In the past, Steven Clarke has bounced between the UK and the USA quite a lot. However, it has always seemed as though he would make his name in America, as he was one of the few British riders that actually excelled inside a stadium. So, when he rolled out on-track back at the Milton Park round of the 2013 Maxxis British Championship, I was really quite surprised.
Steven Clarke has made quite a few one-off appearances in our domestic series, however he has also been racing in the USA and Australia. So he has travelled around quite a bit thus far. It now seems like he is back in Britain for good though, or long enough to make a serious run at the MX2 title, at least. It is not too surprising, as his results in the USA tailed off a couple of years ago. However, he did enjoy some success in Australia, as he proved to be a formidable competitor down under. Clarke has always come across as a bit of a supercross specialist, to me, as he has enjoyed a lot of success in the past. At the Indianapolis Supercross back in 2009, Steven finished a career best fifth in the 250SX east main event – that was when he rode for the now defunct Suzuki City team.
Despite this, Steven has proven to be more than fast enough to challenge the established frontrunners in the Maxxis British Championship, as he has enjoyed a reasonable amount of success in recent months. It is quite surprising to think that before this year, he had not finished on the podium in a round of the British series. Of course, he quickly jumped on the podium in his first appearance on a HM Plant KTM UK machine. So, his expectations have obviously shifted now – he wants wins!
Honestly, I was not shocked to see him finish on the podium back at Milton Park. However, it was very surprising to see him come out at Foxhills (just a few weeks later) and steal a win in moto two. In the first moto there, he finished sixth, so it was not as if he was amazingly fast around the valley that Foxhills is set in all day long. Following that one moto win, he failed to achieve the same sort of success. Although he did have one more moto podium at the next round (Desertmartin), he started to slip into the second tier of guys, which is not where he wants to be, obviously.
In the final few rounds, Steven Clarke had a lot more DNF’s, it seems, as he failed to finish three of the final six motos. However, they have not necessarily been his fault, as some of his problems at Farleigh Castle this past weekend were down to bad luck. In fact, unlucky is the best way to sum up his day at the season finale, as he was much faster than his results indicate. In moto one, Clarke was in a position to win again, as he led a majority of the race. However, his teammate (and the eventual champion) got around him, and relegated Steven to second. But, a crash late in the race hampered his final position even more, as he eventually crossed the line in fifth.
In moto two, some more crashes meant that he had to pull in with a mangled bike. Clarke then went out in the final race of the year, and completed just a couple of laps before his rear wheel bearings blew out. Although the result did not turn out he (or the team) would have liked, it was clear to everyone that he was one of the fastest guys out on-track. So, with that in mind, can he challenge for the title next year?
Honestly, I do not think that speed is going to be an issue. I expect Steven to grab a handful of wins over the course of the season. However, I am not entirely sure that he is consistent enough to stay in title contention over eight rounds. In total, he did not score points in four motos this year, which is something that he will have to avoid next year. Obviously, with a full winter of training with the Dyer and Butler KTM squad, he could come out and look like a completely different guy at the 2014 season opener – time will tell!
Words by Lewis Phillips
Image courtesy of Elliot Spencer