It is no secret that the venue of Milton Park is not exactly a favourite of the riders; both this year and in years past the riders have gone on record as saying it is not a track that is worthy of holding a round of the Maxxis British Championship. Well, the series returned Milton Park this past weekend for the fourth round of the 2013 title fight. Admittedly, it [the track] is not as spectacular as Hawkstone Park or Canada Heights; but you cannot deny that it did provide us with some great racing.
When I arrived at the track on the Sunday morning, it was the first time that I had visited the facility. I had heard a lot of negative feedback about the track in recent weeks, so naturally I expected the worst. However, it was not as bad as I had anticipated; sure spectating was not the greatest, and perhaps the track could be likened to a schoolboy track. It definitely wasn’t the worst venue that I had ever visited though, that it for sure.
I do think that the rain really helped the track, as it made it quite technical; whereas it was not that way before. You see, the ruts in the corners were extremely deep; this forced the riders to be creative with their line choices (especially when approaching the backmarkers). The jumps ended up being very slick also, which actually saw a handful of riders crash quite hard. But if it hadn’t of rained, the circuit would have ended up dry, fast and one-lined. So, although the wet weather made life difficult for most, it certainly helped the on-track action.
After the MX1 qualification and superpole, I would of put a lot of money on Nicolas Aubin to win all three of the motos. Astonishingly, the Frenchman was a couple of seconds faster than the rest of the field in both of the sessions; the hard-pack circuit was much more to his liking evidently. However, he never showed that speed in any of the three motos; in fact you could clearly see that he was not as aggressive once the gate dropped. Perhaps the raw speed that he showcased in practice was not sustainable for the duration of a moto? Admittedly he was still one of the best riders in the MX1 class, as Aubin finished second in the first moto and he then took the win in the final moto. If he had not of run into an issue in the second moto, he definitely would have had a shot at the overall win.
In all honesty Tanel Leok should have won the MX1 class. However, the win was ripped from his grasp when he ran into a mechanical problem with four laps to go in the final moto of the day. Quietly Leok seems to have established himself as the man to beat in the class; however it seems that no one has really noticed. In three rounds, Tanel has finished outside of the top two just twice (in the opening moto at FatCat and in the final race at Milton Park) and one of those times was out of his control! If it were not for that final moto DNF at Milton Park, Leok would actually have quite a large series lead. But as it stands right now, he has an eighteen-point advantage in the championship standings.
So, I have covered two of the MX1 riders so far and neither one of them stood on the top of the podium. After the problems that his rivals encountered, Jonathan Barragan was handed the overall victory with his results of a third and two seconds. At times it actually looked like Barragan could of won one of the motos. However in the end he did not have the raw speed that Aubin and Leok possessed. But if your Barragan I guess you will take the overall victory any way you can get it, right?
In the back of his mind he must know that he had nothing for those two though. I think that at the end of the year, the Spaniard will look back on Lyng with regret; if he had finished on the podium there he would have a good lead in the series right now. Instead he is buried in third twenty-six points down on Leok.
What about Shane Carless? I am sure that no one had tipped him to finish up on the overall podium at all this year; but he really did breakout at Milton Park. Admittedly I did not really notice him too much in the first moto, as Shane was quite quiet whilst on his way to a sixth. However it was in moto two that he really excelled, as he mixed it up with the likes of Tanel Leok and Jonathan Barragan; for much of the race he was right there with these two. Shane dropped a couple of positions late on, however he had a problem with his roll-offs that may have prompted this
In the final moto Shane captured another impressive fourth, but I was still surprised to see him up on the overall podium. How often does a sixth and a pair of fourths land you on the podium? Still, it was a great ride for the Oakleaf Kawasaki rider; I am interested to see if he can repeat this type of performance at the next round. He knows that he can do it now!
Brad Anderson is having a terrible year, his ride with the Maxxis Kawasaki by LPE squad isn’t working out as it was expected to. Quickly, this thing is going downhill. Over the weekend, a fifth was his best result (moto two); but Ando expects a lot more from himself. Although the results were poor (in the other two motos, he grabbed a seventh and a tenth) I was shocked to see him go backwards a few times during the day! Brad is known for being a hard charger, so that kind of ride is not something that we see from him too frequently. Currently, there is some speculation that the Maxxis Kawasaki is not the best bike on-track. Ando has only ever excelled on a Honda; perhaps the Kawasaki just isn’t a bike that he gels with?
