The first season of the official ACU British Arenacross Championship came to its conclusion at The OVO Arena in Wembley, just a few yards from the famous football stadium with the massive arch.
Words: Ben Rumbold | Featured Image: Arenacross UK
The tight situation at the top of the AX Pro championship standings was adjusted slightly after the qualification sessions, with series leader Tommy Searle taking his red-plated GTCI Revo Kawasaki to a blistering 24.831 second lap, the only circulation all day under the 25-second barrier. This won him the Fastest Qualifier bonus point and increased his lead to three over the Crendon Fastrack Honda of Conrad Mewse.
Contrary to the instant “hit the rhythm immediately” technique of indoor specialists Jack Brunell, Joe & Ben Clayton, and Dylan Woodcock, Mewse worked his way up to the triple, step-off, triple pattern that was undoubtably the fastest combo through the only rhythm lane on the track. Josh Gilbert hit that well but had trouble through the whoops which stopped him challenging Tommy’s time. It was the longest and most difficult whoop section of the tour, with 11 to hit in total, nearly double that of Belfast’s opening round.
The second qualifying group was topped by the Mark McCann YouTube machine of Joe Clayton, just pinching it from Mewse on his final fast lap. This crucially put Mewse in the same heat as Searle for the evening show, with his teammate Gilbert and the Troy Lee Designs GASGAS of Jack Brunell in there for good measure!
With a three-point gap, or even a two-point one as he had more wins through the series, Searle could finish 2nd in the Final to Mewse and still be Champion. Conrad would have to focus on winning his heat races and hope that Tommy would be left with a poor gate pick on the tight track which was difficult to pass on.
Round 1 to Searle
The start gate was different to the others in the tour, where the inside gate had been the obvious choice, but with the longer straight and the close proximity of the Freestyle take-off ramp to the inside line, most riders weren’t keen on that option. Searle & Mewse lined up together in the middle, and Tommy immediately lept ahead of Conrad, a good dip of the head right before the drop possibly distracting his rival? He got to the first corner just behind his teammate Mel Pocock and was in front by turn two, as Brunell nipped into 2nd to give chase. As with the timed sessions, Tommy was intent on that bonus point, knowing the comfort it would give him later. Gilbert got past Pocock on lap three with a nice cutback on the 180 degree turn after the whoops.
As Mewse had to work through the pack, he got some hassle from Pocock, then in trying to work around Mel, he came under attack from Elliott Banks-Browne! The old stagers were giving the young gun some trouble! Ultimately Conrad got through to 4th as Tommy won by 2.8 seconds from Brunell, with Gilbert 4 seconds further back in 3rd.
For Heat 2, Joe Clayton was rubbing his hands as the fastest qualifier, with the system landing most of the big hitters in the championship in the other heat! He also lined up first in the middle, with next fastest qualifier Shaun Simpson, looking at his most comfortable all series in practise, immediately to the inside of Joe on the Gabriel SS24 KTM.
Joe took a clear holeshot and with immense speed through both the rhythm section and the whoops, romped away to an 8-second win. Sound boring? Not a bit of it! All the action was behind with Simpson initially 2nd but being passed by the TRU7 Honda of Jake Nicholls. The pair were soon caught by Apico Husqvarna’s Martin Barr and the three of them could have been covered by a blanket for most of the race! On lap four, Jake stalled at the end of the whoops, causing a log jam that Simpson and Barr just got through, although it did foil the Northern Irishman’s attack on the Scotsman. Jason Meara on the All Moto Yamaha powered by Star Solar also got past Nicholls before he could restart. Simpson just held them off to take 2nd at the line, the best heat race of his AX season.
A Popular Win!
After the interval, again the 30-somethings hit the front of turn three, with Banks-Browne on the Mark McCann YouTube Channel machine leading from Searle and Pocock until Tommy blasted past through the whoops.
Brunell moved into second at the start of lap two but Mewse again back in the pack and trying to work past Gilbert. The two Hondas ran close together in 5th & 6th, with Pocock in front of them again!
It took Mewse until lap 6 to find his speed and blast past Mel in the whoops, then closed in on Banks-Browne, a second faster each lap! He dived around the outside down the start straight towards the final corner, the crowd gasping as EBB gave him the squeeze! He just got through to ensure direct qualification to the Main.
Searle cruised to a 7.3 second victory from Brunell, and would have to wait and see if Joe Clayton would match his 1-1 scoreline to challenge for the Bonus Point.
Sadly for Joe, like most of this tour it didn’t go to plan! Nicholls shot out of the gate in heat 4 with Clayton for close company, but Dylan Woodcock shoved his Darjen Kawasaki into 2nd on the second corner and immediately attacked Nicholls with the better run through the rhythm section, but was blocked off by Jake. Clayton then flew through the whoops and got the crowd into it as he and Woodcock nearly went down big-time! Behind them, Barr was in a good 4th ahead of Simpson and Meara until he stalled on lap 5, costing him direct transfer to the Main.
