The 2014 Garmin Arenacross series is off to a great start, as the first few rounds have featured great racing! The LG Arena in Birmingham was the site of the third round, this past weekend, and the standings changed a lot following some aggressive racing. Of course, some of the riders enjoyed success in Birmingham, whilst others faltered; as usual we look at these riders in this feature.
Fabien Izoird: Prior to the start of the season, it was a foregone conclusion that Fabien Izoird was going to be a title contender. However, I am surprised that the Frenchman has managed to establish a comfortable gap in the series standings after just three rounds. In Birmingham, he was the class of the field, again; as he was consistently up front and setting the fastest lap times. Fabien managed to start up front each time, too, which obviously helped his cause.
In the Garmin Arenacross series, aggressive racing is imminent, as the tight track prompts this type of racing. But, Fabien has avoided all of that, thus far, hence why he has a fourteen lead in the series. If he continues to perform like this, it will be very tough for anyone to hunt him down.
Daniel McCoy: In my opinion, a lot of people have underestimated Daniel McCoy; he was an unknown quantity heading into Belfast. However, following the first three rounds, it is clear that he is a legitimate title contender though. In fact, McCoy looks like the man that is most likely to challenge Iziord. Although he started ahead of the Frenchman, he could not to stay ahead of him for very long. But, if you look at his lap times, he can match his pace; his fastest lap time was nearly identical to the one set by Fabien. Daniel is certainly one to watch; I am sure that will only get faster in the coming weeks.
Kristian Whatley: Honestly, I was not too sure how Kristian Whatley was going to fare in the Garmin Arenacross series this year, as he is relatively new to the discipline. However, he has adapted well, evidently; he has certainly been one of the strongest riders so far. Kristian had a disastrous time at the second round, so he is fifth in the standings, at the moment. But, he has been a contender at the two other rounds. In Birmingham, he was very strong, however he struggled to stay with the two leaders. But, he did pull away from the rest of the field with ease.
I noticed that his MBO Sport Yamaha was really hooking up off the start – he was always one of the first out of the gate. Whether this was because of his bike, or technique remains to be seen, but it was really quite impressive. Interestingly, there may be a bit of hostility between Whatley and his teammate, Daniel McCoy – he openly stated on the podium that he was not happy with how aggressive the Aussie got in the first turn. So, that may be an interesting sub plot to keep an eye on.
Tyler Villopoto: Unfortunately, Tyler Villopoto did not qualify for the third successive round, in Birmingham. Although we all had high expectations of him prior to round one, I think that they may have been unrealistic. After all, we all know how difficult it can be to travel over to a foreign land and race; Tyler is quite inexperienced as well, in comparison to others. So, the whole situation cannot be easy for him. However, although it may be difficult for him, we all expect him to finish in the main event – he is more than capable of doing that. I am sure that soon, something is going to click and he will start to improve.
Elliott Banks Browne: Honestly, the only reason that Elliott Banks Browne is in this section is because of bad luck, that is all. Unfortunately the night just did not go to plan for EBB, which is a real shame, as he showed some great speed in qualifying. A bad start in the main did not help him; he had to try and move forward on a track that was difficult to pass on. Things went from bad to worse when he crashed and hurt his hand.
Elliot pulled out following that, which was certainly the best thing to do; he did not want to risk further injury. I believe that Banks Browne will be one to watch next week, he clearly has the speed; he just needs to get out of the gate! It sounds like that is what he is focusing on this week, as he will be practicing a lot of starts on his Buildbase Honda.
Steven Clarke: Like Banks Browne, it was just bad luck that hindered Steven Clarke at the LG Arena. The Dyer and Butler KTM rider had high expectations going in, as the event was close to where he grew up. But, he was caught out by the slick soil a couple of times, which forced him into the LCQ. Although Clarke won that race quite easily, he was still on the very outside when the main event started, so he had a tough task on his hands.
However, Steven entered turn one in fourth, astonishingly. But, he crashed when another rider hit him. So, he had to work his way up from the back of the pack, which was extremely hard to do out there, as it was difficult to pass. In the end, he finished ninth, so he has dropped to third in the standings, fifteen points down on Fabien Izoird.
Words: Lewis Phillips
Image: Kev Reid