With two months to the start of the World MX1 Championship series, actual results in the invitational race at Mantova seldom reflect world championship form but all three Kawasaki riders proved that they have the speed to be a force to be reckoned with in this year’s world series.
Team newcomers Jonathan Barragan (7th) and Xavier Boog (9th) each showed that they are getting used to the KX450F, while Sebastien Pourcel, out of luck all day, displayed podium speed in each of the first two races.
Three motos, each of 20 minutes plus two laps of a track made tortuous by rain prior to race day, faced the riders under a bright, blue sky and Barragan was the only member of the team to emerge from qualification with a decent choice of gate position so vital for a good start.
Even though he has had little time on the bike so far this year because of the atrocious weather all over Europe, Jonathan gated on the edge of the top ten and advanced strongly to finish 5th, but an early collision in race two kept him downfield in 17th and the Spaniard ended the day with a 9th place as passing became more and more difficult on the rutted track.
With no chance of a decent start from an outside gate Boog put in three solid rides to advance through the pack in each moto and also to improve his finishing position each time.
Setting identical lap times to the leaders Pourcel was advancing quickly through the pack in the early laps of the first race until he twisted an ankle in a deep rut and wisely pulled out. Again facing a charge past slower riders in race two, Sébastien decided to wait for the leaders and, although a lap down, was able to follow their pace without difficulty, a good sign for the future. Having proven his race speed, he withdrew from the third race early rather than take unnecessary risks on the rutted track.
“I was hoping a better result for this first race of the season, but the bad weather in recent weeks has played havoc with our preparation and we haven’t been able to test many new things on the bike. In fact I only got to ride my factory KX450F for the first time last Thursday, so I still need time to get used to it because it is very different to my training bike, particularly the suspension and the engine power. But we have a strong team around us and I have a race every week until then so I am confident that we will be right up there when the GP season starts in two months.”
“This was my first race for ten months and, even if the results were not so good, I had a good feeling on the bike today. Unfortunately I had a crash during the qualification on Saturday so I was on the outside of the gate today and had no chance of a good start. But I did get a good jump out of the gate each race and that is a good sign for the future. I twisted my ankle in a rut in the first race so I didn’t want to take any risks in the other motos; in fact I decided to wait for the leaders in race two and was able to find a rhythm and follow them without any trouble. I have less pain in my shoulder now; that is important and I am confident that I now know what I have to do in the next two months to be ready for the first GP.”
The track conditions were very tough today but I improved my result in each moto so I am happy with that. The way they allocate the positions at the start gate here always seem to be a lottery; I ended up with an outside gate and you can’t expect a decent start from there. I managed to finish 10th in the last race, which is not bad as I had to rest last week because of a finger injury. I had some pain in the first few laps of racing, but it got better as the day went on and I’m sure that Valence will be a better race for us as the team has several days of testing planned in the south of France before we go there.”