Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MX1 rider Clement Desalle took a historic victory aboard the Factory RM-Z450 in the opening round of the 2013 FIM World Motocross Championship under the floodlights of the Losail circuit in Qatar on Saturday evening.
Desalle stormed to a clear victory in the first MX1 race and then finished second in the new "Superfinal" race - that saw the top MX1 and MX2 riders go head-to-head in a Motocross of Nations-style race - to take the lead in the 18-round series.
Warm conditions and a late evening schedule - the new Superfinal took place at 23.10 local time - were just two of the circumstances Desalle and team-mate Kevin Strijbos had to deal with at Losail for the first of two back-to-back flyaway races.
Desalle was fast in Friday qualifying to earn second place in the gate for Saturday's sole MX1 moto of 35 minutes and two laps; and the work concentrated on his starting potential paid dividends with two excellent starts: In the first, he dealt with Strijbos who took the holeshot, and then the Belgian stalked the rear wheel of Ken De Dycker, eventually passing his fellow countryman with 10 minutes remaining and defended a comfortable lead to the flag. Afterwards, he lined-up in the new Superfinal and to see both Desalle and Strijbos heading the 40-strong pack around the first corner showed the fiery performance of the 2013 RM-Z450 Suzuki from a standing start. Desalle again led the way but could do little about defending champion Antonio Cairoli on this occasion and concentrated on taking the overall win - his first victory since Sweden last year.
Strijbos walked away from his first Grand Prix back on the RM-Z450 content with a pair of sixth position finishes and the kind of pace on the opening lap that will place him in the regular slot of protagonist if he can repeat it. It was confirmation for the Belgian that he still has a lot to offer the team and the MX1 category.
With Desalle's machine sporting the red number plate as series leader, the Rockstar Energy Suzuki crew quickly crated its machinery and equipment in preparation for freight to Pattaya and the maiden Grand Prix of Thailand next week.
"It is a good feeling to start the season with the red plate but it doesn't mean so much because the year is very long. I have always said that when I have fun on my bike, then the results go well and that's really important. I didn't make many mistakes today and my starts were much better than we saw in the pre-season races; that was a good point. I had some difficult moments last season and also coming back from some injuries, but I feel good on the bike now and wasn't pushing too hard. I want to say a big thanks to my team because they made a big job in the last few weeks. It was tough to start the championship a month earlier than usual."
"I can be happy to start with sixth. I got a holeshot in the first race and led for the first six laps and Ken de Dycker was pushing me and I was a bit stressed. I made some mistakes and people overtook me but I recovered from that moment to be steady again. I wasn't too happy with how I rode and I gave myself another chance by getting around the first corner in second place in that next moto. I pushed as hard as I could. I would love to be top-five but it was a solid way to start. I think other people had a worse day than me."
MX1 Moto1 result: 1. Clement Desalle (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MX1), 40:02.285; 2. Ken de Dycker (BEL, KTM), +0:08.309; 3. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:09.774; 4. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:11.672; 5. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda), +0:13.348; 6. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MX1), +0:19.233; 7. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), +0:45.330; 8. Shaun Simpson (GBR, TM), +0:48.315; 9. Rui Goncalves (POR, KTM), +0:49.098; 10. Davide Guarneri (ITA, KTM), +0:56.834.
Superfinal result: 1. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 39:55.020; 2. Clement Desalle (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MX1), +0:07.472; 3. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:09.834; 4. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda), +0:11.515; 5. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), +0:11.809; 6. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MX1), +0:16.592; 7. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), +0:25.914; 8. Ken de Dycker (BEL, KTM), +0:39.408; 9. Steven Frossard (FRA, Yamaha), +0:44.527; 10. David Philippaerts (ITA, Honda), +0:53.888;
MX1 World Championship Standings (after 1 of 18 rounds): 1. Clement Desalle (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MX1), 47 points; 2. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), 45 p.; 3. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Kawasaki), 38 p.; 4. Ken de Dycker (BEL, KTM), 36 p.; 5. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda), 34 p.; 6. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), 30 p.; 7. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Rockstar Energy Suzuki World MX1), 30 p.; 8. Rui Goncalves (POR, KTM), 23 p.; 9. Steven Frossard (FRA, Yamaha), 22 p.; 10. Shaun Simpson (GBR, TM), 20 p.