A little of the sweet-and-sour for Shaun at the Dutch Grand Prix and round two of 2020 MXGP with a second-moto result of 4th place giving good cause for optimism.
For the second weekend in a row MXGP was hit by the elements. Continual rainfall created a soft sandy surface at Valkenswaard, south of Eindhoven, for the Dutch stop of the FIM World Championship. While practice and qualification was run in cloudy but largely dry conditions, the heavens opened for race day and carved the black sand into a sapping, technical sea of bumps, holes and ruts. The surface was a demanding test for the world’s fastest motocrossers.
The SS24 KTM MXGP structure was parked at the Eurocircuit (scene of Shaun’s first moto victory back in 2009) and the Scot was on top ten pace from the first laps: his KTM 450 SX-F set-up suiting the soon-to-be 32-year old aptly for the challenge ahead.
On Sunday Simpson achieved a decent start through the wickedly-fast first turn kink and was soon into the top five. He was pushing the rear wheel of factory Red Bull KTM racer Jorge Prado for fourth place when he lost control on the run to the finish line jump and crashed. Briefly winded, #24 remounted but could not get back into a points-scoring position. Motivated and slightly p***ed for the second outing, Simpson repeated the start and pacey first laps but banished the carelessness. He rode solidly to fourth, surrounded by a number of works machines.
The 0-18 points haul was only enough for 10th place overall but Shaun’s speed and competitiveness was extremely encouraging for round three in the volcanic ash and around the fast layout of Neuquen in Argentina in a fortnight’s time.
“A great weekend that could have been a phenomenal one but I’ll take the positives from it,” said Simpson, who is currently 12th in the standings. “We didn’t change a thing on the bike all weekend, not one click, and I was in the top ten the whole time; apart from the first moto that was a bit of a disaster. To see those lap-times gave me confidence and when I’m fast on track and I feel steady and smooth then I know we’re gonna be there-or-thereabouts. The rain played into my favour by making it more technical and slowing things down. The first race was going so good; I was following Prado and it felt so easy but then I made that stupid slip-out on a jump, got winded and it took ages to get going. 25th meant I was determined to redeem myself in the second moto but wasn’t sure how my ribs would feel. I manged to get out of the start and avoided the pile-up on the first corner. I passed Cairoli and ended up not that far from third place.”
“I suppose it’s a case of ‘what could have been?’ We might have been fourth overall and up to 6th in the championship but that’s how moto goes sometimes,” he added. “We’re positive, we’re looking forward and things are definitely better for us this year. We are a small crew doing pretty big things and we want to keep it that way.”
Photo thanks to Ray Archer