Photo by: Ray Archer
While Valkenswaard might not be considered one of the real old school Grand Prix circuits of the 1960’s, it still has a long history. Back in 1974, the former Suzuki factory team owner Sylvain Geboers topped the 250cc Grand Prix, while Harry Everts finished in third place and would the following year win the World 250cc championship. Geboers would end the 1974 season in 11th place, and that victory in Holland would be the great rider’s last big win on the international scene. For many the sand of Valkenswaard means more than just any race circuit.
It would be 18 years before the 250cc class would return to Valkenswaard and in this new era another Everts would show good speed around the twisty, tough sand track. A young Stefan Everts–the new World 125cc champion–had moved to the 250cc class in 1992 and shocked the world with victory around Valkenswaard.He would then add victories at the eurocircuit in 1994, 1995, 1996. Other riders to win in the 250cc class at Valkenswaard were Greg Albertyn in 1993, Marnicq Bervoets–twice in 1997 and 1999–Sebastien Tortelli in 1998, Frederic Bolley in 2000, and Mickael Pichon in 2002.
In 2003 Pichon won the MX1/MotocrossGP class after a hard battle with Stefan Everts. The two collided mid-race, breaking the front spokes on Everts bike. It was a time when Pichon rode the best ever, taking the first three GPs of the season easily and looking likely to win the title (which eventually went to Everts). Everts would win the MX1 class in Valkenswaard in 2004, making it win number five around the tough sand track and thus ending his love affair with the Dutch circuit.
In the 500cc class it was another story. The first was held in 1980 and Andre Vromans won, although the 500cc class didn’t venture to Valkenswaard as often as the 250cc class. There would only be a handful of Open class winners around the Valkenswaard circuit–those being Dave Thorpe in 1985, Dirk Geukens in 1989, Billy Liles in 1990, Marnicq Bervoets in 2000 and Joel Smets in 2002. Smets won his first Valkenswaard Grand Prix leading home Bervoets and Everts. Smets would add a 650cc win in Valkenswaard in 2003.
In the 125cc / MX2 class the history of Valkenswaard is mixed. In 1981 Marc Valkeneers won with 3-1 results, Harry Everts was second with 3-2 results, but the news of the day was the 1-DNF result by Eric Geboers.The DNF by Geboers would cost him the title as Everts won with a 15-point cushion 211pts to 197pts. In 1987 the Dutch golden boy Dave Strijbos would claim victory with 1-1 results, while two other Dutchman Pedro Tragter and John Van Den Berk finished second and third. It was the golden era of Motocross in Holland.
South African Grant Langston won in the 125cc class in 2000, while Steve Ramon won the 125cc class in 2002 and 2003. In 2004 Ben Townley dominated the Dutch GP, going 1-1 for victory.
Valkenswaard missed two years on the Grand Prix series and when it returned in 2007, it was Josh Coppins and Antonio Cairoli who would win in the MX1 and MX2 classes–giving Yamaha a double victory.
In 2008, Ken De Dycker took a 1-1 victory in the MX1 class and Tyla Rattray produced a win in the MX2 class. Jonathan Barragan would score a shocking victory in the MX1 class in 2009 and Rui Goncalves would win the MX2.
Jeffrey Herlings began his amazing domination of the MX2 class in Valkenswaard with wins in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 for seven total wins. He lost for the first time ever at Valkenswaard when he finished second to Gautier Paulin in the MXGP class just last year.
Pauls Jonass would be the first man to win MX2 at Valkenswaard after the Herlings domination, going 1-1 in 2017 and he comes into 2018 as the heavy favorite to win again.
Another KTM hero Cairoli would do the same, winning the MX1 class in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, giving him six GP victories at Valkenswaard. Since that 2014 victory, Cairoli hasn’t stood on top of the Valkenswaard podium. The French took over the sand of Holland, with Gautier Paulin winning in 2015 and 2017 and Romain Febvre in 2016.
Can Herlings continue his love-affair with Valkenswaard this weekend and take his 8th victory at the eurocircuit?