MOTOCROSS: Round 15 World Championship preview

McFarlane aiming for final flurry The final countdown to the end of the 2004 Motocross World Championship will commence at the popular Gaildorf circuit in Germany this weekend (August 28-29), as Aussie Andrew McFarlane seeks to win back ...

McFarlane aiming for final flurry

The final countdown to the end of the 2004 Motocross World Championship will commence at the popular Gaildorf circuit in Germany this weekend (August 28-29), as Aussie Andrew McFarlane seeks to win back fourth position in the MX2 class.

The 27-year-old Brisbane rider, who has won three races in this year's title chase on his Bike-it Dixon-supported Yamaha YZ250F, has struggled since his mid-season heroics -- the nadir coming when he was unable to compete in the Czech Republic-hosted round 12 after a crash on the eve of hostilities.

As a consequence, young Italian charger Antonio Cairoli (Yamaha) has now displaced McFarlane out of fourth position in the standings after 13 of 16 rounds -- 337 to 329.

Cairoli, the pint-sized 18-year-old Sicilian who won the 2002 Italian junior title, has been very impressive in the last two rounds, not only winning his maiden world motocross race in the Czech Republic, but scoring the most points in the process -- 80, 10 more than world championship leader Ben Townley (Champ KTM).

Despite Cairoli's fast-track to the world motocross big league, Townley has been the pre-eminent rider in this year's championship, and has won 10 out of 26 races contested -- a strike rate nearly on par with Belgian dynamo Stefan Everts (Yamaha) in the MX1 class. Townley, who is seeking to become the second New Zealand motocross champion after Shayne King in 1996, now enjoys a 93pt -- 497 to 404 -- lead over KTM teammate Tyla Rattray with a maximum of 150pts still up for grabs. Briton Stephen Sword (Kawasaki), this year's only other multiple race winner besides McFarlane and Townley, is third on 382pts, ahead of Cairoli and McFarlane.

McFarlane, who is now in his fourth year on the world motocross circuit, has never finished better than sixth in a German race, which he will be hoping to better this Sunday, encouraged by a first and second in last weekend's penultimate round of the British MX2 title. Whatever transpires in the last three rounds -- Irish and South African events will follow in September -- McFarlane is still on target for a best-ever finish in a world championship, which would usurp last year's sixth place in the premier MotocrossGP title on a Kawasaki.

In the MX1 class, seven-time world motocross champion Everts, who recently joined the fathers' club for the first time, controls proceedings on 572pts after scoring at least 40pts in 11 of the 13 rounds -- a remarkable level of consistency. Hitherto, that has proved too much for dual world 250cc champion Mickael Pichon (Honda, 479pts) and New Zealander Josh Coppins (Honda, 441).

However, Pichon, who has won seven races of his own in 2004, four behind Everts, hasn't yet waved the white flag in what should be a thrilling final few rounds.

Behind the leading trio, 2003 125cc champion Steve Ramon (KTM, 394pts) and teenager Kevin Strijbos (Suzuki, 360) currently see out the top five -- positions they appear destined to hold for the remainder of the year.

-Motorcycling Australia

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Series General
Drivers Andrew McFarlane , Mickael Pichon , Kevin Strijbos , Tyla Rattray , Stefan Everts
Tags MOTORCYLE