Maxxis British Championship – Canada Heights Preview

Heading into round two of the 2012 Maxxis British Championship, you could argue that this is where the series really begins. Now, riders and teams can put the nerves, anticipation and excitement of round one behind them, and focus on reaching their goals. For some Canada Heights will offer a chance at redemption, others will simply want to keep the ball rolling. Either way, this weekend will be crucial in setting the tone for the rest of the year.

MX2

We may only be three moto’s into the MX2 championship, but already there looks to be a shake up in the point’s standings. Zach Osborne, the American who looked incredibly strong at round one as he raced to the overall victory, crashed hard last week, and looks certain to miss Canada Heights. The official diagnosis seems to be a cracked collarbone, which will leave Zach with a race against time to be ready for the start of the World Championship in two weeks time, as well as a large points deficit to overcome if he is to take a second British Championship title.

Osborne won the opener but injury has since struck

Although things may be looking bleak for the Monster Energy BikeIt Yamaha of Osborne, for the rest of the team this opens the door for them to snatch the red plate. After a DNF in the second moto at FatCat, reigning champ Arnaud Tonus was left down in fourth overall, with a number of points between him and the points lead. With only eight points separating Tonus from second in the championship, Mel Pocock. It is more than possible for Tonus to claim the points lead before leaving Canada Heights, because as we’ve seen in the past, Arnaud is more than capable of taking three moto wins at one round.

It’s another Monster Energy BikeIt Yamaha that Tonus will have to catch should Osborne not line up however, as teammate Mel Pocock sits an impressive second in the championship after a very successful outing at round one. Mel has one overall victory to his name in the MX2 class at the Maxxis British Championship, and at FatCat he proved he is more than capable of challenging for a victory every time he lines up this year. As the series moves onwards to Canada Heights, a win has to be his number one priority, and if he can do just that, he may solidify his spot as a title contender.

Pocock is looking strong back on Steve Dixon's team

Sandwiched in between the three Monster Energy BikeIt Yamaha’s is the Samsung Yamaha of Graeme Irwin, another rider who had a very successful round one. After an injury-ridden time in the MX1 class last year, Irwin’s debut ride aboard a Yamaha couldn’t have been much better. Third overall in the series thus far, Irwin has the potential to possibly be a surprise winner at Canada Heights, and it wouldn’t be the first time after taking his one and only career moto win two years ago.

Whilst the riders mentioned above will be looking to keep the ball rolling as the series moves forward into round two, a few title favourites will be looking to erase bad memories of round one this coming weekend. Elliott Banks Browne (HM Plant KTM UK) and Nicolas Aubin (Buildbase Honda) were perhaps considered to have the best shot at beating the powerful Monster Energy BikeIt Yamaha team, but their title hopes suffered a huge blow with disappointing round one finishes. Banks Browne managed to salvage eighth overall after a second race DNF, but already sits thirty-one points back of Osborne as the series heads to Canada Heights.

Even further down the order was Aubin, who currently sits twelfth in the championship, forty-six points (almost two full moto’s) down on Osborne. Coming from France, the hills of Canada Heights should suit Aubin a lot better than the deep sand of FatCat, and he will undoubtedly be looking to rebound in a big way on Sunday.

MX1

The MX1 class at FatCat saw a display of sheer dominance from Kevin Strijbos, the Belgian put his stamp on the championship, and heading into Canada Heights, has all the momentum. That’s one thing every single rider on the gate will be trying to stop before Strijbos has complete control over the championship. One factor that will make the MX1 class a lot more competitive this weekend is the track, the deep sand of FatCat undoubtedly played into the hands of Strijbos, as it resembles his native homeland. The Canada Heights circuit should level the playing field slightly, and see the MX1 class a lot more competitive.

Strijbos has laid down the marker, that's for sure

Two riders that will look to keep the ball rolling as the series heads to round two, after surprising podium finishes at FatCat are Latvian Mattis Karro and Estonian Gert Krestinov. The two – notoriously good on a sandy track – were undoubtedly the biggest surprise on the day and have the potential to maybe go one better at Canada Heights, but their first goal will be too remain on the box as the series moves forward – a tough feat considering just how stacked the MX1 class is this year.

Karro has the raw speed to challenge for wins for sure

Whilst foreign riders dominated the podium, ‘the Brits’ will be looking for redemption at the traditional Canada Heights circuit, a regular stop on the series calendar. Top British rider in the championship thus far is Shaun Simpson aboard his new Monster Energy BikeIt Yamaha in fourth overall. After now seeing how the bike performs under true race conditions, Simpson will be looking to use that information to guide him onto the podium on Sunday. It wasn’t just Simpson getting accumulated to a new bike at round one however, as the same could be said for the top seven riders in the overall MX1 standings, as every rider in those positions was getting accustomed to new bikes, on a new team. It’s just a matter of who can get there machine dialed in the quickest. Looking back, Shaun topped the podium at Canada Heights in 2011, so he is obviously comfortable around the Kent track, and that knowledge could become valuable on Sunday.

Martin Barr had a very strong showing at FatCat, and his third in the final moto is a testament to his fitness and bike set up on the roughest of tracks. Martin’s fifth overall perhaps isn’t a true representation of his speed, because in all three moto’s his lap times were consistent and some of the best. With good starts, it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to see Barr put his Maxxis Henderson LPE Kawasaki on the top step of the podium on Sunday afternoon. The same could be said for veteran Stephen Sword also, the Scot didn’t have the best day at round one with a seventh overall, but a first in timed qualifying proved that the speed is there and his Suzuki is mostly on point.

Swordy didn't set the world on fire at FatCat but he got off to a steady consistent start

Much like in the MX2 class, there were title contenders that had results which were devastating to their title chances. Most notably was Kristian Whatley aboard his new PAR Honda ride. After a huge crash in practice the points salvaged could be valuable by the time October rolls around, but for now Whatley will have to rebound in dramatic fashion at Canada Heights and start clawing back the points lost at round one, as he now sits a massive fifty-four- points out of the championship lead. Lanes Kawasaki rider Marc de Reuver also had a day he would rather forget. As the Dutchman had many small tip-overs which cost him big points on a track, which should have lent itself to Marc’s outstanding sand riding abilities. –  Lewis Phillips

Kristian Whatley had a shocker of a Maxxis debut for his new PAR Honda team and he'll be looking for a quick turnaround in fortunes

Preview by Lewis Phillips

Photography by Mark Turner

MX Vice Editor || 25

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