Clement Desalle put the Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team on the podium with two strong rides in the opening round of the FIM World MXGP Motocross Championship at Neuquén in central Argentina.
The Belgian, who had qualified third the previous day, didn’t get a clean run through the opening turn of the first GP moto to emerge sixth before pushing forward methodically, his lap times varying by less than a second, to pick off his rivals one by one until taking over third place six laps from the finish. All of the leading riders gated well in race two to engage in some thrilling tussles through the opening lap before Clement made second place his own until he had to make way for the eventual winner at half-distance. He remained a secure third to the finish, a position he also holds in the championship standings as the series heads back to Europe for round two of nineteen at Valkenswaard in the Netherlands.
His KRT teammate Julien Lieber, an MXGP rookie this season, had a solid debut to end the day eighth. The slightly-built Belgian made a superb start in the opening moto to hold down second place for two laps before making way for several more experienced rivals until he found a comfortable newcomer pace in eighth, where he finished the race. A crash at the start of race two left him outside the top twenty on the opening lap but he showed character to advance to twelfth place at the finish.
Clement Desalle: “It was a strong weekend. We worked a lot on the bike in the winter and this weekend we saw confirmation that we did our job well. We have seen this weekend that there are still a couple of things we need to look at, but there were only two guys in front of us and they were both already very fast. We have a good base to work from.”
Julien Lieber: “I got a great start in the first moto, and was second behind Cairoli for two laps but they were all pushing hard behind me and I didn’t want to take too many risks for my first race in six months. The second start was not as good; I was in the top ten but was pushed outside and lost grip with the front wheel. The track was really rough so I’m happy with my results; I am also happy that my first race is behind me as I will be more relaxed for the next one.”
Tommy Searle took his Bike It Dixon Racing Team Kawasaki to a solid ninth in the opening moto, but was also involved in the incident at turn one of race two and again finished one position behind Lieber for eleventh overall.