The second round of the 2012 Maxxis British Championship has been and gone, and the Canada Heights circuit saw a tale of heartbreak and redemption as the best riders in the country battled their way around the Kent hillside. All three groups saw nail-biting racing, multiple lead changes and big crashes, resulting in two of the eight moto’s ending prematurely with a red flag.
The track offered a completely different challenge to that of round one, as the loamy soil running up and down hills was a complete change to the bottomless sand of FatCat. Having two extremely different tracks to open the series really shows what the riders have to give. As the results from the two clearly show who’s more comfortable on what surface, and who has every track, no matter the conditions, dialed in. One thing the change of track conditions did offer yesterday was different winners, as neither of the round one winners managed to repeat a second time around. Both classes welcomed two new faces up the podium, as only one rider from each group has a one hundred percent overall podium record thus far in 2012.
It seems most did enjoy the track – as always it was prepared to perfection by the Sidcup crew. But the hot weather made the surface very hard in some places (most notably the bomb hole), which was evident in the amount of rider casualties on the day.
Disappointingly, the 2012 Maxxis British Championship is already being hit with injuries to some of the top competitors. Already Zach Osborne was out with multiple injuries, but the first moto of the day also claimed his teammate Arnaud Tonus and Graeme Irwin of the Samsung RFX Yamaha team, who crashed into the downed Tonus’ bike leaving him with a concussion, and Tonus with a broken scaphoid and a dislocated shoulder. With three of the top four from round one in the MX2 class on the sidelines, Pocock ceased the opportunity to claim the red plate, and now he has it firmly in his grasp – with a ten-point lead in the series – he won’t want to let it go.
As the day drew to a close, Mel Pocock climbed onto the MX2 overall podium with a third place overall, and also claimed the red plate – the first of his career. With Zach Osborne out of action following his practise crash, it was obvious that a new series leader would emerge, and Mel built off of his solid second overall from round one, and carried that momentum into Canada Heights, with three very impressive moto’s. Third overall saw Pocock finish on the same amount of points as second place Bradshaw, and fourth place Aubin, which is a testament to just how competitive the MX2 class is currently.
All day Mel looked like he had the speed to win, it just never came together for him, in the second moto he was just a second off of Banks-Browne as they crossed the finish, and in the third moto he maintained a steady gap to the leaders that hardly shrunk, but never increased either. The hardest challenge of the day for Mel, which proved his grit and determination was the first moto ride from twenty-second on the first lap to fourth, only finishing twelve second behind the eventual winner, Nicolas Aubin.
Unlike Pocock, Canada Heights was a must win for Banks-Browne after a dismal round one. After the first moto, things still weren’t looking great, as a crash saw him finish fifteenth. However he rebounded in a big way in the second and third moto, with two wins. Not only did it allow him to claw to within fourteen points of the series lead, it also gave EBB the first overall win in the Maxxis British Championship of his career, which definitely gives him plenty of momentum heading into round one of the World Championship series next week, as well as the round three of the British series, which resumes in a months time.
With positions second through fourth all tied on points, the guy heading the group in second overall was Neville Bradshaw. Bradshaw was impressive all day, and from the very first lap of practise looked smooth, calm and confident on the Canada Heights track. From the moment he got on the track you could tell, he was comfortable on his Evotech Stevens Honda. With this second overall following a fifth overall from round one, Neville now sits second in the standings, just ten-points adrift from the series lead. In the final MX2 moto of the day it seemed as though Bradshaw had something for Banks-Browne, as he stalked him the entire race, never letting him leave his sights. However, we’ll never know what could have been, as the red flag ended the race a few laps early.
Much like Banks-Browne, Aubin needed to have a very good day at round two to erase bad memories of a pretty disastrous round one, and he did just that from the very first gate drop. As suspected, the Canada Heights track was a lot better suited to the Frenchman’s style, evident by his moto one win, his and the Buildbase Honda team’s first in the Maxxis British Championship. Unfortunately for Aubin he found himself just off of the overall podium after losing out on the tie-break due to the worst third moto result amongst the three with a sixth against Pocock’s third and Bradshaw’s second.
Perhaps the biggest surprise on the day came from Samsung RFX Yamaha’s other rider, Steven Lenoir of France, his sixth overall doesn’t show just how good he was riding as without a mistake in the second moto, which resulted in him finishing down in twenty-seventh, he would of undoubtedly climbed onto the podium at the end of the day. If the Frenchman can keep this run of good form going, and minimise his mistakes, it’s possible he could end up on the top step in the near future, especially when you consider the amount of front-runners that have already succumbed to injury. Coming into the series, he was a bit of an unknown factor amongst the pits, he seem to have now firmly established himself as a front-runner however.
Bryan MacKenzie had a much better day than round one, and really looked a lot more comfortable round the Canada Heights circuit, as he battled the established title contenders for podium positions all day. Bryan’s speed was there for everyone to see as he led moto one early on, and never really lost touch with the leaders late in the race, it’s definitely something for him to build off of moving forwards. Either way, you look at it, a fifth and two sixths is much better than his round one results of fourteenth, thirteenth and seventh.
