The ‘Hawk International’ has kicked the British Motocross season off for many years now; 2013 will be no different. The race will be the first time that we get to see most of the top British riders on their new teams, as usual. The pre-season internationals do offer a bit of insight into how the fast-approaching domestic series will pan out.
Undoubtedly, the track will be in great shape. Although the British Championship round that was held at Hawkstone last year prompted some disapproving comments from the riders, it [the international] usually goes off without a hitch. It is always something special to see the riders of today tackle historic features such as ‘the Hawkstone hill’.
The Hawkstone International does seem to attract a lot of the top riders from the FIM World Motocross Championship . But still, I believe that the entry-list this year is the best that we have seen in recent years! The lure of seeing the top British riders race competitively for the first time in three months should be enough to convince you to make the journey down to Hawkstone Park. But, if you still need some persuasion I have a point that will definitely sway your decision.
How often do we get to see Jeffrey Herlings ride in the UK? Rarely. Surely, after listening to all of the hype surrounding Herlings and his skill level on a sand track you feel like you need to check it out for yourself? This is your chance, without having to leave Britain! The factory KTM team elected to not race the Mantova Starcross; so this will be the first chance to get a look at Jeffrey and his steed for the year. This goes without saying really, but the Dutchman is the favourite to win on Sunday; despite the tough competition that he will face.
Most forget that ‘the bullet’ has had previous experience on the legendary soil of Hawkstone Park; in 2009 (the year prior to his MX2 debut) Herlings contested the EMX2 round that was held there. The fact that he finished in the runner-up position (2-2 on the day) is even more surprising! But, now that he is faster, and stronger you can be sure he will be looking to make a statement ahead of the GP of Qatar. Of course, Jeffrey’s teammate (Jordi Tixier) will join him; it will be intriguing to see how much he has improved since last year.
I also expect Kevin Strijbos to be very strong; the Belgian is riding a wave of momentum after his dominant performance at the Mantova Starcross. Although he is the reigning MX1 British Champion Strijbos will not be contesting the series this year, so the ‘Hawk International’ will be one of the only chances to see him on UK soil. The Rockstar Energy Suzuki rider has made countless appearances at Hawkstone Park, which will work in his favour on Sunday. Clement Desalle (Strijbos’ teammate on the Rockstar Energy Suzuki team) will be looking to clinch his first win of 2013, also. It sounds like the Belgian is healthy following his big get-off in Italy at the Mantova Starcross; it is time for him to get some momentum rolling before Qatar.
A lot of the factory riders that were at the Mantova Starcross will be taking part at the ‘Hawk International’ (as they are not partaking in the Italian series, which is taking place on Sunday, also). The Kawasaki Racing team will be present with both Jeremy Van Horebeek and Gautier Paulin. Van Horebeek has impressed me thus far; I’m interested to see where his speed is at in comparison to Tommy Searle. It will indicative of the gains that Jeremy has made in the off- season. The Ice1Racing KTM team will be present, also. Boog surprised me in his first outing on the KTM; the Frenchman could be a surprise this weekend.
I am very interested to see how Tommy Searle fares in his full-time MX1 debut; the race will provide an insight into where his speed is at following his winter preparation. The sand isn’t his strongpoint; therefore I doubt that he will be in contention for the win this weekend. He will be looking to impress in front of the home crowd, as usual. It will be interesting to have a look at how some of his signature Acerbis gear looks, also. The ‘Hawk International’ is the only race that Searle will partake in ahead of the Qatari GP. So, the information that he and the team garner this weekend will be very important.
The starting line up this weekend will be well populated with British riders; most (if not all) of the riders that will contest the Maxxis British Championship tend to partake in the ‘Hawk International’. Most notably, Brad Anderson (Maxxis Kawasaki by LPE), Elliott Banks Browne (HM Plant KTM UK), Tanel Leok and Jason Dougan (Route77 Energy MVRD Honda) will sit on the starting line staring down the long start straight. The Revo Talon Kawasaki team will be present with Dan Thornhill and Ross Keyworth; as well as Alex Snow and the rest of the Oakleaf Kawasaki squad.Of course, there will be a whole load of top riders filling the gate, also.
Admission is £25 (those who are under fourteen-years-old will get in for free); really there is no excuse to miss the action this weekend! With many top riders set to compete, the racing should be exceptional out front. The 2013 Hawkstone International will be one not to be missed, undoubtedly.
Words by Lewis Phillips