spirit and passion when you are in the team: we’ve been working for many years so a rider who comes in can count on that. It is like the last extra ‘horsepower’ that you cannot buy. Even after so many titles I can see the fire in that team and whoever I am talking to, it is a big part of the success so a big thanks to everyone.”
“Regarding Jorge: I remember watching him on a 65cc bike and by the second lap I said ‘this is one we need to have for the future...’ but, of course, from there it is still a long way to prove everything. Finally when it says on paper that he is world champion then it is a big satisfaction for all of us. To have a champion of the future you cannot just sign a guy and expect it to happen the next year; you have to do your job and your homework five-six years beforehand and even then it is not always guaranteed. So I’m happy and super-proud that we trusted this kid but with such young athletes you also have to talk about the family and I’m thankful that they trusted us to build up Jorge carefully and not in a crazy way. Overall; such a big satisfaction.”
Jorge Prado became one of the youngest FIM Motocross World Champions at seventeen years of age (he is eighteen in January) but also the first ever for Spain in the principle categories of the series. The teenager wrapped a brilliant campaign of fast, consistent and smooth riding mixed with sensational starts (26 holeshots from 40) with his second 1-1 in a row at Imola.
#61 easily won the MX2 Qualification Heat on Saturday and seemed to revel in the jumps and technicality of the Imola dirt. In the first moto he kept pace with Hunter Lawrence and was able to profit from the Australian’s technical problem to claim the win and roll across the finish line to a busy celebration party of his team, family, friends and well-wishers. Prado was a runaway victor in the second outing.
The Spaniard’s regularity means he accumulated 17 rostrum trophies, 17 chequered flags from a possible 40 and won 12 Grands Prix with the KTM 250 SX-F.
Pauls Jonass missed the Grand Prix due to surgery on the ACL in his right knee. The Latvian had already confirmed his position as No.2 for 2018 and his absence allowed Prado to assume the status of champion before the weekend began. Pauls, who won 5 Grands Prix from the 20 and 15 motos from 40 while appearing on the podium 12 times and led the standings for more than half of the season, is expecting to make the jump into MXGP for 2019.
Prado: “I knew about being World Champion on Thursday and it was a weird moment. I didn't expect it and thought I’d race against Pauls this weekend…but I still did my best out there today and wanted to show why I won the world title. I really felt I was world champion after that first moto and in the celebration. Overall I so happy with the weekend and the way we ended the season.”
Claudio De Carli, MXGP Team Manager: “It has been a fantastic and exciting season. Jorge was great. He overcame the problem of an elbow injury in December - after already making an important part of his preparation - and kept his head down to show great spirit, sacrifice and showed all his strength to take twelve Grand Prix victories. I’d like to thank KTM for all the work done in Mattighofen and all those who believed in this project. For my crew it was a return to MX2 after several years so to immediately pick up the title is fantastic; all the team has worked very well, among them my son Davide who worked with Jorge 24 hours a day, and Tony who took him to his heart and together they worked at their best: we have seen the results. Jorge is a great guy, polite, smiling, a real sportsman and now he is one of the youngest champions in the history of motocross. He won against a high calibre of rider like Pauls Jonass and it was great to see them fight for the whole season, always one step above all the others. We hope to see Pauls back in the saddle as soon as possible.”
Robert Jonas, VP Motorsport Offroad: “Jorge has definitely had a great season. He has always been one of the most talented riders…and we’ve known that for some years. He started 2018 in a difficult way with a fractured elbow and almost no time on the bike when he went to Argentina for round one but his confidence grew during the season and finally the championship is a really big achievement. We’re very happy we have him onboard and he still has a very bright future. This year we had a very enjoyable battle within the team and with four riders: it was very nice to watch and very professionally handled by the team management so a big thanks to both of them because it could not have been any better. Jorge’s fight with Pauls was nice to see through the championship and unfortunately Pauls picked up an injury but this happens in the sport and we wish Pauls all the best. We’ll see him strong again next year.”
MXGP signs off after eight months, twenty rounds, forty motos and sixty race starts and a campaign that took the paddock from Argentina to Russia to Indonesia and across Europe. The provisional 2019 calendar should bring the whole show together on February 24th at a venue and country still to be confirmed.
Results MXGP Imola 2018
1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED) KTM (1-1)
2. Tim Gajser (SLO) Honda (2-2)
3. Clement Desalle (BEL) Kawasaki (3-3)
4. Julien Lieber (BEL) Kawasaki (5-4)
5. Gautier Paulin (FRA), Husqvarna (4-6)
9. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED), KTM (11-8)
Standings MXGP 2018 after 20 of 20 rounds
1. Jeffrey Herlings, 933 points
2. Tony Cairoli, 782
3. Clement Desalle, 685
4. Tim Gajser, 669
5. Gautier Paulin, 574
7. Coldenhoff, 534
Results MXGP Imola 2018
1. Jorge Prado (SPA) KTM (1-1)
2. Thomas Kjer Olsen (DEN) Husqvarna (2-4)
3. Thomas Covington (USA) Husqvarna (7-3)
4. Michele Cervellin (ITA) Yamaha (4-7)
5. Henry Jacobi (GER) Husqvarna (3-9)
Final Standings MX2 2018
1. Jorge Prado, 873 points
2. Pauls Jonass, 777
3. Thomas Kjer Olsen, 673
4. Ben Watson, 602
5. Thomas Covington, 599