The 2021 FIM World Motocross Championship began today at the Orlyonok Circuit in the Krasnodar territory of southern Russia. Orlyonok's Black Sea shores grace the hillside and make a picturesque backdrop to the notoriously challenging hard-packed track.
Mirroring the 2020 season, a revised race-day schedule was in place in Russia, meaning Free and Timed Practice sessions are run on Sunday morning - followed by racing from midday (local time) onwards. This quick-format means time for track acclimatisation and bike adjustments are at a premium.
In the MX2 class it was Team Honda 114 Motorsport’s new signing Ruben Fernandez who showed early Free Practice form with fourth place in the session, followed by Team Honda Racing Assomotor’s Stephen Rubini in seventh. Both riders struggled to adjust to changing track conditions and in Timed Practice they finished the session with Rubini in 10th and Fernandez in 11th.
The MXGP class saw HRC’s Tim Gajser cruise through Free Practice in 9th at the finish with Team Team JM Racing Honda’s Henry Jacobi in 8th. Timed Practiced immediately followed with Team HRC’s four-time World Champion Gajser ending the session in second place and Jacobi riding the CRF450R down in 16th.
Fresh from recently winning the Spanish National MX2 Championship riding the CRF250R Ruben Fernandez blasted his Team Honda 114 Motorsport’s Honda into an early battle for the lead in race one. The Spaniard fought a gallant race with attacks from all angles throughout the moto, eventually bringing his Honda home in second. A fantastic result for Honda’s new MX2 rider.
Race two saw a similar start for Ruben, powering his Honda into an early second place and again doing battle at the sharp-end of the pack. Small mistakes towards the midpoint of the race cost Fernandez two positions, but he managed a pass on the penultimate lap to take third place in the race and a very well-deserved second place overall and second in the World Championship standings.
Recovering from a recent broken C6 vertebrae and a damaged nerve in the shoulder, Team Honda Racing Assomotor’s Stephen Rubini showed great promisee in race two holding onto fourth position in the early laps, but a big crash followed by an off-track excursion spoilt his chances of a better overall result.
As the gnarly Russian circuit began to bake and cut-up the gate dropped for the first time in 2021 for the hotly-contested MXGP class as Team HRC’s Tim Gajser fired his CRF450RW into an early lead and soon settled into an unbeatable pace - clearly enjoying the track and the on-point setup of his HRC machine. Gajser took race one easily with almost 17 seconds in-hand.
Race two drama struck as the riders hit turn one and Gajser was pushed far off-line and crashed as the pack raced away leaving the Slovenian down in 24th place. As an indication of Tim’s speed on the HRC machine, as he crossed the line to complete lap one he’d already made his way up to ninth position; and by lap six he was in second place. Setting sector times alight, Gajser was clearly the fastest rider on track and took the lead on lap 11 - going on to win the race and overall GP win, putting Team HRC in the World Championship lead after round one.