The last one for Mickael Pichon and Ben Townley
Final round of the 2004 FIM Motocross World Championship, the Grand Prix of South Africa was the best overseas event we ever saw in the history of Motocross. It’s without any gusts of wind and under heavy sun that the season ended with a double win for Mickael Pichon and Ben Townley.
Favourite on this supercross style track, Mickael Pichon got an easy win in the first race as Stefan Everts only put some pressure during the first two laps. Never really comfortable on this track, the new World Champion took a safe second place with a huge advantage (28 seconds) on Joshua Coppins. Surprising Japanese Yoshitaka Atsuta, who probably did his last appear in the series, got the holeshot in the second race and led Albertyn, Everts, Coppins, Pichon and Strijbos; with the support of his fans Albee took the lead before the end of the first lap, but at the same moment Pichon and Everts collided in a corner! Stefan felt on his right shoulder and unfortunately retired, his first one since the 2001 Dutch GP in Lierop. Albee led two laps but then Pichon passed him, and made a safe pace until a crash in the sandy section! Coppins got the lead followed by Steve Ramon, and with Pichon only sixth he was at mid-race the virtual winner of the GP. But Pichon came back from sixth to second behind Coppins and finally won the GP, followed by Coppins, Ramon and Kevin Strijbos. Twice seventh Cedric Melotte got his best result since his come back and offered the manufacturer title to Yamaha, finally leading Honda by only two points! Unlucky in the first moto as Marnicq Bervoets (who raced his last GP this week-end) crashes just under his front wheel in the sandy part, Greg Albertyn got a good sixth position in the second heat.
The races were tougher in the MX2 class, as Ben Townley could never manage a safe gap! He got a lot of pressure from Tyla Rattray and Stephen Sword in the first heat, but unfortunately the British rider had gearbox problems and retires in the ninth lap, losing his last chance to get the final third spot in the championship. Winning the first race by only one second, Ben had to control Cairoli in the second heat as the Italian kid shares twice with his team-mate Claudio Federici the best start. Fifth and second Cairoli finishes the GP in third behind Townley and Rattray, followed by Aigar Leok who got his second consecutive heat podium; the Estonian kid came back strongly from eighteenth to third, but wasn’t able to repeat this performance n the second race. Injured at a thumb and a shoulder on Saturday Mickael Maschio retires promptly in the first heat; crashing twice in the first heat his countryman Sébastien Pourcel got the final sixth position behind regular Patrick Caps. For the last GP of his long career (he races the GP’s during eighteen seasons) Andrea Bartolini finishes twice in the points and twelfth overall.
MX1 Grand Prix: 1.Pichon (1/2) / 2.Coppins (3/1) / 3.Ramon (5/3) / 4.Strijbos (4/4) / 5.Melotte (7/7) / 6.Atsuta (11/5) / 7.Noble (8/10) / 8.Everts (2/DNF) / 9.Kovalainen (14/8) / 10.Dobes (15/9) / etc….
MX2 Grand Prix: 1.Townley (1/1) / 2.Rattray (2/3) / 3.Cairoli (5/2) / 4.Leok (3/7) / 5.Caps (6/5) / 6.Pourcel (12/4) / 7.Federici (7/10) / 8.Swanepoel (4/15) / 9.Boissière (11/8) / 10.Nunn (10/9 / etc….
Mickael Pichon. “ The second moto was not really as I would expect. Stefan was pretty aggressive in the beginning, like he has been many times this year. I understood he wants to win, but I wanted as well. I came in the inside in a corner, I jumped from the inside to the middle but he change his line and we collided. May be it was not a very nice move, but last year he did the same in Austria and I almost crashed there. Unfortunately he went down this time, but as I said I just wanted to make the move. His reaction was not really nice, I imagine he was really mad and he tried to push me out in a corner. It’s not a good end for the championship, I just wanted to win this GP. When I took the lead I managed a safe gap, I don’t really know what I did but I crashed pretty hard in the sand section, it was a stupid crash. I re-start as soon as possible, and then I knew that Josh was leading and that I had to finish second to win the GP. I pushed really hard to come back, it was not so easy because it was pretty difficult to make the difference on that track but I came back second behind Josh and that was enough to win the GP.”
Joshua Coppins. “I wanted to end the season with some GP wins, but Mickael has been really strong and I’m happy with this heat win. I’m looking for next year now, we’ve a lot of things to do with the team. When I first came here it looked really good but I couldn’t ride well; today was much better, they really did a good job considering the soil and the weather. The second race was really exciting, I think it was amazing on television and for me it was fun. I was so happy to race with Albertyn, he has been my hero and that was really cool to be racing with him.”
Steve Ramon. “Overall it was a good week end but on saturday I didn’t found the good rhythm, the track was difficult. Hopefully it came better and better, and today was correct. I’m happy to finish the season on the podium, I’m fourth of the championship and my goal for this first season in the MX1 class was to be top five. My second race was much better than the first one, I was able to follow Joshua Coppins who led the race; I’d some good lines, but five laps to the end I didn’t’ understood why Pichon was behind me. I didn’t saw him crashing and he surprised me, he was riding really strong and finally passed me at the end.”
Ben Townley. “It was a really good day for me, I end the season with 21 wins and I got exactly what I was expecting two days with a double win. Tyla was really motivated for this GP and in the first race he put a lot of pressure on me; we had some problems with the lappers, but I was able to keep the pace with him. I felt sick after the first race and the second moto was tough for me, it was hard to find the motivation to go on the grid. I’m really pleased to win the GP today, it was not a home GP but they did an amazing GP and for me it was the best event of the year, everyone there has a lot of passion.”
Tyla Rattray. “I’m happy to be on the podium, there was a lot of pressure on me as many people expect me to win. Second is good enough as Ben was really strong today, he was the best on the track. With the two stroke I was loosing traction in the paddock section, but despite this disadvantage I pushed really hard in the last laps of the first moto to try to beat Ben. Some riders jumped too early at the second start and I missed it; I had to come back from sixth to three, but then Ben and Antonio were far away. It has been good to race in front of my home crowd, I hope we’ll be back next year and see more fans cheering us to beat some New Zealand kids.”
Antonio Cairoli. “Yesterday I didn’t felt so comfortable on the track, it was too slippery for me. Hopefully it was better today, I had two good start. In the first moto my goal was to make a safe race and look at Sword, as he could pass me for the third position in the championship. When I saw him retiring I felt better, and in the second heat I did my best to catch Ben. I got the holeshot, we did a great race with Ben and even if he won I’m really happy with my race. Now I have to work strong this winter, as my goal will be to take the number one plate.”
For more info and results check the official web site of the FIM Motocross World Championships: www.motocrossMX1.com