The challenging and hilly Italian circuit of Maggiora Park in the northern region of Piedmont hosted round three of the 2021 FIM World Motocross Championship today.
Cloudy but dry conditions prevailed for the first races of the day, but heavy rain fell towards the end of MX2 race two transforming the notorious hard-pack circuit into a muddy ordeal - challenging riders for grip, visibility and lap consistency.
As Team HRC’s World Champion Tim Gajser (MXGP) and Team Honda 114 Motorsport’s Ruben Fernandez (MX2) both carried the World Championship leader’s red plate, Maggiora was always going to be a challenge within this super-competitive arena of motocross racing.
As the gate dropped for the first race of the day, the MX2 field hit turn one with Fernandez down in around 11th position. The tall Spaniard made it to eighth position by the end of lap one and set about a ferocious attack through the field - making solid and consistent passes and eventually finishing the race in third position.
MXGP race one soon followed as the skies hung heavy with the ever-present threat of rain. It was Team HRC’s Tim Gajser who lead the Honda charge - hitting turn one in fifth position where he remained for the race duration, struggling a little to progress through the field at the Maggiora Park circuit. The four-time World Champion wasn’t alone however, as the whole top five saw zero passes throughout the moto, underlining the Italian circuit’s notoriety for ‘hard-to-pass’ racing.
With the circuit still dry, MX2 race two leapt into action and again Honda’s World Championship leader Ruben Fernandez struggled a little to rekindle the great starts we’ve seen in previous rounds. Further bad luck came the Spaniard’s way soon into lap one with a crash at the bottom of one of the big hills, followed by another rider hitting Fernandez’s bike and locking their front wheel into the rear of CRF250R. The crash virtually ruined #70’s chances of a podium result, but Fernandez set about a hard charge back through the pack from 33rd on lap one to a fantastic 12th place at the finish. Quite an astonishing recovery by any standards - and all credit to Fernandez, Team Honda Racing Assomotor and the Honda CRF250R.
Ruben now sits in third place in the championship - just five points off the lead and hopes to regain the red plate in Oss, The Netherlands in one week’s time.
The final race of the day once again saw the larger capacity MXGP bikes on track. This time however the heavy skies could no-longer hold onto their payload and soon turned a dry, but challenging Maggiora Park into a slippery and unpredictable morass.
Lap one saw a fantastic start for JM Honda Racing’s Henry Jacobi in third place on the CRF450R.
Still struggling with pain, following a massive crash the week before at Matterley Basin, the 24 year old German racer soon dropped into a fast and consistent pace - holding onto third position for 14 of the race’s 17 laps.
Jacobi finished the race in fifth place, adding 16 points to his weekend classification and ended the day in an excellent 11th overall.
Team HRC’s Tim Gajser had an event-filled race two after spinning-up on the wet mesh start-gate and hitting turn one down in 11th place. A stone then caught the Slovenian’s goggles disrupting his vision as more mud and stones flew into his face. The current World Champion regrouped and despite some small mistake, set about a heroic charge towards to the front and within striking distance of a fourth place finish, but time ran out and Gajser had to settle for a sixth place, but retains the World Championship leader’s red plate going into the next round in two week’s time