The biggest day in Irish motocross stereo-typically started wet and windy, but it ended in sunshine with big smiles on the fan’s faces!
After the track was looking in superb condition on Saturday the weather unfortunately took a turn for the worse and after raining all night and for half of Sunday, the track was very wet and sloppy.
The riders also had to deal with the wind over the jumps as well as bumpy ruts on take off and in the corners. If you wanted to see skilled athletes at their best, Desertmartin was the place to be.
In the races there were several stand out riders but let’s start with the MX2 winner Bryan Mackenzie.
Mackenzie was superb all day and his starts were on point, often a sign of a confident rider. Despite two crashes while leading Bryan was riding well under pressure, he seemed calm and comfortable up front no matter who was behind him and his last lap pass of Irwin and Bradshaw showed just how badly he wanted to win his first ever overall. Mackenzie earned the win and it was hard to believe watching his performance that this was his first ever overall victory.
Another rider who had a brilliant day was Martin Barr. The local man always rides well at Desertmartin but only being back from his broken hand Barr was unsure of his race pace. He showed in qualifying he had the raw speed and in race one he shadowed Graeme Irwin for second place rarely putting a foot wrong. Race two was hindered by a crash but race three was the race Barr wanted all year. He got away third and once he found his groove closed on in Elliott Banks- Browne. When Mackenzie went down Barr saw his chance, made the pass, and pulled away to the cheers of the local crowd. Barr’s smooth technical style was ideal for the track and he looked set to take overall victory until Mackenzie had his last lap heroics.
Graeme Irwin should have been on the podium. In his interview with MX Vice Irwin backed himself to win and he did just that in an impressive first moto. It was a huge win for Irwin who hadn’t won a moto since the opening round in 2010. Irwin was ready for race two but his bike wasn’t and Irwin looked on in disbelief as the gate dropped while he tried to fire his Suzuki back up.
Eventually Irwin got going and he was wasn’t happy! It was worth the price of admission to see Irwin ride that first couple of laps – he just did not shut off and it had people shaking their heads with disbelief at the aggression and determination of the Carrick man. Irwin then suffered a back brake issue but still managed a ninth place -but it was a case of what could have been for Irwin. A fifth place having been running third in race three was not ideal but he was within sight of second place and Irwin’s pace was there all day.
Neville Bradshaw is just solid. Whatever start he gets he will ride as hard as he can until the flag and he has great fitness too. It was another podium for Bradshaw and just like Mackenzie he seems to be getting better with age.
In MX2 Lewis Tombs was the unsung hero. Tombs had three brilliant top ten results and was running as high as fifth in race two before a small crash set him back. Clearly doing some motos with team boss Jonathan Rea did the trick, maybe Rea needs to make it a regular habit! It was a great day for Tombs and with Wayne Garrett 12th overall in MX1 it was a good day for the team
Jason Meara was my pick as one to watch in MX2 and despite the tough conditions he acquitted himself well. A 14th place in race one was a solid start (the same finish as his brother John got in MX1 race one!),but a crash dented his race two results and he was running a fine 13th in race three before another crash. Meara showed he has the speed and despite having just turned 16 was not intimidated out there either.
Nathan Watson had a brilliant first moto in fifth. If Watson gets the starts he has the pace to challenge the leaders, but a bad start and he can’t quite come through the same. It won’t be long before he has it all figured out and can challenge for podiums and wins.
His teammate Steven Clarke had a bad qualifying but was good in the races. Again bad starts made it difficult for Steven to catch the front guys if he didn’t get away with them but a third in race two showed he can stay there if he does. Clarke acquitted himself well in the sloppy conditions and fought hard all day.
The championship leader had a “really bad day” in his own words. The one thing you can’t knock EBB for is heart. h=He didn’t have the speed to win against Mackenzie or Barr but still wasn’t far away and apart from a bad first moto salvaged the best points possible and that’s what a champion does.
Rider of the day had to be Matiss Karro. The Latvian charger dominated proceedings and quite frankly he just wasn’t going to be beaten despite Whatley’s best efforts in race three. Karro was superb and made the difficult track look pretty easy such was the momentum he carried round the circuit. If Karro can remain healthy for a season or two he could become a factory GP rider in the future.
Jamie Law had a brilliant day. Running a solid second for the majority of the first moto showed his talent and must have been a huge confidence booster. he finished the day a fine fourth overall and he deserved it.
Kristian Whatley had an up and down day. He crashed twice on the first lap in race one and was lucky not top be injured. He rode a brilliant race to come back to fourth but race two he had a disappointing seventh. Then in race three he showed just why he has the red plate by rebounding for a fine second place.
Whatley, intent on making amends from the first two races, got the holeshot and tried to pull away but even when Karro caught and passed him Whatley refused to let him go. It was in that moment he showed the determination, the guts and the ego trying to not let Karro beat him that could just get him this championship. Whatley is also the only guy to challenge the British based GP riders regularly. He deserves a shot in the GPs, he is leading the British championship and is beginning to ride to his full potential every week – it’s time he got his chance.
Tanel Leok is tough! Four weeks after breaking his collarbone, Leok gave everything around a punishing track and no doubt he was in some pain. He did all he could resulting in three top three results and second on the podium.
Jonathan Barragan was also fast but a DNF due to a mechanical wrecked his chances of making points on Whatley. And it could come back to haunt him at the end of the year.
The hardcore Irish (plus a few Latvians) fans deserve an award for standing in the wind and rain for most of the day while cheering on their home riders with frantic ferver. Martin Barr summed it up best when he said: “It was like a Mexican wave around the whole track.” The home fans were also treated to an overall win by youngster Glenn McCormick in MXY2 to make the the cold hands and wet feet all worth it.
Also a big well done as well to the Cookstown club for their work and effort prior to and during the day despite the disappointment of the weather. The decent sized crowd were still treated to some superb racing and it left them waiting for next year already – but can it be dry please?!
Article by Jonathan McCready
Picture by Suzy Bailey