Just 48 hours before the deciding round and with the intended venue of Norley in Cheshire waterlogged, alarm bells were ringing as the AMCA frantically attempted to reschedule the final event of the British Motocross Championship powered by Datatag and supported by Dunlop. Thankfully though and coming to their rescue was the Cannock MXC who not only took the last minute task on but also did a great job in making it happen! The new venue was just a little further South down the M6 at Lower Drayton in Staffordshire, the all-weather track actually being in a remarkably dry condition! With the panic over it was time for business and the all-important race action which would finally dictate just who would be crowned the 2017 AMCA Motocross Champions.
The first title to be decided was the MX1 class, with season long leader and defending Champion Luke Burton (FUS FRO CPS Husqvarna) the favourite for glory. Determined to take the fight right to the wire though it was 2nd placed Gary Gibson who grabbed the moto one holeshot before being passed on the opening lap by both Shane Carless and Burton. Desperate to stay in contention, Gibson then crashed out when attempting to force himself up the inside of rival Burton as the duo entered a tight corner. Restarting last, Gibson’s slim title hopes had now all but disappeared as he remounted to eventually finish in 20th place with Burton taking the win and with it the 2017 MX1 title. Next best in moto one was Carless from Ryan Crowder, Luke Meredith, Ashley Thomas and Jack Timms.
Making amends for that earlier fall in moto one, Gibson then bounced back in style to win the second clash from start to finish chased hard by Burton, Carless, Crowder, Neale and Zac Stealey. Finishing the season just how it had all began way back in April, Burton closed the 2017 MX1 campaign with another moto victory after Gibson had again grabbed the initial holeshot. Eventually Gibson dropped down to 5th behind Carless, Crowder and Meredith but had still done enough to hold onto the runners-up spot in the final series standings. On the Lower Drayton podium it was Burton, Carless and Crowder, the latter rider recording his fourth consecutive podium since switching over to Apico Husqvarna. This Lancashire rider is definitely one to watch out for in 2018 along with Paul Neale, a great 5th in his debut MX1 season!
After winning the previous week at Frocester in the penultimate round, defending MX2 Champion Josh Waterman was prepared to put it all on the line at Lower Drayton although he still trailed leader Ray Rowson by 43 points. In Sunday’s opening clash, Waterman led all the way from start to finish as Rowson moved up from an early 4th to get home in 2nd ahead of Lewis King, James Wainwright, Jansen Day and Clinton Barrs. The day though did not start quite so well for two of the other fancied runners, Luke Dean and Bradley Tranter. Whilst Tranter crashed on lap one, Dean holding 3rd in the series finished 17th after a stone split his radiator hose causing his Yamaha to lose water.
Although Waterman was right on it again in MX2 moto two and taking another win, crucially Rowson bagged 2nd spot with the very impressive young Wainwright in 3rd. At the first attempt to run this race, King had led before his Kawasaki developed an electrical fault. With his pit crew working frantically to rectify the problem, King ran out of time and had to go on his spare machine but still got home in 4th with his TMC Kawasaki teammate Day the next best. Again in trouble, Dean lost the use of his back brake in this one and finished 8th.
So going into the final MX2 clash of 2017, Rowson held a 31 point advantage over Waterman and was definitely favourite for the crown. Getting the job done in style, Rowson won that last moto from Waterman to thus bag his first AMCA title. Although not starting this final race of 2017, Dean still took the bronze medal position in the series despite competing the last five rounds suffering from injury. Special mention also to Clinton Barrs who just 48 hours after getting married still competed at Lower Drayton taking 6th overall and 5th in the Championship table.
Apex Geartec KTM ace Rowson afterwards on the podium commented, “This was another productive week. Seven days ago at Frocester I struggled with my starts but still got the points on the board. Today I knew what was required and got the job done and it was nice to finish with a moto win. I really enjoyed this year making lots of new friends along the way. It’s been fun racing alongside my wife’s brother (Lewis King) and I hope to be back next year to defend my title. I am now looking forward to spending some quality time with my wife and baby daughter.”