Time and time again Clayton attacked Nicholls but could not get through. Woodcock was a secure 3rd, a ways ahead of Simpson, and on the last lap the crowd’s anticipation built as Clayton again blitzed the whoops and went for the cutback to pass after them, but slid massively sideways on the loose surface and fell just 0.734 seconds short of the win! It was Jake’s first heat win of the year, a popular win at the last attempt! It also handed Searle the bonus point for top qualifier, making it a four-point lead over Mewse, who would need Tommy to be 4th or worse to take the title if he won the Main Event.
The Head-to-Head races were a surprisingly tame affair for the most part. If you didn’t make the finish line double at the only attempt that counted, you were done for. That took out Jake Shipton on the FUS Geartec Husqvarna, in his only appearance of the Tour due to Adam Chatfield’s injury. Mel Pocock was the benefactor there, whilst Meara also lost out that way to the AJP Geartec Husqvarna of Jayden Ashwell. Barr easily fended off Shipton’s teammate Jake Preston, and Banks-Browne outpaced the Gabriel SS24 KTM of Ben Clayton.
The semis were marginally better, as both Pocock and Banks-Browne had sussed the “edge across on the start straight” manoeuvre to assure victory over Barr and Ashwell respectively, although Ashwell got close on the final corner to having a stab at EBB.
This left the two old buddies to duke it out in the Final – and this was the best Head-to-Head race of the WHOLE TOUR! Pocock, from the inside, did the shove into the first corner, but they flew over the big double together and spent most of the lap side-by-side! EBB took the lead through the rhythm lane and they were close through the whoops. They locked together going into the final corner around the freestyle landing ramp and both went down! Despite Mel standing on Elliott’s front wheel as he picked up his Kawasaki, he couldn’t prevent the #44 from getting up first and taking the chequered! As Mel said later, “we will laugh about that for years and years!”
Fired up from that and with the bike still steaming from too many starts and not enough airflow, Pocock got a great jump in the LCQ, although Shipton got past in the second corner. Mel was quickly back past through the whoops. AJP Geartec Husqvarna teammates Luke Burton & Jayden Ashwell battled for 3rd but Ashwell went down, untouched by Burton, and immediately grabbed his collarbone. Pocock took another popular win to get his ticket to the Main, with Martin Barr getting the People’s Vote for the final spot in the Final Super Final Main Event of the season!
The Final Showdown
To those in the know, the Final really wasn’t winner takes all as Tommy could take the title with a 3rd-placed finish. He started in middle with Clayton next to him, and Mewse was second from the inside, not left with much of a choice.
Until now, Searle’s teammate had played a role in the battle, but now it was the turn of Mewse’s teammate to lend a hand – Searle looked like he had the holeshot and Mewse was buried again, but Gilbert stood the Kawasaki up in turn two! Brunell followed him through, then passed Gilbert for the lead on lap two on the cutback after the whoops. Searle immediately forced past Gilbert as well and relentlessly attacked Brunell!
Meanwhile, Mewse was making progress, and got past both Banks-Browne and Pocock much easier than he had in the heats. He got past his teammate at half-distance, lap 7, and from over two and a half seconds down he closed in on the leading pair as Brunell continued to hold off Tommy. “He was right in front of me going into the whoops, and where I couldn’t see and commit was making me get sketchy through them.”
The crowd noise rose as Mewse started to close in, home hero Brunell still keeping the lead, and on lap 10 Mewse made a beautiful cutback pass down the start straight to take 2nd from Searle! Immediately he moved towards the tiring Brunell and eased past going into the whoops! Searle followed through at the end of them, however, and knew that he was in a safe position for the championship if he could avoid a fall.
Brunell made another challenge on Searle but it was all he could muster. On the final lap, Gilbert, who was tied on points with Jack for 3rd in the series, made a last-gasp lunge for 3rd but clipped the GASGAS’ wheel and tipped over, losing 4th to Joe Clayton but salvaging 5th.
If nothing else, Mewse’s charge through the pack was a statement ride. He will be a headache for everybody in the outdoor season, but the first official British Arenacross Championship has gone the way of GTCI Revo Kawasaki’s Tommy Searle, winning three of the six Main Events and adding an indoor title to his four outdoor crowns. Thoroughly deserved.
AX Pro Am
The championship in the Pro-Ams class was close, just a point between leader Josh Greedy and fellow Welsh team Darjen runner Sion Talbot.
Honda rider Shaun Southgate looked to have got the holeshot in the first heat, behind closed doors, but Sion Talbot pushed through as they approached the finish line double! Josh Coleman and Raife Broadley, the winner in Birmingham, clashed for 3rd in favour of the two-stroke Fantic of Broadley. Raife then hammered through the whoops on lap two to fire past Coleman for 2nd. He just couldn’t close in on Talbot, however, as Coleman went off the side of the whoops and got tangled in the arena wall banners! His race was done and Southgate would salvage 3rd behind Broadley and the flying Talbot, who was 3.4 seconds clear at the flag.
In Heat 2, the number 169 of Matt Lomas hit the front early and was the only one to clear the finish line double at the first time of asking. Pro-Am series leader Josh Greedy gave chase, and a great scrap ensued for 4th as Dylan Stymes jumped over the heads of Kyle Lane and Jack Timms, although Lane shut him out at the next corner! Timms ran 3rd early on but slipped back to finish 5th behind Stymes as Lane pulled clear to secure 3rd at the finish.
