Jeffery Herlings wins 2021 FIM World Motocross Championshipby Jack Gaffney November 11, 2021 3 comments
Let’s rewind back to mid-July to start things off. Jeffery Herlings at his home Grand Prix in the Netherlands had Ivo Monticelli land on his shoulder right off the start. The Bullet fractured his shoulder blade but ended up winning this Moto. As a result, however, Herlings missed the next three Motos, at Oss, then both that next week at Loket in the Czech Republic. Herlings then dropped 51 points back of then points leader Tim Gajser. Not quite a death sentence, but a super run would be needed for the title.
From his first round back at Lommel in the beginning of August to the first Mantova round on Sunday, here is what the Bullet pulled off. Seven Grand Prix wins, along with a Grand Prix podium percentage of 75. On the Moto front, Herlings picked up 11 Moto wins, along with 19 out of a possible 24 Moto podium results. Despite an otherworldly run, Herlings still entered the final round of the year three points back of Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Romain Febvre. Large in part due to Moto 1 DNF back in Trentino. With that in mind, a 1-1 day was the goal for Herlings entering Wednesday. This would guarantee his second World Title on a 450 by default.
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The Flying Dutchman
Not once but twice did Herlings get beat off the start by Febvre on Wednesday. This is despite Herlings qualifying first and receiving first gate choice in both Motos. With that said, a lack of aggressiveness early by Febvre in the opening Moto may have cost him. He lacked urgency trying to get around leader Jorge Prado, which allowed Herlings to get to and by him just four laps in. Herlings then went on to win the opening Moto of the day, but a second by Febvre kept his hopes alive headed into Moto 2.
Febvre on his second start of the day showed a bit more urgency, swiftly finding his way by Prado. Herlings however got to Febvre even faster than he did in Moto 1, passing him all of one lap later. While Febvre kept Herlings in his crosshairs in the coming laps, he absolutely had to win this race to win the title, he needed to do something quickly. In a very rare error, Febvre ended up looping out of a corner, effectively ending his season.
Afterward, Febvre seemed to check out, falling far off the pace that Herlings was on. This all despite there being 20-plus minutes left in the Moto. Despite a late charge from Gajser, Herlings was able to do exactly what he needed to do in Mantova. That being to go 1-1, and now for the second time as a 450 MXGP rider, the Bullet is World Champion.
I Guess We’ll Never Know
One of the biggest problems of Herlings’ career is his ability to stay healthy. Injuries have cost him multiple World Titles since moving up to riding a 450. While not even mentioning some MX2 titles as well. Herlings feels similar to James Stewart from the standpoint of being willing to ‘play with fire’ on the bike. Safe to say Herlings has had his fair share of burns along the way. 2021 was no different, missing or scoring zero points in four Motos, and he still won the Championship. Febvre was no doubt the more consistent rider in 2021. Herlings however was flat out unbeatable in the second half of the season.
Including his MX2 stats, this is Herlings’ fifth World Title, and his 99th career Grand Prix win. Although an overwhelming majority of his wins come in the MX2 class (61 wins in seven years), he is closing in on all-time history. Entering 2022, he trails Stefan Everts by two GP wins for the most in FIM World Motocross History. How you want to weigh that considering the amount of MX2 wins and years spent there is up to you. Regardless, it is an impressive feat all the same. In terms of premier class wins, Herlings sits four wins back of Everts for third all-time with 38. The outgoing Antonio Cairoli sits atop the all-time premier class wins list with 70.
After winning the Moto, Grand Prix, and World Title, Herlings was almost immediately mobbed by a crowd of his team and media members. Lisa Leyland, MXGP-TV’s pit reporter, and studio show host was in the proverbial ‘eye of the storm’ and got a brief but good statement from the new World Champion. Herlings in a callback to Kanye West’s infamous 2005 Grammy’s speech said this (second slide).
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images