The 2012 MX1 Maxxis British Championship was all about one man, right? I think we can all agree that Kevin Strijbos was consistently a step above his competition whilst piloting his HM Plant KTM across the tracks of Britain this year. He clinched the championship, so that means he was the best, obviously. But when you dissect the stats further you realise just how good the Belgian was.
From twenty-four starts, Strijbos won sixteen of them and visited the podium in a total of twenty-one motos. With such great consistency, Kevin ended the year with an average finish of third; it would have been even lower if not for a final moto DNF at Milton Park! These statistics were considerably better than all other thirty-nine riders contesting the series, hence why he won the title so comfortably. But then again this the man that has finished second in the world championship twice; anything less than what he achieved would have been considered disappointing for someone with those credentials. The three years prior to this year were disastrous for the Belgian, so 2012 can definitely be labeled as “a rebuilding year” and rebuild he did, this was the best we have seen him in quite some time. Which is fortunate for us fans, but not so great for his competition!
So, we all know he won the title comfortably with two motos still left to run, despite suffering a mechanical malfunction at round four (Milton Park) as already mentioned. Milton Park was actually his worst round of the year by far, as the best he could manage on the day was a third in moto two. In this sport, the term “out of sight, out of mind” most certainly applies; I’m sure most forget that at that point in the series, Mattis Karro had actually snatched the championship lead from Strijbos! Despite eventually finishing fourth in the final series standings because of injury, would anyone argue that he wasn’t the second best rider in the MX1 class this year?
In recent years, Karro has been good in the MX2 class, but not great. I don’t think anyone expected him to come out and challenge for the title through the first half of the series. It’s a shame Karro got injured, if he had stayed on track I am certain the MX1 series would have ended as a real nail-bitter, much like the MX2 class. The statistics support this; in the first four rounds Mattis had an average finish of third, which was the best of the class as Strijbos started the year with an average finish of fifth. Despite missing the final three rounds, Mattis still ended the year with the second most moto wins. Overall it certainly wasn’t a bad year for Karro, I’m sure 2013 will see the STR KTM rider achieve the same amount of success, if not more.
Realistically, Shaun Simpson was the only British rider capable of taking home the domestic title this year and he came close, finishing the series out in second overall, sandwiched between two foreigners coincidentally. Although the points gap and moto wins will tell you he was nowhere near matching the pace set by Strijbos, his average finish across all twenty-four moto’s was fourth, which is surprisingly close to Kevin. Shaun got very familiar with the lower steps of the podium over the season and managed to climb atop the podium in just three motos, with just one overall victory (Little Silver) to his name.
I honestly believe one of the main reasons Shaun wasn’t more of a threat for the title was because of his starts. It was clear to anyone watching that his starts weren’t where they needed to be, whilst Strijbos was upfront and sprinting away, Shaun was fighting through the pack. Shaun also had one DNF to his name (his chain snapped at Desertmartin), which left him a little further back than he would have been if he hadn’t of run into that issue. The YZ450f has a bad reputation in most areas of the world, but Simpson seemed comfortable on his bike on both the sand and hard pack; it was just those starts that hindered him. Once Karro had dropped out of the series the Scotsman was all alone in second for the most part, he was a tick off of Strijbos but considerably better than the rest of the field.
After glancing at the point’s standings, it is completely understandable why most label the Maxxis British Championship, “the most competitive domestic series on earth”. The MX1 class featured so many riders from varied nationalities that just two riders in the top five were British! It’s a testament to the series that riders like Gert Krestinov focus their racing effort solely on the British scene, the decision was certainly a wise one for Gert as this was surely the best we have seen him perform over the course of the year. But, when digging through the moto results I was extremely surprised to see the Estonian finished on the moto podium just four times from twenty-four starts, despite finishing third in the series. It was certainly the consistency that saw him climb onto the third step overall in the series, as outside of the top two, no one was a consistent front-runner.
Even more surprising is that Krestinov’s average finish was a seventh! On paper, it might not seem like it would garner someone third in the series, but it done the job for the Route77 Energy MVRD Honda rider this year. He might not have been on the podium every time, but he was consistently in, or around the top five, which as mentioned previously was a feat most struggled to match over the course of the year. Admittedly, Krestinov only caught third in the late stage of the championship after benefitting from Mattis Karro’s injury, but still he can definitely claim ‘the best of the rest’ title. Unsurprisingly, Gert was at his best on sand, which was where he had the best chance at mixing it up with the leaders. Hopefully the Estonian will stay in the series next year, and add to an already impressive list of contenders.
