The Veterans Motocross des Nations at Farleigh Castle truly is a unique event. After watching hours and hours worth of ‘modern day’ racing all year long turning up at Farleigh Castle to the sound of twinshock’s was definitely distinctive. You would think with old-school riders riding old-school bikes on an old-school track, the racing wouldn’t be as good as the current GP’s, right? Well you’d be wrong, very wrong. Not only was the racing good, it was superb. When was the last time you saw a last corner pass for the lead on the last lap? Exactly.
When guys like Ryan Hughes and Jeff Ward hung up their boots many years ago, most would have shed a tear at the thought of that being the final time they would get to see their childhood hero race in a competitive manner. However, with the VMXdN at Farleigh Castle now in place – it offers fans the chance to relive their fondest days of when Motocross was at it’s finest. With no big money contracts on the line, you’d be forgiven for presuming that the riders wouldn’t be out there wearing their hearts on their sleeves. But, the determination and speed showcased by every single one of the riders present, was reminiscent of their days at the top of the sport. Unfortunately, Jeff Stanton (the man that was thoroughly impressed with the 2011 edition of the event) injured himself in the lead up to the event and couldn’t compete, however despite that Doug Dubach was still a worthy replacement.
The man of the weekend though, was undoubtedly Ryan Hughes. Riding the Twinshock that Stanton actually piloted last year in the Twinshock VMXdN and a KX500 in the Evo VMXdN, the man was unstoppable. Ryno was not only the fastest, but the strongest rider from the weekend, the only time he could be beaten was when he tipped over (whilst leading) and then got t-boned by a Belgian when he was getting up! However, despite rejoining the race all the way down in 32nd place (!) Ryno got up and put on a charge to finish just inside the top ten. That race was the only time he wasn’t the first to see the chequered flag, but it’s not as if he had it easy the rest of the time.
In the second Evo VMXdN moto Hughes had a comfortable advantage over Dewitt; but with one lap remaining he made a mistake that saw him drop to around five seconds behind the Belgian. However, with all eyes on the pair Hughes came back out of the woods section on the final lap not too far down, but a win still seemed like a far stretch. The American came down the final hill and looked to square off Werner, however the move left him on the outside heading into the last turn. Remarkably, Hughes railed a rut that was on the outside of Dewitt but he still managed to squeeze through the smallest of gaps and beat Dewitt to the flag. That was Motocross at it’s finest.
Despite the efforts of the American team, they weren’t able to lift the Danny “Magoo” Chandler trophy as the winning Evo VMXdN team, despite their best efforts. However, adversity did strike them at different points as Lechien crashed out on the Saturday after colliding with another rider, an injured shoulder and some bruising meant he had to sit out the rest of the weekend. Lechien was whom most fans came out to see, however he still stuck around for the rest of the weekend to support his teammates. Put simply, Ron’s weekend was marred with bad luck, as he had just two race laps to show for his journey over to the UK. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him back at the venue this time next year looking for some redemption.
Jeff Ward was also met with some trials and tribulations across the weekend. The pint-sized American narrowly missed the start of the first Evo VMXdN due to some issues with his KX500; which meant he rode into turn one at the back of the pack. That wasn’t the only time Ward could be seen fighting his way through traffic however, as it seemed every time I looked for the #11 machine he was fighting through the pack. An eighth was the best moto result of the weekend (race three for the Evo MXdN class) for the man that once rode 96 days straight when he was in the prime of his career. Doug Dubach stepped in at the last second, and with 17 vets titles to his name definitely wouldn’t of minded taking another one home to the USA with him. Seeing Dubach on a Honda was a rare sight indeed and if he returns next year it will be interesting to see what he can do with some preparation under his belt.
The ‘Belgium B’ team were actually the overall winners in the Evo VMXdN category, with a thirty-five-point advantage over the Americans. The ‘Evo UK’ team were the ones to grab the final spot on the podium just in front of England and the ‘Belgium A’ team in fifth.
It wasn’t just the old-school guys that lined up behind the famous forward-dropping start gate; as guys like Kristian Whatley, Scott Elderfield, Tom Church, Dorren Coutts etc all populated the groups. Most notably, Kristian Whatley was absolutely flying! Whilst the Evo 250 guys were on-track, all you could hear from the thousands of fans lining the circuit was whispers of just how quick Whatley’s lap times were. For instance, in moto one the Brit was ten seconds a lap faster (and in moto two he was seven seconds a lap quicker) than second place. On the Sunday Kristian did have some competition though, in the form of Irishman Gordon Crockard.
