Mickael Pichon, the leader of the 250cc MX World Championship, and Frederic Bolley, the defending champion, will be the favorites of the French Grand Prix this weekend in Ernée (close to Laval and Le Mans), home of the eighth round of the season.
Organized last year in Brou, the French round of the 250cc World Championship was one of the most exciting of the season, with a great battle between Pichon and Bolley, each of them winning one moto and finishing second in the other. Bolley won the GP as he beat Pichon in the second heat, and it was the first time since Jacky Vimond (1985 and 1986) that a French rider won his home GP in this class. The dominant rider of the series this year, and winner of an international race last weekend in France (Josh Coppins and Bolley finished second and third, while Gordon Crockard took sixth with a DNF), Pichon will truly be contesting his home GP, as he lives only 60 miles from Ernée, and he will be trying to win the second French GP of his career (he won his first GP in 1994 in Sourdeval, home of a 125cc GP). Looking for his first win of the season, Bolley will be the strongest rival, although he has never bbeen lucky here; he was a GP newcomer for the 125cc GP in 1990 (his first GP season), and crashed on a muddy downhill in 1999.
Both riders will have some competition during the weekend from Crockard (winner of the last GP in Sweden), Coppins (who got his first GP podium in France last year), Yves Demaria, Claudio Federici, Pit Beirer (on the podium here in 1999), Chad Reed and Mickael Maschio.
Leader in the 125cc class, James Dobb will be back following an operation last Monday to the shoulder he injured in Sweden, but his rivals will try to push hard, as he could still have some pain to his collarbone. Kenneth Gundersen (winner of his first GP in Sweden), Eric Eggens (the only man to have beaten Dobb this season), Steve Ramon (looking for his first GP win), Alessio Chiodi (back to the GPs after an injury-filled season in the USA), Belometti and Luigi Seguy are also strong riders in this class.
In the 500cc class, we could see another duel between Stephan Everts (winner of five GPs this season) and Joel Smets (defending champ and winner here in 1999), but since his arm-pump-prevention operation, Marnicq Bervoets seems able to race with them. For the past few days, the weather has been cloudy in this part of France, but at the moment it’s not raining and the weather forecast is optomistic.
Podium: Last Ernée GP (250, 1999): 1. Marnicq Bervoets (BEL, Kawasaki); 2. Pit Beirer (GER, Kawasaki); 3. David Vuillemin (FRA, Yamaha).
Ernée GP Winners: 1999: Marnicq Bervoets (Bel, Kawasaki 250); 1998: Joel Smets (Bel, Husaberg 500); 1994: Greg Albertyn (RSA, Suzuki 250); 1990: Donny Schmit (USA, Suzuki 125).
125: 1. Dobb (GBR, KTM), 145 pts; 2. Eggens (NED, KTM), 101; 3. Ramon (BEL, Kawasaki), 92; 4. Chiodi (ITA, Yamaha), 60; 5. Seguy (FRA, Yamaha), 57.
250: 1. Pichon (FRA, Suzuki), 165 pts; 2. Crockard (GBR, Honda), 111; 3. Federici (ITA, Yamaha), 73; 4. Coppins (NZL, Suzuki), 67; 5. Bolley (FRA, Honda), 66.
500: 1. Everts (BEL, Yamaha), 165 pts; 2. Smets (BEL, KTM), 137; 3. Bervoets (BEL, Yamaha), 106; 4. Garcia Vico (SPA, KTM), 66; 5. Lindhe (Swe, Husqvarna), 47.