When you go off racing in Europe to challenge the sand-track experts, you know immediately that you are sure to be in for an ultra-tough and physically-demanding event that often results in little or no reward for your efforts! Normally a top ten finish can rightly be considered as a big success, so the 2017 AMCA Great Britain team (competing in the IMBA MX2 European Championship) should step forward and take a bow.
In the opening round of the series held at Stevensbeek in Holland on Sunday, Josh Waterman (IDS/JD Racing KTM) took a fantastic second overall. Ray Rowson (Apex/Geartec KTM) was a super third and Jack Cox (FUS FRO/CPS Husqvarna) was only denied a top-four finish after a last moto fall. Despite badly twisting his knee in race one, Bradley Tranter (FUS FRO/CPS Husqvarna) still somehow bravely completed the event to earn a very gutsy fifteenth whilst Jack Gardner (Moto 4 Husqvarna) was seventeenth. Not so lucky though was Cory McShane, who selected to make his full IMBA debut, was taken ill on his journey through Belgium and required a trip to hospital, thus being unable to race. Get well soon, Cory!
With four-time IMBA champion John Cuppen of Holland not contesting the 2017 series, there is going to be a new king this time around. One of the big favourites for the crown was Cuppen’s fellow countryman, Jacky Tausch, but what a nightmare he was to endure! Major bike problems and a massive crash meant that he was only twelfth overall on Sunday. Instead it was a Dutch lad, Joshua Van der Linden, who starred, blasting to a superb maximum points haul. The very fast Yamaha pilot had earlier made his intentions perfectly clear by recording the fastest qualifying lap with Ray Rowson the quickest Brit in sixth.
With the formalities completed it was now time to go sand-blasting in the all-important racing and, as the pack reached the first turn of moto one, Brit Jack Cox had gloriously hit the front. In the early stages Cox was in control, Rowson was fourth, Waterman sixth, Tranter eighth and Gardner eleventh. For three frantic all-action laps, Cox remained at the front despite being under tremendous pressure from Dutch duo Van der Linden and Tausch. Eventually the home duo found a way past Cox, but just one circuit later it was all change again as Tausch, already aboard his spare bike, ground to a sudden halt.
Van der Linden stretched his advantage at the front, but the Brits were really flying high. Cox was now back up to second, Waterman third, Rowson fifth and Gardner thirteenth. For the unlucky Tranter though it was pure pain, as he was forced out with a badly twisted knee. On completion of this hotly-contested moto in the 2017 IMBA MX2 European series, victory belonged to Van der Linden from Waterman and Rowson whilst Cox dropped to fourth then just held onto his position. For the remaining Brit, Gardner, it was to be a fourteenth place finish.
Moto two and Cox made another dream holeshot to head Van der Linden, Tausch and Rico Lommers. Waterman was down in eighth, Rowson ninth and Tranter twelfth. For Gardiner though he had it all to do, after falling early on when inside of the top ten. Both Van der Linden and Tausch passed Cox on lap four to then indulge in a super Dutch head-to-head for race control.
Eventually Tausch hit the front only to then suffer a big off, also badly bending the frontend of his borrowed bike in the process. So at the flag again it was victory to Van der Linden from Lommers. Having a great ride, Waterman was looking strong and right on the gas moving up to bag a super third. Cox was fourth and Rowson ninth. Producing a heroic performance, Tranter despite struggling to even walk and suffering from a very swollen knee showed gritty determination to bag twelfth with Gardner eighteenth after having his progress halted when tangling with the track marking.
Looking for that holeshot hat-trick and potentially a place on the podium, it all went wrong for Cox in the early exchanges of moto three; he fell and found himself down in last place. Although Cox was not the pace-setter this time around, there was still though another Brit in control as Jack Gardner led the way. Jack unfortunately slipped off and went back to fourth, only to be replaced at the front by yet another Brit: Mr. Ray Rowson!
After controlling for two laps, Rowson was then overhauled by Van der Linden and Tausch who was on an amazing charge. Waterman was also having another stormer, as after gating in fifth he got up to second. At one point the Brit even started to rapidly reel in leader Van der Linden, before settling for third. At the flag it was yet another big win for the very impressive Van der Linden from Tausch, Waterman and Rowson. Tranter dug deep yet again to earn fourteenth, one place ahead of his frustrated FUS teammate Cox. Gardner was sixteenth.
Well done to the British riders on this super showing in the Dutch sand. There’s no time though to enjoy that glory though, as they go into battle for round two this Sunday when they travel to Belgium!
Words: Mike Wood | Images: Mike Wood