Needing just 7 points to bag the AMCA 2T crown, Brad Turner got the job done in the best possible fashion by winning moto one from gate to flag. Next best in this opener was Jordan Saunders, the man destined to finish as the series runner-up whilst Jack Waterman buoyed by his super Frocester showing took 3rd. Also in the mix in a typically entertaining 2T blast were James Lane, the all-action Rory Jones, Jason Kenderick and Nathan Bache. In this one, expected front runners Shaun Buchan and Bradley Doyle both fell, finishing 14th and 19th respectively.
Showing no mercy, Champion Turner on the IDS AMS KTM took another comfortable win in moto two as Saunders, Lane and Doyle all over-hauled fast starting Waterman. Completing the top ten this time around was Jones, Kenderick, Buchan, Ashley Wilson and Jordan Wright.
After his recent strong form, unfortunately Waterman was to hurt his back in the last 2T moto when landing from a jump and after having earlier made another quick gate, dropping from 4th right down to 14th. Finishing the season in style though it was Turner yet again with the win from Kenderick, Lane, Saunders, Jones, Doyle and Buchan. Surprisingly in clinching his first AMCA title, Turner also announced his retirement from the sport saying, “my body is battered and I am having lots of trouble with knee pain after years of youth and adult racing. I must think about what pays my mortgage and the suspension tuning business must come first. I still intend to keep a bike so that I can go practising and maybe take in the odd club event now and again.” In the separately scored 2T (MX2) class, Bache claimed the title 31 points ahead of Jones who had earlier missed two rounds.
With Terry House holding 2nd in the AMCA Vets series a non-starter at Lower Drayton, it offered Simon Lane the chance to move up the standings and that’s just what he did! Lane was consistently fast out of the gate, bagging a 2/1/2 scorecard although he could not prevent the superb James Russell from taking the 2017 Vets title. Russell the 2004 AMCA Open class Champion returned to serious racing this year and what a revelation he has been! On the Premier Bikes KTM, James has been on all nine podiums, took seven overall wins and recorded eighteen moto victories. At Lower Drayton, Russell put two of those moto wins on the board as Gary Jones took 3rd overall, just reward for a season in which he has been continually very much right in the mix. On Sunday, Darren Bennett, Brian Staples and Stephen Marlow also finished their campaigns in style. Indeed Staples was to be another rider taking full advantage of House non-start by retaining his Vets Over 50 title, overhauling the former by a mere 3 points in the final reckonings.
Sunday’s event also featured the third and final round of the AMCA 85cc/150cc Youth series with Alfie Rickwood eventually taking the title. The decider at Lower Drayton started with a truly fantastic battle as Rickwood locked horns with and snatched victory ahead of a very determined Brandon Hill after the two riders and passed and repassed in a classic. Also in the mix during this very entertaining moto one were Max Lewis, Ozzie Murray, Joshua Fletcher-Williams and Aiden Woodman.
In the second clash, it was Hill who had been a non-starter during the previous round at Frocester who took a massive win with Rickwood moving past Lewis to finish as runner-up. Rickwood was fastest away in the final moto but a fall enabled Hill to move through and take another win with Lewis, Fletcher-Williams, Woodman, Ben Dutton, David Bradley, Murray, Joe Butler and Christopher Conduit completing the top ten. That result meant that Rickwood had also secured the Youth title just 16 points clear of Lewis with Woodman in the bronze medal position. Having won four of the nine motos, never finishing lower than 2nd place in any contest and also suffering an unfortunate DNF at Frocester, Rickwood was certainly a worthy Champion.
Many congratulations to all the 2017 AMCA Champions, Luke Burton, Ray Rowson, Brad Turner, Nathan Bache, James Russell, Brian Staples and Alfie Rickwood.
Words: Mike Wood | Lead Image: AMCA