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Herlings excels at Thailand to take MX2 victory with double race wins

Red Bull KTM Factory Racing welcomed Jeffrey “The Bullet” Herlings back to the podium with a double race win in the MX2 GP of Thailand on Sunday with two dominant race wins to preserve his four race - two GP victory streak at the end of the second round.

Herlings’ teammate Pauls Jonass of Latvia, who has just moved permanently up to MX2 from the European-level championship, was a very impressive second place overall to indicate that KTM already has an eye on the future and the next generation of GP winners.

Meanwhile in MXGP factory teammate Antonio Cairoli had mixed fortunes on race one for his fifth place but came out strong and powerful in his second race to secure an impressive win to advance to overall third. Ryan Villopoto (1-3) took the GP win and Clement Desalle (2-2) was overall second.

Herlings was undoubtedly the dominant rider in the MX2 class and looked very much his old self during both races after coming into the season unsure of his position following nearly seven months of injury lay-off. He now leaves Thailand with a perfect 100-point scorecard after two GPs and now has three weeks to work on his fitness before the next round in Argentina on March 29.

Jeffrey Herlings: “This was a really tough weekend and I don’t have so much riding fitness yet because I have only been on the bike four weeks. The heat really got to me but we made our way through and won both motos. I also won the qualification so I can go home happy. The track is what it is and riders have to adapt but for sure it was kind of Supercross style, and with this hear, they humidity and such a track it was really tough. Sometimes you have to fight through a wall and that’s what I did. Now I have three weeks to recover so I’m going to rest, recover and start training again on Wednesday."

Jonass, who has been working in the off-season with KTM’s Stefan Everts, who is now charged with developing the KTM Juniors, was also very impressive. His 4-2 race result in Thailand also puts him at third overall in the championship points behind Herlings and Dylan Ferrandis and also attracted special praise from MX2 Factory Team Manager Dirk Gruebel.

“This was a tough but surprising weekend,” Gruebel said. “Jeffrey was outstanding, last week but also this week even more, because it was so hot and the conditions were so difficult. But the one who surprised the whole world was Pauls Jonass. Our goal was to get him into the top five by the middle of the season. And now he already has his first podium in his second GP. This is an outstanding performance from this young kid. It’s really good to have him in the team."

Jonass also said he was surprised at his result. “We came to Qatar and Thailand with no expectations and I just tried to do my best. Here in Thailand I set the fastest time in time practice and I got second in qualifying for a pretty good gate pick for the races. My starts were not so good but I made a few good passes in the opening corners. I finished fourth in the first race and second in the second race when I felt much better and got my rhythm earlier. This is a good way to start the season and I will try to get more podiums.” Both Herlings and Jonass ride the KTM 250 SX-F.

Speaking about his weekend in Thailand Cairoli said: “I made some mistakes over the weekend, especially in the qualifying. Then in the race you need to have a good start to be in front and you need to be on the inside on the corner and that was very important. I was a bit too wide with my seventh place then I got pushed to the outside. I had to regroup and settle my speed but after I went outside the track I was back at about seventeenth and I tried to charge to be in front again. It was not bad to end up fifth but not what I expected from my race. Then I was able to get a good start in my second race to be out in front and to make a good rhythm on a track that was very dangerous. I like jumps but this was way too much and also some were very sketchy. It was very hot and you are not completely focuses so it’s very easy to make a mistake."

Cairoli’s dominant second-race win, where he took the flag almost 10-seconds ahead of Desalle and over 13 seconds in front of Villopoto, left little doubt about his intentions for the coming season. It was also payback time after a crash in qualifying on Saturday.

But while Cairoli wrapped up his weekend with an impressive race on the tight and tricky hard pack surface, his two factory teammates were not so lucky, Tommy Searle was not on the start of race two after a heavy crash in the opening race. The British rider, who suffered severe concussion was taken to hospital to have other possible injuries assessed and more will be announced when the situation has been verified by medical staff. Ken de Dycker, also not in good shape after a very hard crash in the opening moto was only able to race a couple of laps in the second moto before he had to retire. Cairoli and Searle ride the KTM 350 SX-F and De Dycker is on the KTM 450 SX-F

Speaking about the conditions Gruebel said: “The layout was too intense for the riders. It was very tight conditions and there was no time to relax. We are motocross riders and we should ride motocross tracks, not Supercross tracks. There were lots of crashes and many of the riders suffered with the heat.”

Riders battled heat of 39 degrees Celsius and maximum humidity at the Thai circuit, which prompted FIM and race officials to drop the race time from 30 minutes to 25 for the second race. Dehydration, heat exhaustion and fatigue all played a role in the outcome of the races on Sunday.

Next Race: GP of Argentina, March 29, 2015

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