Seewer revs up second Swiss MXGP this century with MX2 Pole
The second Grand Prix of three-in-three weeks visited the ‘stadium’ setting of Frauenfeld-Gachnang a thirty-minute drive from Zurich and history was on repeat. One year from the circuit’s inauguration and for delivering MXGP back to starved Swiss fans (although there was a cosmopolitan mix in the generous crowd for Saturday’s practice and qualification) the fixture was battered by constant rainfall on the build-up. The dowsing actually proved useful for the soil that softened and morphed into typically tricky ruts and the surface bore up well under the deluge. The walkways by fences were passable and the rolling grey clouds on a dry Saturday were not a major deterrent.
Frauenfeld is a compact and winding circuit that had been adjusted and lengthened for 2017. The layout is a contrast to the rest of the facility that sees the paddock and living area sprawled around the confines of a sugar factory: sweet indeed.
Seewer was the major draw and when he wasn’t dealing with fan and media requests around the busy Suzuki awning then he was hammering away at the berms of his home dirt and was in no mood to dispute top billing on the time sheets. #91 dealt with Julien Lieber and confirmed just his second Pole Position of the season. Red Bull KTM’s Pauls Jonass had his hands full with Rockstar Husqvarna’s Thomas Kjer Olsen and Monster Energy DRT Kawasaki’s Darian Sanayei; the American pulling off a great overtaking move four corners from the flag to take fourth and his best qualifying slot of 2017 to-date.
Watched by Formula One championship leader and Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel (a nearby resident) the MXGP moto was pretty static, in some ways similar to the historic car racing series actually. Cairoli gobbled advantage of a mistake by holeshotter Max Anstie to remain ahead of the Brit. It looked like an easy run but the MXGP points leader and 2016 Swiss GP victor said it was anything but. “The track is the same as last year: a lot of ruts and technical, and it means you have to stay away from mistakes,” he said. “I tried different lines and something different for tomorrow but it was difficult to focus and Max stayed close. The ruts will be harder tomorrow.”
Jeffrey Herlings – fastest in the two practice sessions – was the only rider moving up through the leading group aside from the recovering gaggle of both HRC riders Evgeny Bobryshev and Tim Gajser, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Clement Desalle and Monster Energy Yamaha’s Jeremy Van Horebeek who had all tangled and fallen on the first turn. Gajser circulated just ahead of Cairoli, indicating that his speed and pace is more than capable of the same track space (different position) tomorrow. Herlings crashed in his harassment of Wilvo Yamaha’s Arnaud Tonus – cheered as voraciously as Seewer – for fourth and dropped back to sixth.
Suzuki’s Kevin Strijbos, Assomotor’s Alessandro Lupino and Monster Energy DRT Kawasaki’s Tommy Searle all ended the Heat sprint content with top eleven rankings.
Yet more developments for the Motocross of Nations. Team USA finally named a trio that found an easy answer to the dilemmas of scheduling, energy, SX testing, time and travelling in Zach Osborne, Cole Seely and Thomas Covington; the latter riding a FC450. Covington – a subject of a feature interview in the next issue of OTOR on Tuesday and how he is almost mastering Grand Prix in his fourth attempt at MX2 – might be the slightly ‘leftfield’ pick for the Americans but #64 has plenty of laps under his belt at Matterley Basin, can count on excellent support from Husqvarna, Jacky Martens and his race team and will not lack the intensity or desire to drop everything on the English hillside for the cause.
Frauenfeld was an apt location for Switzerland to show off their natural pick of Tonus, Valentin Guillod (surprisingly back on a 250) and Seewer; a collection of capable athletes with podium potential. Guillod needs to find full fitness after two operations to repair a broken metacarpal on his left hand but the 24 year old famously defeated Jeffrey Herlings at Matterley Basin in 2015.
The hosts face a headache. Or more accurately new Team Manager Mark Chamberlain is currently courting a wealth of opinions from British fans about the best trio to select for undoubtedly the biggest race for any of the UK’s shortlist. Dean Wilson and Max Anstie seem solid bankers for two slots leaving the third MX2 berth between Tommy Searle (competing in Switzerland for the first time in 2017 but also winner of the MX2 British Grand Prix at Matterley in 2012 and the circuit was the site of his first GP podium as a 16 year old in 2006), British Champion Ben Watson, Thomas Covington’s teenage teammate Conrad Mewse (who has come into good form of late) and former multi British Champion and winner of the Indonesian Grand Prix Shaun Simpson (the Scot returning after a broken arm at the Grand Prix of Sweden next week). Searle would be the most obvious choice on pedigree and with his Monster Energy DRT Kawasaki team having rapid KX250Fs at his disposal (Team Owner Steve Dixon is also overseeing the Matterley event). Expect a decision this week.
After several days of wet weather the dry climate of Saturday is forecast to stretch into Sunday and where round fifteen of nineteen will precede a hurried trip north and in Sweden for the third meeting in a row.
See issue #161 of OTOR on Tuesday for more news and views from Switzerland.