Mastery of the slime, slippery and grim conditions at the new Pangkal Pinang circuit gave Shaun his first Grand Prix win of 2017 for what was round two of nineteen and the first visit by MXGP to Indonesia in twenty years.
The rainy season was hardly full of restraint for the visit of Grand Prix and continual showers battered the new-build. Barely rideable on Saturday – Shaun cut through the mud to an excellent Pole Position from the sole session – the terrain dried with some respite that evening, but a further coating between the motos on Sunday led to cancellation of the second moto.
The Wilvo Yamaha rider had already made his impression by that time. Moving up from a top six start in the first race Simpson relished the challenge of the ruts and holes to seize the lead on lap six from Glen Coldenhoff and then barrel to victory and for what would be his fourth career GP success, the second with Yamaha and his first for his new team. The run was not without drama as Shaun and his YZ450F were nearly swallowed in the same section that claimed many of his peers; the Scot almost coming to a stop in the thick clayish mud on the last lap. “It was a bit heart-stopping as the bike got caught in that section,” he said. “Every time I was coming through, keeping my speed up, believing in my technique and just going for it. I kept my feet up and kept it pinned. Some laps it was easy, other laps you just had to wade through. In the end I was that motivated not to lose the race that I got the bike out of there.”
“I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself and I guess it was a bit unexpected really,” Shaun evaluated. “I came into this weekend after that ‘false start’ in Qatar and tried to keep myself motivated. I knew I wasn’t in top form in Losail and coming off the back of my illness but it was also hard to know when I could really stop blaming that and just grit my teeth and get through it…I think this weekend was perfectly set out for me. I went out Saturday, had fun and took Pole and that transpired into timed practice and the first gate pick: it kinda set the tone. People were talking about how good and fast I was in the mud and when I woke up this morning and seen there hadn’t been any more rain I thought ‘shit…’. A couple of rain showers through the night would have kept the track moist. However watching the MX2 guys going around in warm-up I knew it was still going to be tough.”
“I was having great fun with the track,” Shaun added. “It was rutty, deep and with a lot of line choice, you had to have your thinking cap on and see where you could make up time and carry speed through the ruts. I was ready to ‘go’ and I was feeling ‘it’ today. I woke up with the sensation it was going to be my day, and that’s very weird; I haven’t had that feeling and then missed out on a win. It was the same at Lommel and Assen.”
“The rain shower turned the MX2 race into a total disaster and people cutting the track. Safety was being thrown up in the air,” he remarked on the decision to call the meeting short. “The right decision was made at the end because it was an absolute mess and it felt a surreal to be up there on the podium without a second moto but a win is a win. I will take it and the confidence-boost going home.”
#24 has now lifted into the top ten of the championship standings after an indifferent result in Losail, Qatar seven days previously. “I’m up to eighth in the championship – which is a good step – and I’ve got work to do,” he concluded. “I’m ecstatic for Louis [Vosters, Team Manager]; it’s only his second GP as a Team Manager and he has a win…I don’t think anyone would have thought it would have come this early. Together with the whole team, Arnaud, the mechanics, – the entire crew – we’ve had a real blast.”
Wilvo Yamaha head back to Europe on Monday afternoon and with a gap of almost nine days to full prepare for round three – the Grand Prix of Argentina at Baroliche, Neuquen – on March 12th.
Photo by Ray Archer