The all-conquering Red Bull KTM team failed to get a rider onto the top step of the MX2 podium for just the second time this season at round 12 of the FIM Motocross World Championship – the MXGP of Indonesia – at Pangkal Pinang today.
A fighting third in the opening race, South African Calvin Vlaanderen (Team HRC) then backed it up with a career-first moto win second time out to record a career-first overall victory and give Honda its first MX2 win since Tim Gajser in 2015.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “There are no words for it, I’m just speechless. The last few laps were so long. The team was encouraging me and I just pushed and pushed and pushed. Since I started riding as a kid this was my dream – to win a GP – and I did it. It’s been such a long road to this.
“I had two good starts which helped me a lot and my first holeshot ever in a GP. I’m so pumped.”
American Thomas Covington (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna) holeshot the opening 30-minute plus two lap race from Vlaanderen, Henry Jacobi (STC Racing Husqvarna) and Jorge Prado (Red Bull KTM). Defending champion Pauls Jonass (Red Bull KTM) was also in the mix along with Thomas Kjer Olsen (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna) and British rider Ben Watson (Kemea Yamaha).
A crash on lap two dropped Watson all the way back to 16th as Jonass moved ahead of Prado before setting off after Vlaanderen while Covington posted a series of fastest laps to pull clear at the front.
With four laps left Jonass moved into second but Covington was too far down the track to catch and at the line had a 13-second lead over the Latvian. Vlaanderen was third after surviving an intense final two laps as Prado pressured him all the way to the flag. Olsen was fifth with Watson fighting his way up the order to sixth.
Vlaanderen holeshot race two after cutting across the field into the opening left-hand corner and never looked like being caught. Jonass was second from Olsen and Prado but Covington was well down after being squeezed out along the start straight.
Watson rounded the first few corners in sixth but was quickly up into fourth and after 10 minutes was still there as he matched Jonass and Prado for pace. Olsen and Davy Pootjes (LRT KTM) latched onto the back of the battle for second and at half-distance Prado passed Jonass.
Watson then pushed Jonass back to fourth and the Latvian began to fade badly in the heat, eventually dropping to seventh after a series of mistakes.
With Vlaanderen motoring clear, Watson then made a move on Prado five laps from the end. The young Spaniard fought back but within a few corners he’d lost the tow and Watson crossed the line six seconds behind the winner in a career-best second.
Prado was third from Covington, Pootjes and Jago Geerts (Kemea Yamaha) with Jonass’ seventh-placed finish ensuring he keeps the red series leader’s plate – but the gap is down to seven points heading into next weekend’s MXGP of Asia.
Despite his second race performance, Watson missed a top-three finish by a point as Covington and Prado joined Vlaanderen on the podium. He did, however, reduce the gap to Olsen – who’s third in the championship – by nine points to 18 with eight rounds left.
In a depleted field, Adam Sterry (F&H Kawasaki) was the only other British rider in action and he ended the day 11th with nine-11 finishes.