Further down the order, Shane Carless and Alan Keet both had very good days, and seemed to fit in around tenth every time out on track. After finishing at the back end of the top twenty at round one, their improved round two results meant a healthy climb in the championship points, as both now sit just outside the top ten.
The MX1 class saw a lot of diversity on the day, as every time the gate dropped a new race winner emerged, and not one of them was championship leader Kevin Strijbos! Marc de Reuver was the first MX1 rider of the day to put twenty-five points by his name aboard his Lanes Kawasaki, and it came at a perfect time. After a disappointing round one, Marc needed a good ride to claw his way back into championship contention, and after race one it looked as though he would do just that. However, disaster struck in moto two as he was cleaned out whilst trying to come through the field after first lap problems, and later pulled out. A sixth in the final moto left him down in sixth overall on the day, but it’s a case of what could have been for the Dutchman, as he now faces an uphill climb if he is going to contend for the title, as a massive sixty-one points sits between him and the championship lead.
The winner of the second moto, Latvian Matiss Karro on an STR KTM, ended up taking the overall victory also, his first as an MX1 rider and second of his career. He had to work hard for it however, as a first lap fall in the first race left him with a fight on his hands, as he worked his way up to eighth. A first and third in the final two moto’s were critical in clinching the overall victory, as at the end of the day he tied on points with Stephen Sword, and won by virtue of a better third moto result. Before the season begun, most would not immediately have thought of Karro has a title contender, but after two rounds it is obvious that he has the speed on all tracks, to challenge for the championship.
The third moto winner on the day (and the only British MX1 winner so far in the series) was Shaun Simpson. Shaun looked solid all day, consistently clocking laps in practise and if not for a second moto mistake resulting in a ninth, he could have been the one standing on top of the podium. In fact, even if Shaun had finished eighth in the second moto instead of ninth he would of won the overall, the MX1 class is stacked this year!
With Kevin Strijbos’ past as a factory rider and world championship contender, it’s not unreasonable to have thought he would have had the championship covered, and the first round results just gave everyone more a reason to think this. But at round two, he just didn’t look as comfortable, and it concluded in him not even making the podium. In the first moto he started all the way down in twenty-first, and managed to claw his way back to ninth by the end of the race. When looking at his lap times, when coming through traffic he was running the same times as Kristian Whatley in fourth, so it was obvious Strijbos was fast around the Canada Heights circuit. Doubts of this originally arose after a ninth in qualifying, which was quite a way from where everyone expected him to be after the dominance witnessed at FatCat. But as the day went on, it was evident Strijbos was getting more comfortable on the track and that resulted in two seconds in the second and third moto. Although it still left him off the overall podium, he was able to maintain a grasp on the red plate, with a sixteen-point lead over Karro.
As the series goes on getting comfortable on the tracks will be vital for a lot of the MX1 front runners, as for riders like Strijbos and De Reuver most of the tracks will be completely new to them. Therefore, they won’t have any knowledge or notes to work off of like someone like Stephen Sword, a veteran of the series. You could see from qualifying the difference it makes early on when someone is returning to a track which they know and have fond memories of, and with only one qualifying session, and super pole, it makes it tough on new riders to the series.
Steven Sword had a much better day at Canada Heights, his second overall must be a bit bittersweet as he came so close to winning moto one, and the overall – as he tied on points with Karro for the day. The first moto looked to be a Sword runaway, as he immediately sprinted away but as the laps wore down, De Reuver started edging closer and closer, and caught Sword at the end. It’s possible Sword got caught in his own speed a bit, whilst riding alone out front and not having anyone to chase. Once De Reuver took the lead however, Sword proved he was capable of winning as he stalked De Reuver, and kept Simpson at bay for the remainder of the race – a testament to the veteran’s fitness.
With a fourth and two sevenths on the day, Kristian Whatley ended fifth overall which is a solid result when you consider he’s still sore from his practise crash at round one two weeks ago. For Whatley, he should be back up to race speed for round three, and that’s when he can really start trying to claw back points on the leaders. He had top five speed all day, which is evident by his lap times, now he needs to put all the pieces of the puzzle together.
After round one, it looked as though Martin Barr was better than his results showed, and it seems to be the same again as the Irishman finished down in eighth overall, mainly because of a first moto fourteenth. A second moto fourth proved he was capable of battling for a podium, but at this point he must be frustrated after not being able to string three good finishes together thus far.
Route 77 Energy MVRD Honda had a very disappointing day in MX1, after a successful round one things were looking good for the team, but a big crash for Dougan and a DNF for Krestinov kept both from achieving their potential. Especially Krestinov, who looked as though he had the speed to get up on the podium again with a fourth in the first moto and a fifth in the third moto, only his second moto DNF kept him from a better overall finish.
Overall, the second round of the Maxxis British Championship was a successful one, excellent racing was seen in all groups and after two rounds, it’s evident where everyone stands and who will be fighting for the championship to the very end. Not only were the crowd treated to top quality racing by MX1 and MX2, as the MXY2 class was also on hand to provide some top quality racing. At one point or another it seemed as though every rider found themselves on the ground, but eventually a sixth and a first proved good enough for overall victor James Harrison, who came through when it counted with a commanding second race victory.