Who do I think was the most underrated rider of the entire 2012 campaign? Jamie Law. On a D3 KTM at the beginning of the year he was posting solid results, and was certainly doing the most with the least. But when he got the call to join the STR KTM team he looked like a completely different rider, which was obviously reflected in his results from that point onwards. In the first half of the year, J-Law had an average finish of tenth, and in the second it was a tenth also. Now, this obviously seems like there was no improvement. But when you factor in he had two DNF’s in the second half of the year that hindered his average, he was clearly much better. Undoubtedly, the structure and equipment that STR KTM could provide definitely helped J-Law out as he opened the eyes of many teams throughout the paddock.
Astonishingly, not one rider in the MX1 class finished every moto; it goes to show just how grueling the calendar is on both rider and machine. Another surprising fact from this year is that three riders in the top ten switched teams and/or machinery mid-season! It’s rare to see one top rider switch teams, let alone three! It’s also rare that a mid-season change of surroundings works out well, but for Martin Barr it couldn’t have gone much better. Whilst riding an LPE Kawasaki through the first four rounds, it was evident the Irishman was not gelling with the bike or team. His lackluster results on the edge of the top ten were not what we have come to expect from the man who finished third in the 2011 final standings.
Prior to Desertmartin, the announcement was made that Barr would be switching to the Tyco Suzuki team for the remainder of 2012. Immediately following this he came out and looked like a completely different rider, as he was clearly comfortable and fluid on the Suzuki. Barr started off his stint with the team by posting seven consecutive results inside of the top four! However after that he failed to finish another moto, because of various injuries and mechanical failures that hit him in the final five moto’s of the year. But, those seven motos in the middle season most certainly salvaged Barr’s entire 2012 campaign, and proved that he still has the speed to challenge for that elusive British title.
For Kristian Whatley, 2012 will surely be labeled a disaster. Most considered Kristian to be next in line to take the championship, because of the speed he showed in 2011, which left most speechless at times. Armed with a PAR Honda, all the stars seemed to be aligning, however, from the very first round Whatley really never seemed comfortable. He too, ended up changing machinery and teams towards the tail end of the season, but that failed to propel him into race win contention. It clearly just wasn’t his year, but still for Kristian to finish on the moto podium just once is extremely surprising. Despite finishing just three moto’s inside the top five, and not scoring points in six moto’s he was still able to secure seventh in the final series standings, which all things considered, isn’t terrible. But still, it’s not where anyone expected him to finish.
Alex Snow finished eighth in the series, and he did so incredibly quietly. Snow didn’t really grab many headlines throughout the year, and for the most part went unnoticed, I feel anyway. But, that perhaps could be put down to the fact that he didn’t really live up to the expectations most had of him. I for one felt he could contend for moto podiums frequently, but he has just one top five result to show for 2012. It did seem he had flashes of speed, in qualifying etc which indicated a podium performance was on the horizon, but it just never materialised, unfortunately. With the exception of a dislocated shoulder suffered in moto two at Langrish, Snow was quite consistent. If not for a torrid time at Langrish he would have most likely claimed seventh in the series.
As you dig further into the depths of the top ten, more and more riders succumbed to injury that forced them to miss at least one round. Dorren Coutts missed just one round through injury, and for the most part was quite underrated when he was on-track, I think. With more good equipment beneath him in 2013, he should be a firm fixture inside the top ten. Both Stephen Sword and Jason Dougan should have undoubtedly been a bit further up in points seeing as when they were healthy they were fighting for podium positions. However, some quite serious injuries forced the two to miss a couple of rounds, which left them with too much work to do to advance further than the tenth (Sword) and eleventh (Dougan) final championship positions they earned.
The 2012 MX1 Maxxis British Championship was certainly entertaining, it chucked up a few surprises but in the end I think it turned out how everyone expected it to. Now, most are already looking forward to 2013 and what is set to be the most competitive British Championship season ever. Along with this year’s contenders Tanel Leok, Brad Anderson, Jonathan Barragan and Steve Ramon will join the line up; undoubtedly it will be one not to be missed. But first, we have to get through these long winter months.
Words by Lewis Phillips