Florida Motocross Rider Triumphs at U.S. MXGP
With live race coverage airing on CBS Sports Network over the Labor Day weekend, WW Ranch about 20 minutes west of Jacksonville FL was filled to capacity. Fans turned out in record numbers at the north Florida facility as it hosted the seventeenth round of the FIM Motocross World Championships. After rain pounded the track on Friday, crews brought out the heavy machinery and went to work on the track. By early Saturday morning, the black sand with a clay mix was shaping up to be a worthy challenge for the day's qualifying races.
In the MX2 class for 250cc motorcycles, American Thomas Covington grabbed the holeshot and led all the laps to the checkered flag. Covington, who is a regular to the World Championship tour, finished ahead of Justin Cooper (USA) and points leader Pauls Jonass (Latvia). Multi-time MX2 world champion Jeffrey Herlings (Netherlands) cruised to the win in the MXGP class. The Dutchman finished 20-seconds ahead of points leader Antonio Cairoli (Italian) and Romain Febvre (France). Qualifying heats established the riders starting position for both motos of Sunday's Grand Prix races.
As the sun worked its way from behind the clouds on Sunday morning, fans began to line the track often a dozen-people deep along the fence line. When the gate dropped for the MX2 riders, American R.J. Hampshire riding for Geico Honda took the lead and never looked back. The young Florida rider would repeat his amazing feat in Moto 2 to claim his first overall professional win at a time when it counted the most. In the overall classifications, Aussie Hunter Lawrence out-pointed American Thomas Covington for second and third place, respectively. Pauls Jonass maintains a forty-point lead over Swiss rider Jeremy Seewer with three rounds remaining.
Although Italy's Antonio Cairoli had hoped to clinch a ninth world championship at WW Motocross Park, the KTM rider was passed by Herlings late in Moto 2 pushing the MXGP title to the MXGP of The Netherlands at Assen. If Cairoli had finished ahead of his teammate in the overall standings at WW Ranch, the title would have been his. Moto 1 winner and recently crowned U.S. National Champion, Eli Tomac, got a bad start in Moto 2 and had to settle for second overall on the day. A bit of a disappointment for the Kawasaki rider who dominated in Moto 1 and had posted five consecutive moto wins racing against the world's best over the past three seasons.