Wow! Once again the British GP has left myself and everyone else that was in attendance, speechless. Undoubtedly the GP of the year, Matterley Basin hosted some excellent racing under glorious conditions. The track hasn’t changed much over the years, but why change something that pleases so many? A number of riders have stated that they look forward to the British GP, one of the reasons being that the circuit is pretty spectacular. You really had to be there to appreciate just how big some of the jumps are, and also how choppy the soil ends up at the end of the day. That alone is a tough combination for the riders to manage.
Of course, another reason most riders look forward to the British GP is the atmosphere. Once again the crowd support didn’t disappoint, as everywhere you looked all you could see were union jacks flying; and all you could hear was the constant buzz of air horns. The attraction of seeing the stars of yesteryear and the future alongside the established MX1 and MX2 contenders was an added lure for the crowd. It seemed to work, with an estimated figure of 35,000 spectators!
So, was the first MXGP festival a success? From the outside looking in, you have to think yes. Spectators came out in droves, and the weather co-operated. What more could you want? It looks as though Youthstream and the FIM want the MXGP Festival to become a firm fixture on the calendar in the future, and become just as big as the Motocross of Nations! Of course, a GP with the history and prestige that the British GP possesses is always going to be the highlight of any Motocross fans year.
Prior to the event, I was a bit sceptical as to what kind of reception the other classes would receive. Of course MX1 and MX2 is where all the ‘big names’ and factory bikes lay. Therefore making it the obvious main attraction. Still, when the Women’s or Veterans class would take to the track all (or at least most) of the fans stayed glued to the fences. That alone signifies that the Festival was a huge hit with most. No matter who the British rider was, from Tommy Searle, to Alfie Smith, to Conrad Mewse they were met with cheers on every inch of the circuit. It’s just one of the things that makes the event so spectacular.
Speaking of Conrad Mewse, the 85cc rider really impressed me. Matterley Basin marked the first time I have ever seen him ride, seeing as he spends most of his time racing outside of the UK. There’s been a lot of hype around him for a few years, which obviously has him tipped as one to watch in the future. In the EMX85 class he seemed to have everyone handled – despite the rest of the class being some of the best riders in Europe! Of course, he only finished third overall, which most definitely isn’t a true representation of how he could of, and should of done.
If you’re wondering why exactly he did stop clearing the jumps whilst leading, it was because of a problem with the front tyre, which saw him eventually finish thirteenth. However, a second moto victory more than made up for it. Conrad was certainly the best man on the day, in that first moto his fastest lap time was almost two whole seconds faster than eventual winner Davy Pootjes! I think that alone proves that we have another British rider on his way to stardom.
Both Xylian Ramella and Brian Moreau Strubhart in the EMX65 class grabbed my attention, as both looked extremely impressive. Despite the circuit being extremely tough, with the deep ruts and big jumps making it very difficult for the smaller bikes, these two riders looked very comfortable. One thing that really struck me about Brian is his style, the way in which he stood up practically everywhere made it look as though he was emulating Everts; these two definitely have a bright future! Xylian’s pass for the lead in moto one was very impressive as he committed to the step down before you loop around the tree. One thing that definitely helped Ramella was the way he seemed to jump further than every other rider on every single jump. Whilst he was hounding Brian in moto two that helped him close a few seconds at a time, despite not being as quick as the leader everywhere else.
There were a number of innovative things happening at the weekend and to celebrate the inaugural MXGP Festival, Sunday’s points paying races were kicked off with ‘a parade of all the riders’. The parade was definitely something a bit different, but in my eyes at least it was a cool thing. Seeing over 300 riders on track at the same time was interesting, and it definitely worked in building the anticipation ahead of the first motos of MX1 and MX2. The whole thing definitely added to giving it the feel of a festival, and served notice of just how important the race was to the sport as a whole.
There were a few places on the track that were key in making up time for the MX1 and MX2 riders, most notably the downhill triple and uphill quad. If you could hit both of these on the same lap there was room to make up a whole load of time. Something I noticed that left me speechless was a few lines Arnaud Tonus had. On the little step up following the corner where you loop around the tree Arnaud was wheeling over it and keeping the back wheel on the ground the entire time – almost pumping the bike over it as if he were riding a BMX. It was extremely impressive and was a testament to just how naturally talented the Swiss rider is.
