The 2016 FIM Motocross World Championship launched around the fast and jumpy desert terrain of Losail for the Grand Prix of Qatar and under the bright lights of the permanent race facility a short distance outside of Doha, Team Suzuki World MXGP’s Kevin Strijbos captured 10th position in the Qualification Heat.
Team-mate Ben Townley was also circulating in the top-10 until a small mistake saw the Kiwi fall and complete the 20-minute and two-lap dash in 17th.
For the fourth year in a row, the wide expanses of the Losail layout was the setting for the MXGP opener. Both Strijbos and Townley used the Free Practice and Timed Practice sessions to work on optimising the set-up of their RM-Z450s to cope with a surface that was rutty and grippy in places and deceptively-slippery and punctuated with large holes and dips in others.
Both riders enjoyed decent jumps out of the gate for the first taste of Grand Prix racing action this season: Strijbos hesitated slightly, wary of the overwatered dirt, and Townley ran in 10th place for the first part of the moto. The veteran survived an off-track scare, but an error when he missed a gear and stalled the bike, dropped him down the order, but Strijbos concentrated on finding a rhythm and recovered from 13th to 10th.
In MX2, Team Suzuki Europe MX2’s Jeremy Seewer defied the effects of a cold to score a strong fourth place on the RM-Z250 after winning an entertaining battle with Benoit Paturel.
The MX2 class get the motos underway at 17.15 local time tomorrow.
“We had some issues at the beginning of the day and changed the engine setting after the first practice. It was better. We changed it a bit more for the qualifying race and it was great out of the gate; I thought I was first but Ben said he was! I shifted too-quickly to fourth when we came to the soft stuff and lost a bit of drive. They had put so much water on the track and I found it difficult to find my rhythm. I couldn't ride the lines I wanted. A few people passed me and I finally got ‘into it’ towards the end of the Heat. The result is not good but I kept going and improving so I’m happy. Tenth is OK for the gate tomorrow and I want another good start. I think the lap-times are quite similar from fourth downwards so I hope I can be at the front.”
“Getting back in the groove of things today. I’m struggling a bit and we need to work on the set-up. I need to work on my racecraft. It won’t turn around completely tomorrow but I will work on it. I have a bad gate-pick now but will do the best I can from there.”
MXGP Grand Prix of Qatar Qualification Heat: 1. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda), 24:54.670; 2. Tim Gajser (SLO, Honda), +0:01.814; 3. Romain Febvre (FRA, Yamaha), +0:06.734; 4. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:16.642; 5. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, KTM), +0:19.578; 6. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Honda), +0:24.719; 7. Maximilian Nagl (GER, Husqvarna), +0:26.985; 8. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), +0:28.083; 9. Tommy Searle (GBR, Kawasaki), +0:29.186; 10. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Team Suzuki MXGP), +0:30.329; 11. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), +0:39.504; 12. Valentin Guillod (SUI, Yamaha), +0:40.586; 13. Jose Butron (ESP, KTM), +0:43.419; 14. Alessandro Lupino (ITA, Honda), +0:59.196; 15. Tanel Leok (EST, Husqvarna), +1:00.165; 16. Milko Potisek (FRA, Yamaha), +1:08.852; 17. Ben Townley (NZL, Team Suzuki MXGP), +1:25.015; 18. Christophe Charlier (FRA, Husqvarna), +1:31.096; 19. Alex Snow (GBR, Yamaha), +1:34.825; 20. Kei Yamamoto (JPN, Honda), +1:55.131; 21. Clement Desalle (BEL, Kawasaki), -11 lap(s).