The Belgian Grand Prix is always the most demanding race of the season through the unrelenting deep sand of Lommel and this year was also run in stifling heat with temperatures soaring way above thirty degrees to render the race a battle not only of skill and speed but also of survival, even for the best-prepared athletes in the world. Kawasaki’s French leader had still been suffering until midweek from the effects of sickness which had caused his withdrawal from the previous weekend’s Czech GP but battled bravely for victory with the three fastest sand-specialists in the world all day as many other top names wilted in the demanding conditions. As in Qualifying he chose a central start-gate which, despite the additional distance involved, would offer a more flowing line through turn one and the tactic again paid off as he emerged top-five in both motos. He was quickly making dramatic moves up the leaderboard to take over second place on the sixth of sixteen laps in race one and continued to close down to within three seconds of the leader before, unable to train all week, the strain on his energy reserves started to show at the twenty-minute stage of the race and he surrendered one position three laps from the end to finish third. Just two hours later he returned to the rugged track to again take over second-place after five laps and held the position until four laps from the finish. A startling move by the eventual GP winner with two laps remaining eventually relegated him to fourth in moto and overall but the bravery of his performance, so narrowly missing the podium, was universally acclaimed.
Romain Febvre: “It’s always frustrating to miss the podium by just a few points, but that’s how it is. We knew that this GP would be a tough one - maybe the most difficult of the season - and as they didn’t flatten the track on Saturday evening we knew that it would be exceptionally tough today, particularly as it was also really hot. I had a good feeling all weekend and I showed I had a good speed with one of the fastest lap-times in both races. Physically I’m still not back to my normal level and I have only been back on the bike for six weeks so I couldn’t expect too much as my rivals are racing their fourteenth GP of the season; if I was at full fitness I would for sure have been on the podium as I finished fourth anyway. In both races I was OK for twenty minutes until I started to feel tired but that was to be expected as I was really sick last weekend. I will rest for a few days and then will be back on the bike to prepare for the last four GPs; I like all of these tracks and I hope to finally record some podiums again before the end of the season."
Febvre’s KRT teammate Ben Watson finished eleventh overall after finishing tenth in the first moto and thirteenth in race two. The Englishman had a solid ride from an initial twelfth in the first moto with consistent lap-times throughout the thirty-five minute race, and was looking at an even better performance in race two as KX450-SR power saw him narrowly miss the holeshot award. He was still running an impressive seventh at half-distance before a fall cost him twelve seconds but, more significantly, saw him lose his rhythm with a resultant impact on his lap-times and he received the chequered flag thirteenth. He remains twelfth in the series points standings.
Ben Watson: “I think I did quite a solid job in race one; I started around twelfth-thirteenth and gained a few places to finish tenth. I probably didn’t ride to my maximum capabilities as I was trying to find the rhythm for thirty-five minutes; I think that was the same for everyone as it has been a physically-demanding GP in the heat. We changed a little bit on our set-up for race two and it worked really well; I nearly holeshot and had a good first ten-fifteen minutes. I was riding comfortably in seventh at my own pace and rhythm but then I made a small mistake, crashed in a corner and buried the bike in the sand. It’s always difficult after you break your rhythm and I was in bike-energy-save mode after that.“
F&H Kawasaki Racing Team’s Jed Beaton was classified sixteenth overall to retain his seventeenth series ranking. A mistake on lap four of the first race cost the Australian ten seconds and five positions but he regrouped quickly to confirm that he is gradually regaining his fitness, posting solid lap times to the close to pull back tht lost ground and take the chequered flag seventeenth. He held a smooth eleventh place for six laps of race two until the track and climatic conditions started to take its toll and he eventually crossed the finishing-line fifteenth.