Ben Townley and Stefan Everts winners and leaders
Round 4 of the 2004 world championship confirmed this weekend that both the MX1 and MX2 classes are really more open than usual. With up-coming talents as Italian Antonio Cairoli (MX2) or Belgium Ken De Dijcker (MX1) and with more than two riders able to win a race, the season seems to be much more exciting, even if Ben Townley and Stefan Everts won again this week end and are already strong leaders in their respective classes.
The opening race was the MX2 class, and once more young Italian Cairoli grabbed the holeshot on his Yamaha de Carli followed by De Reuver and Chiodi. Surprisingly Cairoli was always in the lead at the end of the opening lap, with Townley, De Reuver, Rattray, Chiodi and Sword right behind him. Townley passed him in the second lap but was unable to make a break with his rivals and even crashed in the fifth lap, loosing three positions. So Cairoli was back in the lead and confirmed his talent as he controlled De Reuver untill the engine of the Dutch star failed in the ninth lap…. Townley came second and finally took definitively the lead in the tenth lap; Rattray also passed Cairoli who secured his first heat podium, followed by Sword, McFarlane and Federici while Maschio came back from twenty seventh to eight. The second MX2 race was amazing, with a great battle between De Reuver and Townley; Cairoli got another one holeshot, but Townley and De Reuver were leading the race before the end of the first lap. De Reuver took the lead in the second lap, was passed by Ben in the sixth one and then started one of the nicest battle since the beginning of the season. Fighting during ten laps, changing their lines in each corner, the KTM boys offered a great show to the crowd. Finally Marc took again the lead in the sixteen lap, but had immediately to slow down with a damaged shift level. He finished fourth behind Townley, Rattray and Chiodi.
In the first MX1 race Ramon got the holeshot followed by Melotte, Strijbos, local Verhoeven, Garcia Vico, Smets and Pichon. Melotte made a move in the opening lap and started to put a couple of lap records while Strijbos, Smets, Everts and Pichon were battling behind him. The gap between the leader and his rivals increased to thirteen seconds, and nobody was able to join Melotte who got his second heat win of the season. Behind him the racing was great, but either Ramon (in the fifth lap) or Pichon (in the tenth lap) couldn’t avoid a crash; finally Everts took the second spot to Smets in the sixteenth lap, and Pichon passed back Strijbos for fourth in nineteenth lap. With Strijbos, surprising De Dijcker and Ramon in fifth, sixth and seventh, Belgium placed six riders in the top seven! Pichon got the holeshot in the second heat, but had Everts, Smets, Melotte, Coppins and Gundersen in his rear wheel. Everts tried to push in the first laps, but Melotte was stronger and passed him in the sixth lap; one lap later he took the lead, and two laps later Everts also passed Pichon. The Yamaha boys were dominating the race, and finally Everts found some energy in the second part of the race to put some pressure on Melotte. He passed his team-mate and won the heat and the grand prix (74 wins), while Smets got his best result of the season as he passed Pichon for a third place in the heat and overall.
Everts “I was not so successful the last three years here in Valkenswaard, and I’m happy to be back on the podium here. It has been a really hard race, Cedric was going really fast, we had a really good setting on our Yamaha. In the first race I was like a sandwich between Joel and Mickaël, it was a really tricky situation. When Mickael did a mistake I started to be more relax and was able to come back on Joel. My second race was much better, and when Cedric passed me and Mickael I knew I had to follow him. Then Cedric start to get tired and it was time for me to made the move”.
Melotte “In the second race I started fourth and I was pushing too hard in the beginning of the race. I was on my rhythm and didn’t want to give up, so I passed both Stefan and Mickael to take the lead. But Stefan had a good speed in this race and passed me back. It’s a good GP for me, as in the first race I passed Ramon early and then pushed really hard to make a gap. It’s never easy to be alone in the lead as it’s easy to make mistakes, but I like this, for sure.”
Smets “I’m satisfied with my riding today, I’m closed to my plan as I was expecting a podium in the third or fourth GP. I hope it’s the start for many podiums. It’s the first time since the last 2003 GP that I do two races at high speed, and in the first race I tried to save some energy for the second heat. Now the goal is to get some wins, we proved today that the level of our bike is good enough for GP wins”.
Townley “It was a tough week for me, as I twisted my ankle earlier and had some problems to prepare this GP, I’d like to thanks all the people who helped me. We had a lot of fun in the second race during our battle with Marc, unfortunately he was unlucky today. It’s for sure the best day of my racing career”
Rattray “It’s another one good weekend for me, I’m pleased with my second position and expect some other wins this year. In the second moto I was coming closer to Marc and Ben, but finally they pushed in the second part of the race and I couldn’t join them. The two stroke is really competitive too in the sand, I proved today”.
Chiodi “I had a lot of problems in the beginning of season with my hand injury, and I’m a little bit surprised to be here in the sand on a podium. My goal was a top five this weekend, but things were going well even if I did the first heat without rear brake. I got a seventh position, then in the second heat I got a really good start and kept the same rhythm to finish third”.
Photo © A. Hodgkinson