Eschewing Hawkstone Park’s annual international motocross race in favour of testing, Rockstar KTM unveiled its lineup at the first round of the Maxxis British Motocross Championship at FatCat Motoparc near Doncaster this past weekend. Unseasonably warm weather greeted spectators and participants alike for a record turnout.
Starting with qualifying, the team’s day was beset with gremlins. The MX2 qualifying session saw team veteran Shane Carless put in the fastest time with a thirteenth place, missing the super-pole session by a fraction of a second, while star rider Bryan Mackenzie languished in thirty-first after some issues outside the team’s control. Team rookie Mark Perfect ended in thirty-ninth. The team’s MX1 rider Pete Mitchell qualified just outside the top twenty.
Gremlins or not, Mackenzie proved to be the star rider of the team. Punted off the track on the start of the first race and remounting near-last, Mackenzie started a meteoric rise up the pack, ending the first half of the race back in the top twenty. By the end of race time, Mackenzie found himself in fourteenth. His second race got off to a better start; ninth in the first lap and eighth in the second, Mackenzie appeared to be back in his element, but mistakes put him back on the ground twice, costing him valuable positions. A late race recovery brought Mackenzie back to thirteenth place. The final race finally was what everyone was used to. Mid-pack start aside, Mackenzie made quick progress into the top ten and settled into seventh, where he kept at bay younger rivals Booker and Irwin to end the final race in seventh for a tenth overall on the day.
Carless started the first race mid-pack and soon made progress towards the top fifteen. His forward momentum was abruptly stopped by a crash that dropped him back into the low twenties. Remounting in twenty-fifth, the young Welshman pushed hard for the last three laps, ending the race where he started, in eighteenth. In the second race, Carless put all that behind him. Starting in nineteenth and making steady progress to ninth, he was pipped to the position by a last lap move from rival Stuart Edmonds, ending the race in tenth. The final race proved to be a disappointment for the rider. After a great start in thirteenth, a massive crash and the subsequent scramble to restart saw half the pack race by. Making up four positions in one lap, Carless found himself back in the top twenty before more mistakes forced him back and to a DNF.
MX2 rookie Mark Perfect got a taster of the quality and depth of his new class. Although he got off to a start in the top thirty, the tough track and strong competition saw him drop down the ranks progressively, ending the first race three places down. In the second race, Perfect found himself last around the first lap, but a lap later, he had made up six positions, putting him on target for a place in the top thirty the next lap around. Unfortunately the gremlins struck yet again; a crash undid all the progress from the previous lap, leaving Perfect back in thirty-ninth. Soldiering on for as long as possible, Perfect had to retire from the race halfway in. The final race saw him around the first lap just outside the top thirty, improving to a thirtieth place at the chequered flag.
In the MX1 class, the gremlins were also at work. Mitchell, after starting mid-pack, found himself in the back of the pack due to a crash in the first lap. Remounting quickly, he soon was back in the twenties before trouble struck again, and he had to retire from the race. The second race got off to a better start, although some mistakes early in the race cost Mitchell some valuable time. Recovering those positions became a priority immediately, but a second crash meant another DNF. The final race finally went as planned. Albeit starting in thirtieth, Mitchell soon found himself in twenty-fifth, then twenty-second, where he remained to the end of the race.
Darren Wilson, team principal, wryly commented at the end of the day: “Today, the first round of the British championship, was a bit eventful to say the least. We had a couple of problems with Bryan’s bike during qualifying, but we managed to go out and post a 32nd place. Bryan wasn’t too happy, but we managed to repair the damage done. To be fair, his back was to the wall for most of the day, but we managed to pull it off in the end. He finished a solid 7th in the final race, it could’ve been better but he dumped it in the last couple of laps. At least we didn’t have to DNF any races, so we’re looking forward to round two at Canada Heights in a few weeks and show that we can bring our A game there, and be up near the pointier end of the race.
“Shane’s got a bit of work to do. We have a Scottish championship next weekend, so it’ll be two days of MX1 and MX2 racing which should give him a bit of a boost. Mark just needs to keep his head down and work hard. He’s fresh out of the schoolboys and a wee bit starstruck today, and he knows that. Pete rode solid; in the final race he was just unlucky, finishing just outside the top twenty. He’s showing promise, and with more training, I think we’re going to have him inside the top fifteen by the end of the season. All in all it’s been eventful, we’re not all going home with smiles on our faces, but by round two we should.”
Bryan Mackenzie: “Today was just not successful for me. I wasn’t really looking forward to coming here, but that’s no excuse. I had a bit of a malfunction in qualifying which was just out of everyone’s control, so I had a bad gate pick and bad starts. In the first race I ended up punted over a berm at high speed in the first turn. So I came all the way from near last and I think I finished 14th. It’s not that bad a ride from feet-off in the first turn. In the second race I went down twice and finished 13th, which was not ideal, and in the last race I thought ‘man, I need to put some decent points on the board’, so I rode well within my limits and finished 7th. There’ve been a lot of mishaps today, so me just putting three point-scoring rides together were enough to get a top ten.”
Mark Perfect: “Nothing seemed to work all day, it’s a day which we can just forget. It’s going to be a long year, probably. The results weren’t really what we expected, so I hope we can get them good by the end of the year.”
Pete Mitchell: “There’s not much say, it’s not been a great day. It started off good, and went bad to worse. I’m looking forward to next weekend and the next British round and do some decent damage there, you know. So I’m just looking forward to the next one and take it as it comes.”