Greedy, meanwhile, was hunting Lomas down, and moved past through the whoops on lap 5 of the 7 to eventually win by just under a second!
The two Welsh title protagonists, with a point between them in favour of Greedy, headed to a winner-take-all final race in the night-time show!
Both of the title protagonists were together on the line, and they tucked inside of a massive pile-up in the first corner! Talbot led from Greedy, Southgate, Lane and Luke Bull. Greedy was stalking Talbot but couldn’t quite nail the whoops section.
Talbot just had too much pace in the end, and stole the title away in the last race! Southgate came home in 3rd on the night, but after losing 4th to Bull, Kyle Lane could at least console himself with 3rd in the series.
Championship leader Joel Fisher had an 18-point gap coming into the final round and was looking to sew it up early, and he did hit the first corner first, but got block-passed by Jaydon Murphy on the way out and gently hit the deck as a result! Jake Farrelly tucked inside them to pick up the lead and proceeded to pull away to an eventual 5.9 second victory, a well-deserved first win of the year. Sam Dyer and Murphy were 2nd & 3rd, with Fisher up to 6th by the end of the first lap!
At the end of lap two, Fisher had Murphy in his sights and blew past in the rhythm lane, only to get passed back going into the whoops. They came together at the end of them and Fisher ended up on the floor again! He couldn’t get higher than 5th and was incensed at Murphy, but he had still finished ahead of Charley Irwin and therefore could be consoled with the fact that he is the Futures Champion for 2023!
In the main evening show race the Champ made no mistakes, grabbing the holeshot and easing away from Dyer to take a 4.4 second win. Farrelly had a far tougher race after getting caught in a first lap pile-up! After his earlier issues Fisher was away and clear but Dyer was eyeing up the overall with two 2nds!
He had a stroke of luck courtesy of that man Murphy again, who got tangled up with Joshua Fletcher-Williams at the end of the whoops and let Farrelly past them both with a lap and a corner to go! That still wasn’t enough to earn the overall win for Farrelly, as that would go to the consistent Sam Dyer on his Suzuki, ahead of Farrelly and Fisher on the podium for the event. Farrelly held onto 2nd in the series ahead of Dyer, however, and both behind the dominant champion – Joel Fisher!
Another dominant #100, Isaac Ash in the Supermini class, has won every race of the Tour so far, but as he clashed with holeshot man Lewis Spratt in the second corner, he lost a lot of drive and had work to do!
Most of the Small-Wheel class riders went down in a first lap pile-up, and Archie Edwards came through to win that one from Arthur Moore and Olivia Reynolds.. Ash jumped past Spratt on lap 4 and won by 5 seconds. Spratt held on for 2nd ahead of Austin Beasty, pulling two points on him in the series to leave them three points apart going into the final round.
In the main evening race, Spratt and Harrison Schofield both hit the gate, trapping Harrison Davies behind them on the second row! Ash grabbed the holeshot and cleared off. Beasty passing Harry Lee for 2nd on the first lap and that’s how they finished, with Spratt mounting a spirited fightback to claim 4th and finish the season equal 2nd with Beasty! Beasty just took it on the last race tie-breaker!
In the Small Wheel class Edwards & Reynolds spent much of the race together, but Edwards eased away to the point where, even though he got taken out by a Big Wheel racer in his last lap, Reynolds had finished a lap down to Ash, so Archie still got the win, but Olivia Reynolds took the Small Wheel British Championship!
Ash kept his perfect record intact, took the title, and will certainly be a star of the future!
Casey Lister, runner-up in the 65cc Revo series in 2022, had already tied up the series before Wembley started, and he holeshot by a mile in the morning race ahead of John Slade and Caleb Ross. It stayed fairly static and although Slade took some time out of Lister in the closing laps, the Champ winning by 2.1 seconds and maintaining his perfect-bar-one record for the Tour.
The results were pretty much repeated in the evening race, with Lister holeshotting and taking it by 2.7 seconds from Slade and Ross again. That was the overall on the night, but Jamie Currie was 3rd in the championship behind John Slade in 2nd, and the dominant British Champion, Casey Lister!
The mini electric bike final was made up of the top 4 riders from each of the previous three venues on the Tour. Austin Edwards, the winner from Birmingham, got out ahead of fellow Birmingham qualifier Roy Townley Jr, who definitely had the loudest support trackside! Belfast qualifier Jack McGrath was 3rd but went down in the second corner and could only recover to 10th. Belfast winner Seb Chartell took up the running in 2nd, and after a hectic last lap that saw crashes from Townley and Matthew McGee, it was another Birmingham qualifier, Jimmy Ball, who took 3rd at the flag behind Chartell and Edwards.
It was Edwards again in the evening race, chased all the way by Roy Townley Jr, with Wolverhampton wonder Tate Vincent taking a solid 3rd in race two, but the overall podium was, in 3rd Jimmy Ball, 2nd Townley Jr, and the overall British AXE5 Champion is Austin Edwards from Egham!