The Crockstar was under the weather on the Saturday (hence his fifteenth and a fifth in the two Evo 250 Saturday moto’s) but on the Sunday he was back to his finest form and he just might have been the fastest rider out of all the classes. Not only did he prevent Whatley from taking a clean sweep in the Evo 250 class, Gordon took the final moto victory. However, after starting very far behind the Irishman Whatley did get within striking distance at the finish. So close was he that up on the podium he said to Crockard, “Just one more lap, Gordon”. Perhaps that’s all it would have taken for him to take the lead – it wouldn’t have been surprising, it just would have been yet another last lap battle lead. Something we all became accustomed too over the course of the weekend.
Crockard was also running down Ryan Hughes – the man who should be the strongest at the end of the moto’s – in the final Evo VMXdN race. However, a crash by the iconic first turn tree saw his chance at a win slip from his grasp. But; it was still a very solid showing by Gordon and one that more than made up for a lacklustre Saturday.
Just like 2011, the Evo 500 class was stacked with action. Despite being out of the limelight all year long, Scott Elderfield rode to an impressive overall victory, despite not winning a moto. A pair of thirds and a pair of seconds saw Elderfield (who was sporting the familiar bright orange helmet) take the overall victory from Dorren Coutts. Coutts’ final race victory was particularly impressive as he simply rode away from the competition and looked at one with his machine. Undoubtedly, the most remarkable moment of the day was when third overall Tom Church pushed his KTM from the top of the hill by the barn, all the way to the finish after his KTM gave up on him on the final lap of the final moto.
Church was running third at the time which would of given him the overall victory, however by the time he had managed to get the bike to the finish he had slipped to ninth, and third overall. Gordon Crockard was also present in this category. However, apart from the third moto win there wasn’t really much to write home about for Gordon, as 5-45-1-60 were his inconsistent moto scores. With no modern class running at this year’s event, guys like Phil Mercer (the Vets inter modern class 2011 winner) were forced to take their pick of the older machinery. Mercer jumped on a 500 and ended the weekend with 9-4-8-6 moto scores.
The Americans also just missed out on the Twinshock VMXdN overall victory, as Belgium were practically unstoppable with four consistent efforts from all of their riders each time out. They eventually took the win by twenty-six points from Germany, whilst the Twinshock UK team sat seventy-five points down on the Belgians. Most surprisingly, despite Ryan Hughes winning all four moto’s, the Americans could only garner fourth place. Which saw them miss the podium by seven points. Behind Ryno, Patrick Caps was undoubtedly the second best guy as he pushed the American all the way in the first and final moto. Moto’s two and three saw the Belgian finish third, mainly because he had to work his way up from a lacklustre start. Whilst out front, Colin Dugmore (racing for Germany) was extremely impressive, however his first and last moto’s were incomparable to his two-second place finishes. Good starts mainly helped Colin’s cause, as once he was up front he stayed there.
The Danny “Magoo” Chandler trophy wasn’t the only memorial trophy to be handed out at Farleigh Castle. The winner of the Evo 125 class – Ben Putham – also received the Richard Phillips memorial trophy, a tribute to the man who passed away at the 2010 edition of the event, the night before he was due to be piloting a CR125. That wasn’t the only tribute to be paid to Phillips however, as Michael Greenfield rode his bike to fourteenth overall (17-14-14-15), the highlight being an almost holeshot in the final moto. As already mentioned, seventeen year old Ben Putnam took the overall victory following 1-2-1-1 moto scores, Ben was undoubtedly the best man in the class on Sunday. Phil Lewis narrowly missed out on the overall win with 2-1-2-2 moto scores, despite being extremely close to Ben in the three moto’s that he lost.
Well, that’s a wrap of the 2012 Farleigh Castle VMXdN with just some of the things I noticed in some of the classes throughout the day. One thing is for sure, with every year that passes more and more big names are coming over to compete in the biggest Evo and Twinshock event in the world. The praise all riders and fans had for the event across the weekend was remarkable, and it can only get bigger and better.