10th, 9th and 8th: Shaun is heading in the right direction after three consecutive weekends of FIM MXGP Motocross World Championship action in Britain, Holland and Italy and the Scot’s riding around a rough and rutty Pietramurata course last Sunday gave encouragement that the top five of the premier class can soon be within reach.

MXGP darted around Europe from the jumpy layout of Matterley Basin to the hard sand of Valkenswaard and finally the muddy paddock of Pietramurata in northern Italy as the Grand Prix series negotiated its most frantic phase. Shaun built up speed with his RFX KTM on home turf and in the Netherlands but showed his excellent technical nuance and experience through the compact and bumpy Arco di Trento venue last weekend.

Rainfall had softened a normally resistant hard-pack and created a slower and more varied racing surface. It was a better playing field for the 31 year old who felt at home and on the pace from the first Free Practice session.

“Probably the most enjoyable weekend of the season to-date,” he said. “We got the bike dialled-in quite well for the second moto at Valkenswaard last weekend and that meant we had a good starting point for Arco. We hit the ground running. In the first session I think I was 5th, then 7th and 9th in the Quali race, so we maintained a presence in the top ten. Starts were mega, mega important around this small, tight track.”

Using the grunt of the 450 SX-F Shaun found his way into the top ten during a first moto that was notable for the spectacular duel for the lead between Tony Cairoli and Tim Gajser and tension and electric atmosphere it created. Shaun tried to close down Alessandro Lupino. The track permitted different line choice but was still narrow and restrictive for passing and vast variation in lap-times.

“In the first moto I got away well and couldn’t do much about the two Italians in front of me. I ate a bit of roost and played some cat and mouse and took seventh, which was the best result to-date.”

SS24 was luckless at the beginning of the second moto and was part of the pile-up that also claimed Monster Energy Kawasaki rider Clement Desalle. The incident meant he had to pick-up and restart almost last but it instigated a strong flight back. “In the second one we were looking for much of the same…but unfortunately I got caught-up in the carnage around [Clement] Desalle on Turn3 and went down. I made the best of a bad job and I actually think I rode the best I have all year in the second moto: 26th to 11th. A good result considering I was on the deck on the first lap.”

Another improvement in the overall standings and Simpson, in his first year with the new RFX crew, sits firmly in the top half of the championship leaderboard. “8th overall and same in the championship and just ten points away from 7th,” he reviewed. “All things considered I think it won’t be long before we are knocking on the door for the top five. I’m happy with how I am riding, the bike is in a good place and I’m looking forward to the British championship next weekend.”

After the flurry of activity MXGP now pauses for a month, courtesy of the rescheduling of the Grand Prix of China, and the world championship will resume with the Grand Prix of Lombardia in the sand of Mantova in early May. The British Championship will continue with round two at Lyng in Norfolk this coming Sunday.

Photo by Ray Archer