The 2021 Grand Prix of Russia marked the first time for more than a year that Shaun tackled MXGP fully fit and eager to make points and places: he achieved his goal at round one…
Orlyonok was the tricky, hard-packed circuit to open the FIM Motocross World Championship and launch a schedule that contains nineteen rounds, six of which will happen on consecutive weekends from the British Grand Prix on June 27th.
SS24 KTM MXGP travelled to the venue for the first time since 2019. The journey was also a significant one for the 33-year-old former GP winner: it represented his first appearance at world championship level and at full fitness since the Dutch Grand Prix of March 2020.
Shaun had been using the initial dates of the ACU British Championship to ease his way back into racing trim but the one-day format at Orlyonok and on the shore of the Black Sea was an intense reintroduction to competition at the highest level of the sport.
Clocking a distant 24th in Timed Practice, #24 had to use all his experience and guile in the two tight left-handed starts to gain mid-pack space. He then fought for each point in a field that saw more than fifteen Grand Prix winners in competition. Shaun managed 17th and then recovered from a second moto mistake for 16th; earning 18th overall.
“I really enjoyed myself today,” he said. “I wasn’t overly excited about the Timed Practice where I struggled a bit and didn’t feel too confident on a sketchy track, so I was 24th. I knew the races would be a different deal. I got decent starts by tucking-up the inside both times. I chipped away at the first moto for 17th and crashed on the second lap of the second race when I put a little bit too much faith in one of the ruts and it just blew-out. I got 16th for 18th overall which is no ‘great shakes’ but it was good to be back and good to be at that pace again. I had a smile under my helmet, and I know I am not far away from much better.”
“I cannot thank everybody enough that has helped me to get here,” he underlined. “It has been quite a long road to make it to this point and scrape everything together. The results won’t blow anyone away…but I’m satisfied with this first step back and how the bike was and how the team worked. A solid building block and we’ll work up the consistency.”
Round two will pitch SS24 KTM MXGP back on home turf. The British Grand Prix at Matterley Basin near Winchester means more familiar climes and the chance to continue Shaun’s acclimatisation and progress. The race occurs on June 27th. First up is Foxhill next weekend and the round four of ‘the British’.
Photo thanks to Ray Archer