Photo: Kawasaki Racing

The FIM Motocross World Championship series went to Fermo, Italy for round three and the Grand Prix of Italy, and for the second straight week, the battles for wins were intense. In the MX1 Class, it was the aloof Frenchman Christophe Pourcel on the CP377/Kawasaki with his first MX1 Grand Prix win of 2012 and Red Bull/KTM’s Jeffrey Herlings racking up his second overall win of the young MX2 World Championship season.

In the opening heat of the MX1 Class, we saw a heated battle between Factory Kawasaki’s Gautier Paulin and Christophe Pourcel. The two Frenchmen passed and dropped  Red Bull/KTM’s Antonio Cairoli early on with Christophe controlling the pace from the front for much of the first heat.

Late in the moto, it looked like the Italian Cairoli—who ran third for most of the race—might make a run at Paulin, but with time winding down, Paulin dropped the hammer, left Cairoli and reeled the #377 back in. As the two lap board came out, Paulin got his hooks into Pourcel and made the pass for the lead, but the race was not over. Pourcel—whose fitness has been in question—got back after it and, with two turns to go, took advantage of Paulin going wide and stole the win. Paulin would cross the line in second—probably feeling like he let one get away.

Gautier Paulin is quickly becoming a World Championship contender in the MX1 Class. Photo: Kawasaki Racing

Finishing behind the two French Kawasakis was Antonio Cairoli in third and Rockstar/Suzuki’s Clement Desalle in fourth and another French Kawasaki rider, Xavier Boog, in fifth.

When the gate fell for the second MX1 moto of the day, it was Antonio Cairoli with the holeshot and CP377 all over him right away. Unlike in moto one, though, the five-time World Champion would not bend to the pressure from Pourcel. Cairoli was feeling the love from his Italian fans and seemed to have another gear for them the second time around.

Gautier Paulin did not have a great second moto, though. The #21 found himself on the bottom of a first turn pileup and spent the second moto working a lot harder than he probably wanted to. In the end, he fought hard and salvaged a solid sixth in moto two. His 2-6 score on the day was enough for fourth overall.

Up at the front, it was all about Cairoli in moto two. The five-time World Champ built a small gap early over CP377 and held it through the checkered flag. Cairoli’s 3-1 on the day scored him second overall and keeps him seventeen points ahead of Paulin in the MX1 Championship. CP377 kept the Italian close in moto two, but in the end, he cruised it home in second. Christophe’s 1-2 tally was good enough for his first overall GP win of the year.

Big Ken celebrated his new season long contract extension with Red Bull/KTM with a solid fifth overall. Photo: KTM Images

Coming across the line in third for moto two was the Belgian Clement Desalle. Desalle had a solid day on the Fermo hard-pack, and his 4-3 tally netted him the third spot on the box.

In the first moto of MX2 action, it was all about the Dutchman Jeffrey Herlings. The red plate holder grabbed the early lead and easily checked out on his Red Bull/KTM teammate Jeremy vanHorebeek for the moto one win. vanHorebeek had nothing for Jeffrey, but the Belgian rode his own race to finish a solid second in moto one.

Herlings’ main competition was supposed to be Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Tommy Searle, but Tommy had problems in turn two that left him fighting from behind with a damaged radiator. Tommy did all he could to mount a charge, but in the end, the Kawasaki would not make it. Tommy finished moto one with a disappointing DNF.

Behind the two KTMs is where all the excitement was in moto one. For most of the race, there was a four-way battle between Joel Roelants, Dylan Ferrandis, Jake Nicholls and, the surprise of the day, Michael Leib—the American rider filling in for the injured Arnaud Tonus and Zach Osbourne with Steve Dixon’s Monster Energy/Yamaha squad. At the midway point, it was Roelants getting the better of the four, but late in the race—with Leib closing—Roelants threw it away in a huge crash. From that point on, it was Mr. Leib securing the final podium spot and his first ever major professional podium finish. Nicholls and Ferrandis crossed the line behind Leib in fourth and fifth.

Michael Leib has become the Cinderella story of the 2012 season so far. Photo: Youthstream

When moto two rounded turn one, it was Jeremy vanHorebeek with the lead, and neither Herlings or Searle were anywhere to be found. The two championship contenders were stuck at the bottom of a first turn pileup. The two untangled their bikes and took off to salvage what they could.

Up front, it was vanHorebeek and Leib, and to everyone’s surprise, Leib made the pass and checked out. The #170 was feeling it and quickly built himself a cushion that, at one point, was near twenty-five seconds.

With Leib and vanHorebeek up front, most of the focus turned to Searle and Herlings. Early on, Herlings was quicker getting through traffic, but Searle got it dialed in by mid-race. Both were flying through the pack at clips 5-10 seconds a lap faster than anyone else, and before we knew it, they were around vanHorebeek and closing on Leib. Just before the two-lap board flew, Herlings was in the lead, and was followed through soon after by Searle. Searle tried to get up to Herlings, but the #84 was able to secure the 1-1 Grand Prix sweep for the overall GP win. Tommy crossed the line in second, but his DNF-2 score was only good enough for ninth overall.

MX2 Podium celebration. Photo: KTM Images

The second spot on the box went to the American. Leib, with an incredible 3-3 tally on the day, was rewarded with the second spot on the box. After the race, Leib showed how much this meant to him with overflowing emotion. The third spot on the podium went to vanHorebeek with a 2-4 score on the day.

MX1 Overall Results – GP of Italy – Fermo

MX1 Overall Results - MXGP of Italy - Fermo - Click to enlarge


MX2 Overall Results – GP of Italy – Fermo

MX2 Overall Results - MXGP of Italy - Fermo - Click to enlarge

Dan Lamb is a 12+ year journalist and the owner of MotoXAddicts.