So, we all got the outcome we wished for, and the way in which it came about couldn’t have been any better. Tommy Searle won both moto’s, led every lap and collected both holeshots. Following the qualifier, things weren’t looking great. Although Searle proved to be capable of running Herlings pace, he went down which left him with sixth gate pick for the points paying races. This year the KTM’s have been so dominant out of the gate – I guarantee not many were willing to bet Tommy would take two holeshots.
But of course, when it’s time to perform in front of his home crowd Tommy comes through. When his green front mudguard emerged around the first corner in front, the place went wild – the atmosphere was electric. The showdown everyone wanted to see emerged as Herlings shadowed him down pit straight for the first time. Although most thought Herlings would struggle with the “supercross like layout” because of his poor results there last year. Most forget that the reason for him being out of the hunt at the 2011 edition of Matterley Basin was that he had to take twenty-second gate pick. With good starts on his side he was every bit as fast as Tommy.
At the beginning of both moto’s Searle laid down some very fast lap times, which gave him a bit of breathing room, as Herlings failed to match the 1:57’s and low 1:58’s Searle was setting. However for one reason or another Herlings got a lot closer in the closing stages of moto one, before crashing. Personally, I was a bit worried as Searle had stated following last years British GP that the whole home GP really took it out of him and he had no more to give at the end of the moto’s. However, that was evidently not the case this year as in the second moto he stated he could always hear Herlings bike revving right behind him – but he held strong and collected a sensational double moto win.
To be honest, I was surprised to see Herlings crash twice in two moto’s. This year it seems as though he hasn’t suffered from little tip over’s; but at Matterley Basin he couldn’t avoid them. Herlings got through the weekend virtually incident free, which was very important for him in front of his rivals home crowd. There seemed to be just one problem with fans, as someone allegedly chucked food at the Dutchman in Sunday’s morning warm up session. Still, he only lost six points in the title chase and he will undoubtedly recapture the points lost next time out in Leirop.
The ‘adopted Brit’ Zach Osborne took his second podium in succession, and is surely looking at edging closer to the top two in the coming weeks. In the first moto the American looked as though he had Herlings covered, as he shadowed the series leader and actually looked like he had a little more intensity. However, from the ninth lap onwards his lap times increased by at least two seconds, hence why he lost touch with the leaders so quickly. The circuit undoubtedly suited Zach’s style; the larger jumps definitely lent themselves to the ‘American style’ of racing, in my opinion that was translated in his results.
Outside of the top guys, the one rider that really impressed me was Julien Lieber. Lieber has moved over from his family funded KTM to the Rockstar Energy Suzuki Europe team for the remainder of 2012. Prior to this past weekend, I think the only time I have ever noticed the Belgian is when he has been on the ground. But at Matterley Basin his speed and technique really impressed me and grabbed my attention. In speaking to his new Suzuki team, a top fifteen was considered a successful result, therefore his 11-16 with just a few days on the bike was undoubtedly a great result. His eleventh in the first moto was right on track with what the original team members (Harri Kullas and Petar Petrov) were doing prior to their injury. Julien is definitely one to watch.
Matterley Basin might have been the most successful weekend this year for the Rockstar Bud Racing Kawasaki team as both Dylan Ferrandis (7-7) and Valentin Teillet (8-8) put the bikes in the top ten in the first moto. Honestly, I did expect a little more from the pair as I thought the big jumps would suit their style of scrubbing etc. But both riders were upfront at different points and definitely showed flashes of brilliance.
Unfortunately for Max Anstie, his British GP was once again marred by bad luck. Max was forced to retire from the qualifying race, which again, just like last year put him on the very outside gate for the points paying races. In both moto’s the Brit’s starts were simply terrible, which left him with a lot of work to do on a track that might not have been the easiest to make up a ton of ground on. By the time Max had worked his way up to the edge of the points paying positions in moto one he was forced to retire. However, a tenth in moto two salvaged a good result, but in front of his home crowd Anstie was surely looking to break onto the box, or at least be in the top five.
The worst news from the weekend came following MX2 pre-qualifying practice, where Joel Roelants crashed hard and dislocated his hip. The crash forced the session to be red-flagged and quite obviously, we won’t see Joel until 2013. It definitely wasn’t the greatest way to end his MX2 career. Despite the hip being put back into place on site, it is still undetermined the extent of the damage, or how long he will be out for. However, Joel will be resting for a couple of months at least.
