Round five of 2021 MXGP ventured to one of the oldest tracks on the calendar and Shaun emerged from both motos with 11th position overall and a confidence-boosting 7th in the second moto.
Hard-pack and roost. Welcome to Loket. The narrow and limiting circuit deep in the east of the Czech Republic presented a classic ‘old-school’ test for the fifth date of MXGP this season. The heatwave that had engulfed most of Europe during the week lingered into the weekend and for the now-customary one-day format for MXGP.
Starts were key for hopes of a decent position at Loket and Shaun and the SS24 KTM MXGP team did their best to refine this aspect of his race performance during the week. The former multi-British Champion entered the wide gate in 16th position after Timed Practice in the morning; the 33-year-old contemplating only his seventh Grand Prix start since the end of the 2019 season.
In a forgettable first moto Shaun paid the price for being distracted at the gatedrop by dropping outside of the points and needing the majority of the 30 minutes and 2 laps to fight his way back to 17th. The tint of frustration fed into his start of the second race where he flew into the top seven around the first corners. As factory-supported rivals made mistakes and crashed around him, Shaun kept upright and used all of his experience on the Loket bumps to maintain a decent speed. 7th was the prize and his best ranking of the season so far.
“What a day,” he said. “We were quite impressed by the track when we walked it Saturday night. They must have had quite some rain because there was a decent quantity of moisture in the ground. It looked quite nice and it was choppy and rutty.”
“I was feeling comfortable in the morning but the times weren’t coming. So, I came into the pits, had a breather and then changed all lines and it started flowing. It was my best qualifying so far and helped for a slightly better gate pick. The first race was a disaster as [Ivo] Monticelli hit the gate and made it wobble. I went and missed it completely. I think I had to use two tear-offs before I even got to the first corner. I rode quite sensibly and was lucky to salvage a few points.”
“I didn’t feel overly happy with the bike, so we made some changes before the start of the second moto and I nailed my best one of the year. I was in 5-6th and a few riders passed me and a few fell off. I rode a really solid race and I was getting into a really good rhythm. I lost the tow on Monticelli and a small mistake that allowed Jonass past. I think if I’d been able to post a few top 10s already this season then I would have pushed even more to pass Jonass because I could see I was quicker in a few places on the track, but I was keen not to dump those points. 7th in the second, 11th overall and up to 14th in the championship and we’ll keep climbing. If anything, the result makes me a bit frustrated about the first moto, but we’ll take this today and we’ll take the confidence into my favourite GP of the year next week. Our spirits are high and we want to come into Lommel hot.”
As has become the norm, Loket is followed by the trip to Lommel and the Grand Prix of Belgium. Compared to the scene of one of the hardest triple headers imaginable (2020 saw MXGP log three races in one week at the circuit), the Belgian course will entertain just one round next week as MXGP moves back into the sand. Shaun clinched victory at the site in 2015 and will compete at the facility for the first time since 2019.
Photo courtesy of Ray Archer