Steve Ramon is not having a good year either; I expected him to be closer to the front at this point in the season. I do have a hard time saying that, because Steve has overcome a lot just to get to this point. However, he landed on the podium in his comeback race last year; so he is surely capable of doing that right now. In the first moto, the Belgian finished a respectable fifth; but it was downhill from there. In the second moto he finished sixteenth, after starting in twenty-seventh; he then finished fifteenth in the final race after an issue early on.
If you are Steve Ramon (a two-time world champion), are you having a good time out there? I would think that after winning GP’s he would not find riding around at the back of the pack in the British Championship too enjoyable? Ramon is sat in eighth in the standings currently, and I don’t foresee him really making any major improvements anytime soon. But, it is great just to see the Belgian back out on-track again.
So, onto the MX2 class: Elliott Banks Browne won again. It is going to take something drastic to stop the HM Plant KTM UK rider from clinching the championship, in my opinion; he is just too good. In the first two motos, EBB took the wins before settling for a second in moto three. If he continues to put in consistent, smart finishes like that he will remain in control of the red plate, I believe. But for a brief moment in that third and final moto, it actually looked like he was going to make a push for the win, despite the treacherous conditions. However he soon backed it down and collected a second in the moto. Strangely, EBB was slightly disappointed that he could not win all three motos on the day. Despite this, it was still a successful outing; the series leader extended his advantage to forty points.
Steven Lenoir enjoyed his best performance at the Maxxis British Championship to date; as he captured his first moto win in the series in that final moto. Steven struggled a little bit in the first moto as he only garnered a fourth, and it didn’t seem like he could run the pace of the leaders. But, he clearly made a few changes in between motos; the Frenchman seemed to be much more comfortable in moto two, as he set out after the win following a holeshot.
Although Steven Lenoir failed to hold on for the victory in moto two, he redeemed himself in the final moto as he clinched his maiden moto win. Intriguingly the Frenchman does seem to have really improved this year; maybe the atmosphere on the Evotech Stevens KTM squad is more to his liking? It is no secret that KTM 250f is a great bike stock; maybe the difference in performance between the Yamaha that he piloted last year and the KTM that he is currently on has given him a better chance at success? Personally I would lean to the latter; whatever the reason is, Lenoir is the biggest threat to Banks Browne’s title chances in my opinion.
Okay, hands up: who knew that Steven Clarke would be contesting the MX2 class aboard the HM Plant KTM? In the lead up to the event, his return to the UK was not too well publicised. Despite fighting off the jetlag and lack of preparation, Clarke found himself up on the overall podium for the first time. Despite his raw speed, Clarke has never really excelled in the UK; it [his result] is a result of the momentum garnered during the 250SX East series, perhaps? I do believe that he could maybe snatch a moto win in the coming weeks, in the opening moto at Milton Park he kept EBB honest all the way to the finish.
After that performance, I was excited to see what he could do with a start; however he could not get out of the gate with the frontrunners for the remainder of the day. Steven finished in sixth in moto two, after moving forward from the back of the pack. Evidently Clarke has both speed and consistency on his side. In case you are wondering, the plan at the moment is for him to contest the remainder of the series; Steven is already looking forward to Foxhills in a few weeks time.
Graeme Irwin enjoyed another reasonably successful day. However, his overall result of sixth is not a true representation of how well the Irishman rode in all of the motos. In the opening MX2 encounter, Graeme managed to push past both Bradshaw and Steven Lenoir to clinch a third, despite starting a bit behind the lead group. Arguably, his ride in the second moto was his best of the day. Irwin started way back in that moto after crashing quite hard on the first lap. Honestly, I would not have been too surprised to see him pull off; it was quite a bad fall. But remarkably, the Irishman pushed all the way up to seventh in the fourteen-lap race; I do believe that it was one of his better riders this year.
In the MX2 class, there were a couple of riders that caught my eye during the day; but more specifically Jake Millward put in some great rides in his motos. Specifically, Jake bettered the results that he has achieved thus far this year by quite a bit; it seemed that he was right on the edge of the top ten in all three of the motos. Prior to Milton Park, his best result was a seventeenth. But in the first and third moto, he captured an eleventh; I left the venue thinking that he could potentially do some damage in the class in the future.
Now, some riders will head off to Brazil for the FIM Motocross World Championship, whilst others will travel to Weston Super-Mare for the Red Bull Pro Nationals. All of the riders will meet again in three weeks time at the spectacular venue of Foxhills. If the action witnessed at Milton Park is anything to go by, it is going to be another great day.
Words by Lewis Phillips
Image courtesy of Kev Reid.