Tim Gajser made his long-awaited return to MXGP action alongside teammate Ruben Fernandez in Loket, Czech Republic this weekend, with the pair of them battling just around the top five positions for the majority of the weekend. Both riders would have loved to been fighting for slightly higher positions, but for differing reasons, they both leave Loket knowing that it was a still a weekend filled with positives.
For Fernandez, he leaves the Czech Republic, fit and in a much better health than 12 months ago when he last raced here. A nasty crash in timed practice curtailed his weekend in 2022 and so the main aim was to put in three mistake-free races. And in the most-part, he was successful on what is always very tricky terrain that continues to catch out a lot of other riders. He backed up his fourth in the qualification race yesterday, with a pair of sixth place finishes, grinding out the two motos with a lot of determination as he fought riders in front and behind for the duration of each moto. The end result gave him 30 points and leaves him in fourth place in the world championship standings, but well within reach of the rider above him.
Reigning MXGP champion Gajser had totally different targets as he returned for the first time since breaking his femur in February. Knowing that it would be hard to comeback and challenge at the front of the field right away, he nevertheless showed great speed on Saturday to have the fastest lap in timed practice. However, the 30-minute motos are a totally different proposition, and as such, they were just about logging laps and getting his fitness back to where he needs it to be to challenging for wins. After a tough first moto, he raised his game for race two, finishing just 10 seconds behind the leader, and already showing that he isn’t too far away from being the same rider that dominated the 2022 season.
As is always the case at Loket, passing is extremely difficult, but it was still good to see the #243 maintaining a good, strong pace and even moving forward to finish in fifth place. And equally importantly, there was no adverse reaction from his leg after the six sessions across the weekend, proving that he was right to only make his return at this 12th round of the series.
Next up for the duo is the treacherous sand of Lommel, Belgium in what is widely regarded as the toughest race in motocross. Gajser has won their before, but will instead be trying just to continue the progress that began this weekend as he works his way towards to the front of this MXGP class. Fernandez hasn’t ridden there on a 450, so expectations are similarly tempered but he has been working hard on his sand riding and will be trying to make a good first impression when they take to the track next weekend.
Ruben Fernandez 70
"Six-six for sixth is not really where I want to be, but I never quite had the feeling that I wanted with the track. I know from past experience that it is sometimes better to back it down at this circuit than make a big mistake but I still wanted to be fighting further up the field, so I am a little disappointed with how things went. There are definitely areas I need to work on and although we have a short week before Lommel, I will try my best to improve and get ready for probably the toughest race on the calendar."
Tim Gajser 243
"It was great to be back racing and seeing all my fans again, so I’m very thankful for that. Loket is always a difficult track and perhaps not ideal for my return but overall it was a good weekend and a nice base to build from. The first moto was a bit of a struggle today, but I thought race two was a lot better and I found more rhythm. Passing is never easy here and I didn’t want to push over the limit, so my results were about as good as I could manage, but overall, it was a solid weekend for my first GP in 10 months. Lommel will certainly be a totally different experience but I’m looking forward to racing as much as possible and building up to my previous level."
Marcus Pereira de Freitas - HRC General Manager MXGP
"First off, it was great to have Tim back with us alongside Ruben for the first time this year. He really gives a lift to the whole team and we’re proud of his professionalism on and off the track. We didn’t really have any specific goals for points or results as it was more about how he was riding, and although race one was understandably a little tough, he rebounded well in race two and that was great to see."
"Ruben never quite reached the level that we hoped he could be at, as he was just off from the podium guys all weekend. Unfortunately we don’t have much time to try and help him out, but we are all going to be working hard in this short-week before Lommel to give him everything he needs for the deep sand in Belgium."