The summer break is officially behind us, as it is time to get back to racing and continue this incredible season of the FIM Motocross World Championship.
MXGP will finally return to Afyonkarahisar after missing out on a Grand Prix in Turkey last season due to COVID-19 related difficulties and in 2021 will make an epic comeback with not one, but two GP’s – the Bitci MXGP of Turkey and Bitci MXGP of Afyon!
Afyon is still new to the World Championship calendar after making its debut in 2018 with Thomas Covington and Jeffrey Herlings the first winners at the hard pack circuit in MX2 and MXGP. The following year Herlings was able to repeat his success to win the Turkish Grand Prix once again, while in MX2 it was Jorge Prado who was the winner.
Racing alongside the MXGP and MX2 categories will be the FIM Women’s Motocross World Championship riders for round three of the series. After some very interesting couple of races Shana Van Der Vlist leads the WMX Championship standings ahead of Courtney Duncan who is just two points adrift. After a strong performance in Lommel, Lynn Valk has moved to third in the championship also. For Kiara Fontanesi this will be the first opportunity to race in Afyon as she missed out on the Turkish round in 2019. The Italian will no doubt be keen to fight for vital championship points as she looks to stay within contention of the title.
The races in Turkey will be the perfect opportunity for Duncan to get back in the driving seat as she chases her third consecutive world title. The circuit in Afyon holds special memories for the Kiwi who went 1-1 last time around in 2019 to secure her first WMX World Championship, so no doubt Duncan will enter these next two rounds with a nice confidence boost from the fond memories.
Meanwhile the EMX Open category will also be present for the final two rounds of the series as Davide De Bortoli will aim to seal the deal and claim his first EMX title, while Nicolas Dercourt and Micha-Boy De Waal will be looking to close the gap and fight for the championship.
There is no doubt that the paddock has used the summer break to re-charge their batteries, in some cases re-group or continue with the momentum that they have been carrying during the previous few races as we enter the second half of the 2021 season.
Team HRC’s Tim Gajser will return to the action fresh and ready to continue his title defence as he continues the lead the MXGP championship just 13-points ahead of Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team’s Romain Febvre. Febvre has had some impressive moments this season, but mistakes and crashes have been very costly for the Frenchman who will need to be more consistent if he wants to remain in the title chase as Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jorge Prado is breathing down his neck just a further two points behind.
For Prado the second half of this season will be vital as he will want to remain in this title fight until the last round, something he was deprived of last season.
For Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider Jeffrey Herlings the summer break came at the perfect time as he was nursing a nasty shoulder injury. His shock return in Lommel was somewhat spectacular, followed by a couple of strong races in Latvia, despite the last lap crash. Now Herlings will chase a third victory in Afyon, after his previous wins in 2018 and 2019 as he will continue to fight for vital championship points and not let this title challenge slip away again.
Glenn Coldenhoff of Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing was another podium finisher in Turkey last time around in 2019, as he went 3-2 for second overall and will aim for another podium finish this time, no doubt. Coldenhoff has just one podium finish to his name this season but has led 24 laps, though is yet to claim a race win. The Dutchman struggled in Lommel and Latvia, tracks that he is usually strong at, though hopefully with his illness and bad luck behind him, we will see the Yamaha rider bounce back for some top results.
Looking to bounce back in the second half of the championship will also be his teammate Jeremy Seewer who is currently sixth in the standings. Seewer finished second last season but has struggled in the begin of the year. He did however get back on the podium in Czech Republic where he was third overall, so has been moving in a positive direction.
Pauls Jonass of Standing Construct GasGas Factory Racing is somebody to look out for this coming weekend as the Latvian has shown some good speed and even secured a podium during the MXGP of Flanders-Belgium. While his home Grand Prix did not go to plan, the Turkish Grand Prix is a race we could see him on the podium as he previously got on the box in 2019.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Arminas Jasikonis and Thomas Kjer Olsen will line-up in Turkey keen to put together a solid weekend after some struggles in Latvia. Jasikonis did not take part in the races due to a qualifying practice crash, while Olsen had a DNF in race one, though the second race he was able to finish in eighth position. Now with a couple of weeks off, the pair will be refreshed and ready to chase more positive results.
Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Maxime Renaux will enter the Turkish double-header as the MX2 Championship leader. In Latvia, the Frenchman secured the perfect score, going 1-1 for the first time in MX2 to win the Latvian Grand Prix and extend his series lead to 34 points over Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Mattia Guadagnini who remains second after a couple of tough races.
Though Guadagnini cannot afford to relax as he has Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jago Geerts just two points behind him, as the Belgian will push to get back into title contention in the second half of this 2021 season.
Honda 114 Motorsports’ Ruben Fernandez is not far behind in fourth. The Spaniard started the season well with a couple of podiums and he even led the championship after the second round in Matterley Basin. Since then, the results have been a little tougher, with the Latvian Grand Prix proving most difficult. No doubt these last few weeks have given Fernandez some time to re-group and he will come back and be ready to fight at the top end of the field once again.
The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing duo of Jed Beaton and Kay De Wolf are another pair to keep an eye out for, with both riders proving that they can fight at the front on various terrains.
Meanwhile F&H Kawasaki Racing’s Mathys Boisrame is among the riders who could perform well this weekend. There is no secret that Boisrame is a strong hard pack rider, along with the likes for Fernandez, Renaux and Thibault Benistant, so it’s likely that we will see them all fight for a podium spot on Sunday.
Fellow F&H Kawasaki rider Mikkel Haarup has also been building momentum over the last couple of GP’s, get himself some top 10 finishes, including 7th overall in Latvia which was his best overall result of the season. It will be interesting to see what the Dane can do in Turkey. His teammate Roan Van De Moosdijk was one of the podium finishers last time around in Turkey, though unfortunately will not line-up in Afyon as he continues to recover from injury.
Tom Vialle of Red Bull KTM Factory Racing will be fighting fit again in Turkey after a tough start to his title defence campaign after a practice crash which put him out for several GP’s. Viall has been budling momentum since getting back to racing and we saw him fighting inside the top five before the break. Now with four more weeks of recovery and training under his belt, it will be interesting to see if Vialle will return to his winning ways in Turkey.
Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing’s Thibault Benistant has had a positive rookie season thus far. The Frenchman has been on the podium just once but has been constantly fighting with the top guys and has even won a race. His race win in Maggiora was a big confidence boost and the podium in Loket, another hard pack track, just goes to show that he has the speed on the hard surface. With Afyon being another hard pack track, we could see Benistant shine once again and fight for his second MX2 podium.