Another top ten finish in Turkey and a season-high ‘grab’ of 25 points means Shaun is hitting positive form as a long MXGP season draws to an end…
Round eighteen of twenty in 2018 MXGP and the third Grand Prix weekend in a row meant a long trip for the paddock and the Wilvo Yamaha team as the circus headed to the new facility of Afyon for the first FIM World Championship fixture in Turkey since 2009.
Afyon also represented the first of two ‘unknown’ tracks in the last three outings of the calendar for the MXGP elite.
Shaun and the Yamaha crew discovered a fast, wide and hard-pack course that slowly churned into a bumpy prospect and increased slightly in technical demand as the weekend went on. Hot conditions and temperatures peaking 30 degrees meant another Grand Prix of sweaty work.
Simpson discovered the ‘secrets’ of Afyon through practice and the Qualification Heat on Saturday and then made the most of two reasonably decent starts to post a 9-8 for 9th overall. “It was a level playing field for most on arrival and despite the rain and some uneven efforts by the track crew it was really fast and un-technical on Saturday,” #24 said. “Romain Febvre had a big crash and as a consequence it was soaked for Sunday: it had the right effect. After Febvre’s accident I wasn’t quite prepped to risk my own balls for the Qualification Heat! Fourteenth meant my gate pick for Sunday wasn’t amazing but I’ve always been about the races rather than a hot lap.”
“I had a good look at the track in warm-up and the races pretty much went to plan: decent starts, consistent laps, put myself in the mix,” he added. “I avoided the carnage at the start of the second moto behind Max [Anstie] and Cairoli and rode solidly all the way in seventh. I just lost the tow to [Gautier] Paulin and [Jeremy] Van Horebeek. It was a real pisser that [Glenn] Coldenhoff caught me right at the end because I wanted that seventh place and had to accept eighth.”
“It’s a bit shocking that we’ve got to round eighteen and this was my best points-haul but there were a few feathers in the cap from the results,” he said in reference to being in the frame for Team Great Britain for the 2018 Motocross of Nations and finally losing the slot. “It’s disappointing not going to RedBud and I feel I showed – in Turkey at least – that I would have been a worthy pick.”
Shaun has the chance to set another small 2018 landmark in two weeks time. Assen hosts the Dutch Grand Prix for the fourth year in a row and the Scot won the 2015 edition on a KTM. “We’ll be putting in the laps in the sand in the coming week and to make sure we are in full prep for the race. The bike and everything around me is working well. The goal is to finish the season on a high note. I want to end 2018 in the way I feel I should have ridden the whole year.”
MXGP will then close with the inauguration of Imola on the last weekend of September.
Photo courtesy of Ray Archer