Red Bull KTM Factory rider Antonio Cairoli is like a fine wine. I remember the Sicilian telling me at the Latvian Grand Prix—during his injury riddled season two years ago—that we hadn’t seen the best of him. I have to be honest, I wasn’t sure if that was the case. With around 75 GP wins to his name at that time and eight world titles, it was hard to see him better what he had already done.

Then came the start of the 2017 season—a win in Qatar, that marvellous performance in Trentino a month ago, and his fighting off the challenge of the next king of MXGP, Jeffrey Herlings, in Germany last weekend. He has been a great champion and with the red plate and a very handy 44 point lead over Tim Gajser in the MXGP points, you could have to think that he is heading for championship number nine.

In Germany last weekend the Italian left smiling, and looking forward to what is coming in the next months. His first moto performance a little less than he hoped for, but a strong performance.

Antonio and his girlfriend, Jill, in Germany.

“I’m really happy,” Cairoli said after his win. “I got three good starts this weekend and this is what we have been working on for a little while. On a track as rough as the one we had today, it was really important to try and ride smoothly and without any mistakes. I enjoy riding here because the soil is similar to that of my home track. In the first moto I got the hole shot, but Jeffrey was real close to me and he was very fast in certain sections. He quickly closed down the gap and managed to pass me. He was the fastest on track during the early part of the race, and I lost contact as I was constantly searching for good lines. After a while I managed to find my rhythm and picked up a good pace, managing to close the gap down. Unfortunately I got caught up with some lapped riders, losing valuable seconds, and couldn’t get close enough to try for the pass.”

His second moto result was typical Cairoli. Let Herlings have that first moto, but in the second, and the all important GP overall winning moto, he showed his class. Riding off into the distance and winning easily.

“Anyway there was still a second moto to try to get the GP win, so I concentrated on getting another good start and then just put my head down and pushed hard for the whole moto, which worked out pretty well for me! I’m really happy with this victory and in extending my points lead, even though it’s not vitally important at this point of the season. I’m already looking forward to the next race in France, where we will have many fans! It’s a nice track and I want to try and have fun and to keep focused on good starts, as in today, because this is crucial. I also want send with my fiancé Jill a special thought to our friend Nicky Hayden and his family, wishing him to win the hardest battle of his life.”

If Antonio wins this title, it will no doubt be his most rewarding.

While he didn’t win Latvia a couple of weeks earlier, he did show his speed was good, and only bad starts slowed his progress.

“I’m was completely satisfied about how my weekend went, from a Championship point of view I’m happy, because my closest rival did worse than me and I’ve got the red plate back. What I’m not happy with, were my starts, that made my races way more difficult than they should have been. In race one I was outside of the top 15 from the start but luckily clawed my way back to 5th, which is not bad but I want to be fighting for the victory every race.”

“In the second moto I was feeling ok, I almost got the hole-shot but went off of the track and down to sixth. Fortunately my speed was good and I made some decent passes back up to third place, just before Gajser had a big crash in front of me. I was a bit shocked because it was a big one but I just keep riding till the end, finishing second and luckily they told me that Tim didn’t suffered any consequences.”

Now onto Ernee in France, another hard pack, another chance to cement his points lead. We all know that at the end of the day in Ernee, he will be consistent, and strong. We are all lucky to be witnessing this legend perform. Just like Stefan Everts a decade before him, the Red Bull KTM factory rider is doing things that very few can achieve, and he does it with modesty and respect for his rivals.

Ray Archer images