Cairoli talks ‘emotional’ 79th Grand Prix win at Trentino
79 wins at 31 and still not out: Tony Cairoli provided a champion’s masterclass to a circuit full of fans at Pietramurata that lapped up his charge from a first corner mistake and a position outside of the top twenty to second place on a track ‘impossible’ for passing and his second Grand Prix victory of the season, almost taking his career tally into the 80s.
A series of block passes on rivals such as Gautier Paulin, Clement Desalle, Jeffrey Herlings and eventually Evgeny Bobryshev on the final lap of the second moto at what was round five of nineteen in MXGP drove the facility of largely partisan fans to a frenzy. The Red Bull KTM rider described the performance across the hard-pack as “one of my best races, best GPs ever…the most emotional.”
Trentino represented only the third podium for #222 in 2017 but it was the second occasion this campaign where the Sicilian was able to show his increased competitiveness. The thrilling comeback – which has been seen and praised by race fans across the globe on social media channels – followed a commanding Pole Position and first moto success.
“I’m feeling good on the bike. On a track like this I have won many times but it is not one of my favourites and I don’t have much fun to ride…although the second moto was pretty fun,” he remarked after the post-race melee that saw the start straight swamped by Cairoli and Tim Gajser fans.
Cairoli benefitted from powerful starts all weekend long in what was the first of two home Grands Prix this year but carried a little too much speed into the tight left-right opening turns. “I hit the bank on the first corner and almost crashed into the mud but then crashed in the second [corner] and was hit by a lot of people,” he recounts. “I was very pissed off that I made a mistake and said ‘I need to put myself on the podium’ and I did my best to come back from twentieth place to do that. It was pretty sketchy in some places but I made it happen.”
His progress was exciting to witness. By the time he’d reached the lead pack – all bunched within two-three seconds of each other and at similar speed – Cairoli was already looking around and ahead of him going over the jumps. “When I got to seventh or eighth place I saw the group in front and thought it was possible to catch Bobryshev for the overall win and kept pushing and pushing and making passes,” he said. “I had some sketchy moments but that is part of racing: if you want to win you have to take risks. I gave everything in the last ten minutes.”
Cairoli also revealed that the noise and excitement from the fences carried a double edge: “On one side it gives you a lot of pressure but in another way it is special. It was fun and I’m happy the fans also liked it. It was nice racing.”
The eight time world champion’s defiance, skills and conditioning to triumph in this manner was evidence for his critics that at 31 years of age (eleven more than Gajser) he’s still more than a match for the majority of his rivals in MXGP: the depth of which is now more profound that at any point this decade (fifteen of the top twenty in Trentino have GP winning experience).
“When you are fit and healthy then you get excited,” Cairoli started to explain regarding his current form. “When you are struggling then it brings you down. [Performances] like this mean you are fit and motivated. Last year was one of the worst of my career because of injury and I was giving up in some races and I wouldn’t have done that in the past; it was difficult mentally because I couldn’t express myself like I want. I obviously feel better so I’m really happy.”
MXGP moves onto the Eurocircuit at Valkenswaard in Holland this weekend: a reaping ground for Cairoli with five consecutive wins there between 2010 and 2014.
Photos by Ray Archer