Moto Media

Tonus and Nagl take their first Pole at Sevlievo

An extremely wet clay surface running up and down the hills of Sevlievo provided less than ideal conditions for the qualifying day of round five of the FIM Motocross World Championship, therefore race direction decided it was in the best interests of the event to cancel free practice for all classes in order to preserve the circuit for the races.

Thanks to the clouds lifting with the skies eventually making way for some sunshine, the track ended up drying out perfectly, leaving loads of tacky ruts for the riders of not only MXGP and MX2 but also the European EMX250, EMX125 and EMX300 classes to sink their tyres into.

Kicking off the EMX races, the European Championship’s newest edition, the EMX300 took to the track for the first time this season with TM Racing Team’s Samuele Bernardini banking the first twenty-five EMX300 championship points.

Meanwhile in MXGP’s ultimate ‘road to pro’ stepping stone class the EMX250, it was HM Plant KTM UK’s Ben Watson who got off to an early lead when fellow countryman CNC KTM’s Steven Clarke crashed early on in the race. After taking over the lead Watson controlled the race to win a comfortable ten seconds clear of HSF Logistics Motorsport Team Brian Bogers and Honda Jtech’s Thomas Kjer Olsen.

Taking the win in race one of the EMX125 European Championship, Red Bull KTM Racing’s Davy Pootjes remains unbeaten this year, winning race one ahead of Diga Racing’s Tomass Sileika and Rockstar Energy Suzuki Europe’s Brian Hsu. KTM Silver Action’s Bulgarian young gun Michael Ivanov came home in an impressive fourth in front of his countrymen here in Sevlievo, while De Carli KTM’s Joakim Furbetta rounded out the top five.


Rut railing skills were put to the ultimate test here in Bulgaria when the gates dropped for MXGP’s qualifying heat race. Taking the holeshot followed by a nice scrub over the single that followed 100m after the turn, MXGP red plate holder Antonio Cairoli was in the best position of the race, first.

Following closely behind the Italian legend Cairoli, Team HRC’s Max Nagl and Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jeremy Van Horebeek lead Rockstar Energy Suzuki World’s Clement Desalle who actually had a bad start but managed to hold a tight line around turn one and salvage fifth.

In the early stages of the race, it was looking to be a cracker with all the title contenders taking a place inside the top five. Team HRC’s Max Nagl was the first to drop the hammer, backing off the gas just a little bit to keep tight to the inside and pass Cairoli for the lead. A few turns later Van Horebeek had had enough roost off the back wheel of the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider and found a way through, too.

While Cairoli was forced back to third, the race didn’t stop there as Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing Team’s Gautier Paulin was slicing his way forward after a very average start. After a slight dual for third which saw the two Paulin and Cairoli switch the position back and forth a couple of times, Paulin found a smooth line past the skybox and sealed the deal on third. 

Coming into the closing stages of the race, the top five had settled into their positions. Team HRC’s Max Nagl clearly enjoyed the gnarlyness of the track, riding home to his first qualifying heat win of the season, while Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jeremy Van Horebeek took second ahead of Monster Energy Kawasaki Racing’s Gautier Paulin, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Antonio Cairoli and Rockstar Energy Suzuki Europe’s Clement Desalle respectively.

Max Nagl

MXGP Qualifying Race top ten: : 1. Maximilian Nagl (GER, Honda), 25:31.817; 2. Jeremy Van Horebeek (BEL, Yamaha), +0:01.411; 3. Gautier Paulin (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:02.216; 4. Antonio Cairoli (ITA, KTM), +0:04.421; 5. Clement Desalle (BEL, Suzuki), +0:25.437; 6. Kevin Strijbos (BEL, Suzuki), +0:29.921; 7. Evgeny Bobryshev (RUS, Honda), +0:32.799; 8. Shaun Simpson (GBR, KTM), +0:36.358; 9. Steven Frossard (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:41.451; 10. Tyla Rattray (RSA, Husqvarna), +0:51.849.


With hundreds of ruts dug out around the circuit of Sevlievo, line selection was going to be key to a qualifying heat victory. Although the start straight remained as the wettest place on the track, the track management had done an excellent job scraping the mud off and having it in the best condition possible, given the circumstances, for MX2’s qualifying race.

After the five second board was raised and the gate was dropped it was last weekend’s qualifying heat star Standing Construct KTM’s Valentin Guillod who took the holeshot with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jeffrey Herlings hot on his tail. While Guillod led the first lap, lap two saw the super Swiss lose the front end and go down handing Herlings the early lead. While initially it appeared the current MX2 World Champion would check out, CLS Kawasaki Monster Energy’s Arnaud Tonus and Wilvo Nestaan Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Romain Febvre had other ideas.

With both Tonus and Febvre starting around tenth, the duo began to slice and dice their way through the pack to be running second and third respectively on lap three. On lap four, Tonus set the fastest lap time with Febvre following in his wake.

As the race approached midway, Tonus and Febvre had chopped down the six second lead of Herlings, engaging in a battle for first and it wasn’t long before Tonus decided it was ‘go time’ and threw a very low and fast scrub to flamboyantly pass Herlings for the lead. One lap later, Febvre also made a move on Herlings in almost the same part of the track.

With two laps to go Herlings, who had spent the last three laps stalking Febvre, finally found another gear and passed the Frenchman to make a last ditch effort at catching the MX2 red plate holder Arnaud Tonus.

Although the flying Dutchman also known as ‘The Bullet’ did impressively knock Tonus’ ‘fastest laptime’ off the board on the final lap, it wasn’t enough to catch the CLS Kawasaki Monster Energy’s star who qualified on pole for the first time this season. Meanwhile Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jeffrey Herlings was forced to settle for second ahead of Wilvo Nestaan Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Romain Febvre who put in an outstanding ride for third. CLS Kawasaki Monster Energy’s Dylan Ferrandis recovered from an early moto crash to come home in fourth with Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Jordi Tixier rounding out the top five.

Bulgaria’s own Kemea Yamaha Racing rider Petar Petrov came home in a respectable ninth and later said in the press conference, "I look forward to coming home to race because I am the only Bulgarian in the world championship which means it is an important race for me, and also it is really nice because all my family friends come out to see me ride”.

Tonus and Herlings

MX2 Qualifying Race top ten: 1. Arnaud Tonus (SUI, Kawasaki), 26:06.452; 2. Jeffrey Herlings (NED, KTM), +0:01.208; 3. Romain Febvre (FRA, Husqvarna), +0:06.036; 4. Dylan Ferrandis (FRA, Kawasaki), +0:18.248; 5. Jordi Tixier (FRA, KTM), +0:25.422; 6. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED, Suzuki), +0:29.592; 7. Mel Pocock (GBR, KTM), +0:45.838; 8. Max Anstie (GBR, Yamaha), +0:46.341; 9. Petar Petrov (BUL, Yamaha), +0:57.154; 10. Valentin Guillod (SUI, KTM), +1:00.501.