Jeffrey Herlings is the 2018 MXGP FIM Motocross World Champion, and for the seventh time in the last nine seasons Red Bull KTM will scoop both MXGP and MX2 titles in the same year. The Grand Prix of the Netherlands at Assen saw the Dutchman win again in front of ecstatic home fans as Tony Cairoli confirmed his runner-up status.
For the fourth year in a row the temporary and spectacularly set motocross course laid over the stadium section of the TT Circuit Assen provided a rough, tight and curvy test. The sand benefitted from a slightly revised layout for 2018 but made largely the same inventive use of space next to the vast grandstand that was filled with most of the 40,000 attendance.
Herlings secured his first world championship with the KTM 450 SX-F in the premier class of the FIM series – becoming the first Dutchman to do so for 30 years – and the fourth of a career that begun with his current Red Bull KTM team in 2010 at the tender age of fifteen.
Setting off from the first pick in the gate after posting his twelfth Qualification Heat victory on Saturday, Herlings passed Tony Cairoli before the end of the first lap and was cheered all the way to the chequered flag. The 24 year old cruised to the line almost forty seconds ahead of the pack and began the celebrations. He provoked a gasp from most of the circuit in the second moto with an early race crash but then hiked the entertainment factor by cutting his way through to win once more. It was Herlings’ seventh Grand Prix triumph in a row and 14th moto success; he was last beaten in Indonesia in July.
After 19 Grands Prix (of which he contested 18) and 36 motos, Herlings has won 16 and 31 and never finished lower than third in those 36 starts. He has dropped only 17 points all season and boasts a 100% podium record in just his second season in the category.
Herlings: “It has been an amazing day and it was a blessing to be in my shoes. Everyone had been saying ‘enjoy the day’ but it just ‘went’! To do this in front of my home crowd here at the TT Circuit Assen is amazing: a special day and it was nice to do it in style. I pretty much led the whole of the first moto and then in between races it was hard to stay focussed because there are many friends, family, sponsors who want to congratulate you and I couldn’t really do my normal routine! I tried to pass Glenn in the second moto but went down and had to pick up from tenth position and then work to get back to the lead. I managed to get little gap over Tony. It was a great day and it has been a special year. I have to give it up to Red Bull KTM; we’ve been together through this all the way so a big thanks to all the team and all the guys at the factory. Going 1-1, winning the championship, home crowd: enough said.”
Pit Beirer, KTM Motorsports Director: “This is a special one. Jeffrey has been with us since 2009 and we have been through many ups-and-downs. When he was a kid everything was just getting better and better but then he got some nasty injuries and there were many tough days with this boy, but when you get to know him and see how much effort he puts in to get the results then he deserves this title more than anyone. Tony also had a fantastic season and it is impressive to see what he did but then Jeffrey just topped it off with his work. All our guys make a big effort but Jeffrey is outstanding. It is very emotional to see him at this level. For many years people have talked about him being the best rider in the world but he got injured before he could prove it on paper. Finally he did it, so it’s a special moment for all of us.”
The eight-month MXGP campaign comes to an end in two weeks time with the inauguration of Imola as a Grand Prix venue for round twenty of the season.
Next race: Grand Prix of Italy, Imola, September 30th
Results MXGP Assen 2018
1. Jeffrey Herlings (NED), KTM (1-1)
2. Tony Cairoli (ITA), KTM (2-2)
3. Max Anstie (GBR) Husqvarna (3-4)
4. Glenn Coldenhoff (NED), KTM (5-3)
5. Tim Gajser (SLO), Honda (4-5)
Standings MXGP 2018 after 19 of 20 rounds
1. Jeffrey Herlings, 883 points
2. Tony Cairoli, 782
3. Clement Desalle, 645
4. Tim Gajser, 625
5. Romain Febvre, 544