The MX1 class ended up being what we have come to expect the last few weeks; an Antonio Cairoli master class. The Sicilian has won seven of the last eight moto’s and in reality no one’s going to stop him from taking a sixth world title. The MX2 age restriction rule is designed to make the MX1 class stacked with talent but right now, Toni is just making everyone seem less spectacular. It looked as though Cairoli would push for the first five laps, and then just manage the pace at the front of the pack. The track is obviously good to him; he won a moto at the MXoN there back in 2006, and he won the GP there last year. But still, his performance this past weekend must have been soul-crushing for his competitors.
It took two whole races, but Max Nagl finally got onto the overall podium in second overall, took ages didn’t it? It’s unbelievable that Max can return from a back injury that took him out for just under a year, and return stronger than ever and run podium speed straight away – but that’s exactly what the German has done. Again, making KTM look foolish in their decision to let him go ahead of the 2013 season. In all honesty, I wouldn’t be surprised if Nagl wins Leirop as he has stated that it is tracks like Matterley Basin (big jumps, hard packed) that give his back the most trouble, and that deep sand is where he feels one-hundred-percent. The German is definitely one to watch, as something tells me he has redemption on his mind.
Who would of thought that Ken de Dycker would excel on a circuit like Matterley Basin. The lanky Belgian just continues to prove to everyone that he is a changed rider. Deep, old school sand tracks are where Ken is at his best. If at a place like Matterley Basin Ken can salvage a fourth overall (3-5) he may be capable of challenging for wins, and be in contention for a title in the future. I was that impressed. Aside from one mistake in moto one – that actually let Max Nagl slip through (that alone is an interesting inter team rivalry to keep an eye on) Ken was practically mistake free, and didn’t seem to suffer too much on the rough track in the heat.
Clement Desalle had another average day with a very sub-par 6-11, however there were a few reasons behind the disappointing result. On the Wednesday prior to the race Clement’s aunt passed away, which quite obviously didn’t leave him in a frame of mind that was ready to do battle for forty minutes. Then, as well as the grief, Clement over jumped a step up in Saturday’s practice session and was left with a niggling injury in his hand. It was definitely a weekend to forget for the Belgian, who now sits fifty-five points out of the series lead. As it stands at the moment Cairoli will more than likely clinch his sixth world title at Faenza, in his native Italy.
Kristian Whatley was impressive in his first ride aboard a Monster Energy Yamaha. It was never going to be easy switching bikes, teams and series at the tail end of the season. But all things considered he looks quite comfortable out on track. The current Yamaha 450 is completely different to all others out there. That alone can’t of made the transition very easy, but if he can build off of that ride and take that momentum into the remaining rounds maybe he could crack the top ten. A nineteenth and a DNF isn’t a true representation of the speed he possessed. Whilst on the edge of the top ten in moto one Kristian crashed and pulled the clavicle in his shoulder, which obviously aggravated him throughout the rest of the GP.
Of course, with the depth of talent we have in the UK currently, it doesn’t come as too much of a surprise that we had three moto winners, as James Dunn joined Mewse and Searle as a winner at the weekend. Problems in the first EMX125 moto meant Dunn finished eighth, but the second moto was reminiscent of last years as Dunn shadowed Gajser for the lead. Then, the newly crowned EMX125 champ, Tim Gajser, went down and James took the lead whilst being deafened by the roar of approval from the patriotic home crowd. Of course, Dunn went on to better last year’s performance and became the first of the British riders to win a moto on the weekend.
Unfortunately, Mel Pocock’s EMX250 win streak ended at the worst possible place, his home GP! It just wasn’t to be as Mel got taken out by Olson in moto one and could only work his way up to tenth. In the second moto Pocock got a much better start, however Maxime Desprey (the winner of moto one) had him covered and slowly pulled away lap after lap. Mel later revealed he was suffering from arm pump since early in the race, possibly as a result of the pressure of the home GP. Sadly, 10-2 was only good enough for fourth overall and the Brit missed the podium – but still he inched one step closer to the title.
Sadly, the British GP is over for another year – and if you’re like me, you’ve already begun to countdown to next year’s event. The 2012 “MXGP Festival” may be in the past, but it definitely left a lasting impression on every single person there.
Just to relive the moment take a look at Mark Turner’s and Burf’s photo galleries from the weekend here