The MXGP of Portugal Might Have Been the Toughest Mudder in Recent History

The MXGP of Portugal took place in abysmal conditions, which bore unexpected winners in both the MX2 and MXGP classes

MXGP race start, 2024 MXGP of Portugal. - Ray Archer/KTM

With the Motocross of Nations returning to the UK’s Matterley Basin later this year, you might think it a guarantee that the biggest mudder of the year would be taking place just outside Winchester in October. However, the MXGP of Portugal might have put that title out of reach.

Pouring rain and boggy mud might not be what you think of when considering Portuguese weather at the beginning of May, but that’s what the Motocross World Championship was forced to contend with at last weekend’s MXGP of Portugal at Agueda.

The conditions were brutal from the beginning, even in Saturday’s Qualifying Race, which saw reigning champion Jorge Prado take his second non-score in a qualifying race of the season. Tim Gajser won the MXGP qualifying race relatively comfortably, while Liam Everts - son of 10-time Motocross World Champion Stefan Everts - came out on top in MX2.

Everts would go on to wipe the floor with the opposition on Sunday in even worse conditions. He made only two mistakes (at least, that were caught on camera): getting stuck on the take off of a jump, and tipping over in a rut. But that was in comparison to the countless errors made by other top riders riders like Lucas Coenen, championship leader Kay de Wolf, Simon Laengenfelder, and reigning MX2 World Champion Andrea Adamo.

Everts won the first race by 5.880 seconds, and the second race by over 80 seconds. It was a riding clinic from the Belgian, who barely sat down all day. Everts, teammate to the aforementioned Adamo at Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, is now third in the MX2 standings and 20 points ahead of Adamo, despite missing the first round through injury.

In MXGP, Sunday went even worse for Prado than Saturday. In Trentino, the previous time this year that Prado had scored badly on Saturday, he still won the GP on Sunday. This time, though, the mistakes continued, and he went 15-12 for 13th overall.

The positive for Prado was that the GP went only slightly better for his closest rival, five-times World Champion Gajser, who won the first moto but crashed in the second and only recovered a far at 10th. It was still somehow enough for a podium for Gajser, and he took 21 points out of Prado, but he had the speed to go 1-1 which could have been devastating in the points. Instead, he now leads Prado by 14.

Jeffrey Herlings won the second moto and might have won the first, too, had he not had to retire with bike issues. A second place in the Qualifying Race meant it was nonetheless a decent weekend points-wise for Herlings, who is now 54 points behind Gajser in the MXGP standings.

Herlings had dominated the MX2 class with Red Bull KTM before he moved up to MXGP in 2017. In his place arrived Pauls Jonass, who won the 2017 MX2 title and looked to be on course for the 2018 title, too, before Prado caught fire in the middle of that season and took his first of two MX2 crowns.
Since 2019, Jonass has been in the MXGP class, first with Kimi Raikkonen’s IceOne Racing when it ran the factory Husqvarna effort, and with Standing Construct with GasGas and since it took over the factory team of the Swedish brand when IceOne switched to Kawasaki. From switching brands (Standing Construct has run Hondas since 2023) to numerous injuries and the mental toll those take, it has not been a straightforward time for the Latvian in MXGP, but last weekend’s Agueda quagmire saw him go 2-2 to take his first MXGP overall victory - his first Grand Prix win since the 2018 British Grand Prix at Matterley Basin. 

It feels like the kind of fairytale result you might expect from such treacherous and disgusting conditions, but the truth is that Jonass has been back to competitiveness already this year, taking four top five moto finishes in the first six races of the season, including a third place in the opening moto of the year in Argentina.

It shouldn’t be expected, though, that Jonass will be able to make up the 60 points he currently misses in the championship compared to Gajser, who now takes the championship leader’s red plate back to Spain and the MXGP of Galicia in Lugo, very much a home GP for Jorge Prado who will be aiming to erase some of that 14-point deficit this weekend.

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