ANTONIO Cairoli is to Motocross what Valentino Rossi is to MotoGP. Both Italians are legends in their own rights and are role models in their respective disciplines. If Rossi has clinched nine world titles, Cairoli has claimed one lesser.
As the new FIM World Championship began in Qatar last week, all eyes were on MXGP defending champion Tim Gajser and Jeffrey Herlings, who was making the big switch from support category (MX2) to the premier class.
But it was Cairoli, who stole the thunder from the ‘big two’ at the 1,595M Losail Motocross Track to prove yet again that there was no substitute for experience.
Into his 14th year of Grand Prix racing, the KTM rider won both races as the new season got off to a blazing start under the lights.
Ever since the Qatar Motocross Grand Prix was first held at Losail in 2013, no rider has been able to win three races and Cairoli, who had won the inaugural edition, created history.
It was a good comeback for Cairoli, who has struggled in recent times, with his last world title coming in 2014.
No wonder, the ‘king of sand’ was delighted with his opening salvo in Qatar.
“I’m really happy, felt great to be back on the top spot. The season is long and I’ll try and stay in the top three always. Years 2015 and 2016 weren’t my best, so I try to do this more often,” said Cairoli.
Honda rider Gajser had grabbed the pole, with Cairoli lurking behind followed by France’s Gautier Paulin, who competes for Husqvarna factory Team.
But once the gates were open, it was Cairoli all the way in Race 1. Belgium’s Kawasaki rider Clement Desalle finished second and Gajser third.
The plot was no different in Race 2 as Cairoli was head and shoulders above Gajser. France’s Yahama rider Romain Febvre ended up third.
“I’m pleased with the results of both races. It was a spectacular night right from the beginning. I had a very nice battle with Tim (Gajser) and hopefully we can have more races like this together.
“The pre-season races went really well and I’m getting back to my best. I was really looking forward to a good start in Qatar and things went off well according to the plan,” added Cairoli.
The last season saw Slovenia’s Gajser doing a double in the opening round and going on to win the world title.
Can Cairoli emulate Gajser? Only time will tell. For the moment, one thing is sure. The ‘king of sand’ is back on track and in some style too as the Motocross caravan moves to Indonesia for the second round on March 5.