Vuillemin and Aranda dominate opening round of the French series

March 9, 2009

Kawasaki riders dominated the opening round of the French MX1 Championship, winning the three heats and scoring a perfect one-two result at Sommières.

The Elite Championship kicked off at the popular venue in southern France which had already hosted the opening round of the ’08 series. After a dusty and windy qualifying program on Saturday, the club prepared a decent layout for a sunny Sunday and the start of the championship. Instead of the traditional schedule of two races per class and one super final, the French Federation introduced some novelties with two qualifying races on Saturday in place of timed practice sessions. The best sixteen MX2 and fourteen MX1 riders qualified for the Sunday schedule, mixing both classes during three heats of twenty minutes and two laps.

Despite some trouble in the opening race with a poor start, David Vuillemin unveiled a strong performance to collect the overall win. Coming back to fourth in the first moto, David had a better start in the following outing and arrived to second behind Gregory Aranda. In the last moments of the moto he joined his brand-mate and passed him to win his first moto on European soil since his return from the United States. Vuillemin aced the holeshot in the last heat and promptly escaped from the pack to ensure his overall success. Racing on his home track, Gregory Aranda was strong during the entire weekend; second in the qualifying race, he dominated the opening heat and then battled twice for the win. In the last race he made another great start but also committed a mistake during the opening lap and finished third; he missed the overall win by a single point but confirmed his ability on the KX450F. Aranda also assisted towards an ‘all-green’ podium as Steven Frossard finished third and was the first MX2 rider.

With the new structure of the French series the MX2 riders have now a tough job as they are mixed with the powerful MX1 bikes. Both Steven Frossard and Gautier Paulin missed good starts in the opening race, and while Steven came back to fourth Gautier retired with a damaged front wheel. Steven got the holeshot in the second heat and rode superbly, scoring third position right behind the 450s of Vuillemin and Aranda. Frossard was again battling for a podium result in the last moto until he retired when he hit the fencing and stalled the engine. Having finished fifth overall he was followed in the standings by Gautier Paulin who improved his results through the afternoon. After his previous retirement Gautier started mid-pack in the second race, and came back to sixth. Battling for fourth place in the last heat he ended the event with a fifth position. The third Kawasaki rider involved in the MX2 category, Loic Rombaut, had his best start and result in the opening race with tenth overall. He then had to recover from poor starts in the following motos but was able to claim more points with a seventeenth position in the final one.

While Kawasaki Racing Team’s Sébastien Pourcel was in attendance as a spectator in Sommières, team-mate Gareth Swanepoel was busy at Canada Heights for the opening round of the MX1 British Championship. The track was wet and muddy and in the first corner Gareth ran into the back of another bike, damaging his front brake system; he tried to race with just his rear brake, but within a few laps the front end was starting to jam, making it impossible for ‘Swanie’ to continue the race. The second heat got underway with the South African placed in a good position in the first few laps of the race, but two mistakes meant that he couldn’t do better than ninth position. Swanepoel will race next week in Gemert for the opening round of the Dutch series.

David Vuillemin: "It’s a nice feeling to win again and that’s our goal in this French championship. I had a good qualifying race but on Sunday I had some troubles with the clutch at the start of the first heat. We made some changes to the settings and then my other starts were better, fourth in the second race and then in front of the pack for the last one. We improved the bike during the weekend and now I again have a good feeling on hard tracks. Physically I was pushing hard all weekend long and I’m satisfied with my condition, now we’ll have two more races to prepare for the GP season. That’s my main goal this season."

Gregory Aranda: "My goal when I came here was to get some great starts and make some convincing races and I’m pretty satisfied with my results. I got two holeshots, just missing it in the last race as I couldn’t hold the front brake due to some cramps in my arms! It took me three laps to recover in the third moto but it was impossible to come back over Vuillemin and Musquin. On Saturday I struggled with my arms but on Sunday it was much better, and I had a good weekend with a win, a second and a third place."

Gautier Paulin: "I had a short opening race as my front wheel broke early, probably due to contact with other bikes during the opening laps. In the second moto I collided with Coulon at the beginning of the race and then came back sixth; I was happy with my riding but the races are only twenty five minutes so if you miss your start against the 450s then it’s tough to come back. I got my best result in the last heat with a fifth place overall. We need to continue working hard but this weekend we proved that we are on the right direction."

Steven Frossard: ‘I had a bad start in the opening race but came back to fourth and couldn’t resist Vuillemin’s assault in the last laps. My second start was much better as I found good lines in the first corner to holeshot the pack and then I let Gregory lead the race and followed his rhythm; I was second but once more Vuillemin passed me aboard his 450, so third was a good result for me. My last start was average. I was seventh and came back third to battle with Boissière. Unfortunately I lost the control of my bike in a fast section and I crashed in the barriers, losing too much time to restart my engine. I’m satisfied with my speed, the track was hard and fast and I didn’t feel so comfortable on the track."

Loic Rombaut: "I had my best start in the opening race, I was seventh and then had some problems to race against the powerful 450s for twenty five minutes and finally finished the first heat in tenth position. The second start was poor, I was at the inside and there was no place to go in the first corner. I then had a good jump at the last one but the 450s closed the way again in the first corner and I came back from last to seventeenth. I felt more comfortable than two weeks ago in Valence, I had a better feeling and apart from the second race I had a good rhythm."

Gareth Swanepoel: "I so badly wanted to start the British Championship well, but today just did not work out for me. There was not one major reason for the result, just a bunch of silly things that put me down in the points at this early stage in the championship. I want to keep working on my speed in the coming weeks, but other than that today was just one of those days to put behind me and concentrate on the coming races and getting the results I am capable of."

Sommières Race 1:
1.Aranda ; 2.Boissière ; 3.Coulon ; 4.Vuillemin ; 5.Frossard ; 6.Renet ; 7.Tonus ; 8.Soubeyras ; 9.Demartis ; 10.Rombaut ; DNF. Paulin

Sommières Race 2:
1.Vuillemin ; 2.Aranda ; 3.Frossard ; 4.Boissière ; 5.Musquin ; 6.Paulin ; 7.Soubeyras ; 8.Rouis ; 9.Tonus ; 10.Coulon

Sommières Race 3:
1.Vuillemin ; 2.Musquin ; 3.Aranda ; 4.Boissière ; 5.Paulin ; 6.Coulon ; 7.Renet ; 8.Rouis ; 9.Charlier ; 10.Tonus ; 17. Rombaut ; DNF. Frossard