At last some forward progress for Shaun at round 14 of 20 in 2018 MXGP last weekend and a return to confidence and positive feeling at Grand Prix level.
The Loket circuit again played host to the Czech Republic fixture and some rain on Saturday night created a bumpier and more technical variation of the slick, compact and windy hard-pack deep in the west of the country. Shaun went 13-14 in the two motos on Sunday for 13th place overall on the Wilvo Yamaha but more significant was the Scot’s ability to finally push and be able to string some competitive laps together in what has turned out to be a devilishly difficult contest in the premier class of the FIM Motocross World Championship this year.
Simpson has dealt with fractured ribs and an infection that caused the 30 year old to miss races in Russia, Latvia and Germany as well as the second of the two back-to-back stops in Indonesia. #24 had been working and battling to recover from his illness to be able to re-enter the Wilvo truck in the Czech Republic and was relieved to find he could lap, race and compete at something like a level of normality once more
“I didn’t want any session, Qualifying race or moto to end,” he said. “I was absolutely loving it out there and it was a relief: so satisfying to have that sensation again. I knew I’d be missing some race fitness at Loket simply because of the lack of GP time and interruption to training over the last month and basically since the crash in Russia and that meant after 15-20 minutes in the motos I was struggling a bit. But the weekend was only positive in every aspect. I know the results could have been better without a small tip-off in each moto and also with more stamina on the bike but that was the goal from the weekend – to get some feeling back – and before we can go to work again in the sand ahead of Lommel.”
Simpson has been wading through the toughest eighteen months of his career. Since victory at the Grand Prix of Indonesia – Wilvo Yamaha’s very first MXGP success – and the second round of 2017, the former multi British Champion has had to deal with a broken left hand, left arm, cracked hip and fractured ribs and all the disruption and confidence issues that arise from the constant setbacks.
“Of course you ask questions of yourself and – although it is unfortunately part of this sport – the constant two steps forward and two steps back process gets very tiring. At this level it is often pointless to be in the paddock unless you are 100%.”
“It only takes one race to remind yourself of your capabilities though. At Loket I had a cool ‘Battle of Britain’ with Max [Anstie] and Tommy [Searle] and I was able to feel that I still have what it takes to be very competitive in MXGP. Recently it’s like we’ve skipped through a lot of pages but this story definitely isn’t over, and I’ll be looking for even more speed and better results in the six rounds we still have to run. It is a time of the season where my experience and feeling on the bike will really be able to count for something and I intend to show everything that I can.”
MXGP forms-up again in two weeks time for the Grand Prix of Belgium; Shaun won the event at Lommel in 2015.
Photo thanks to Ray Archer