A steady and quietly impressive start to 2016 MXGP was enjoyed by the double British Champion at Losail yesterday evening as Shaun rode to sixth position overall with a 5-7 scorecard in Qatar.
The first of eighteen rounds in the series was played out on a harder version of the unchanged Losail layout; illuminated by 420 lights from 32 imposing towers. The surface was grippy, slick but also very rough and unpredictable in places. The lap-times were quick and riders struggled to make much of a distance against their opposition.
‘24’ made a good start in the first moto and was among the leading group disputing positions in the top five. Shaun pushed past eight times world champion Tony Cairoli to secure fifth by the finish line. Simpson dove into the first corner of the second moto at speed and alongside Max Nagl. He ran slightly wide and off the track and although he retook to the course mid-pack somehow managed to find his way to sixth by the end of the first lap. It was an astonishing ‘save’ and from that point had to soon defend his slot from a rampaging Nagl who eventually relegated the Wilvo Virus Performance KTM rider in the latter stages of the race.
Shaun dealt with some intense pressure from Tommy Searle to take seventh for sixth overall and leave the impressive permanent racing facility satisfied with his work.
“The second moto was flip of the first moto where I was the aggressor and I was coming through; I wasn’t thinking ‘who’s behind me?’ it was a case of ‘next, next, next’,” he remembers. “In the second one I just had Nagl hounding me the whole race. I couldn’t really take the lines I wanted to. I was being protective. Once he got past me then ‘fair dues’ he had the speed and pulled away. Tommy then had the dangling carrot and started to pressurise me. I still felt great on the bike and like I had plenty in the tank but wasn’t as comfortable as I would have liked.”
“I feel pretty proud to have pulled off a seventh and my best result at the first GP ever! It was a solid start to my 2016 campaign,” he added. “I’m only twenty points off the lead at the moment and there are plenty more races to go. On a different note the track claimed a lot of people this time and I think it was as sketchy as I’ve seen Qatar. I’m pleased with the way things went. We are looking for fractions of seconds in sectors now and we are a lot closer with where we need to be. I’ll take the top six all day long at this stage of the season.”
Shaun and the team will now think about the journey to Bangkok and round two at a new track at Suphan Buri next weekend.
Photo courtesy of Ray Archer