Farleigh Castle has a special place in the hearts of most fans. So, when it was announced that the popular natural circuit would make a return to the Maxxis British Championship calendar this year, most jumped for joy. It was always going to be an interesting event, as there were many different things to watch – the stunning facility of Farleigh Castle was a great backdrop for the series finale.
I was looking forward to the eighth (and final) round of the 2013 Maxxis British Championship for two reasons:
a) I was interested to see how the natural circuit would affect the results, as it would be intriguing to see which riders excelled on the grassy circuit – I felt like this was an exciting subplot to the days racing.
b) Of course, because the MX1 and MX2 titles were on the line as well! It is always good to see hard-work pay off, and the series that has spanned over many months conclude.
Honestly, underwhelmed would best describe how I felt on Sunday. Perhaps this is harsh? After all, the racing was superb, once again – the final MX2 race could be considered the race of the year! However, where was the excitement? Seriously, I have never been to a professional event that has lacked so much of an atmosphere. You could argue that this was because of the small crowd. But, there were people there. Admittedly, the numbers were sub-par, but at least there were a couple of hundred.
Actually, allow me to go off on a tangent a little bit. If you visit a motocross forum, or even a social network site, you are always going to see a large amount of people complaining about the modern circuits, stating that it has killed the sport and that we need to go back to places like Farleigh Castle. So, where were these people? I thought that he would be much busier than it was, because people would want to support the popular circuit. It was certainly odd to see the lack of a crowd, and that certainly contributed to the lack of an atmosphere. Anyway, I digress.
I felt like a lot more could have been done by the promoters to excite the crowd. In the hour break between practice and the opening MX2 moto, it was eerily quiet around the circuit. You could have heard a penny drop. Now, I didn’t expect the commentator to keep talking throughout that break. But there are many things that could have been done – instead, they elected to do nothing. I will offer a solution to that problem; they could have played some exciting and dramatic music, interviewed the title contenders ahead of the most important race of the year or reminded the crowd about possible points scenarios. Like I said, the excitement level was so ridiculously low trackside that I decided to try and build the hype on the MX Vice Twitter – something had to be done!
Maybe the reason for the lack of excitement was that it had been so long since the previous round at Hawkstone Park – it had been almost two months! Perhaps it would be better for the promoters to make the schedule more compact in the future? Anyway, I’ve spent way too long on the lack of excitement at the Maxxis British Championship finale.
I honestly believe that the track played a large role in the excellent on-track action! Apart from the wooded section, it [the circuit] was very fast. So, as a result, everyone was quite close in speed, as there was not much to separate the guys. In a way, this did both help, and hinder the racing, as it made it quite one-lined out there; it was tough for the guys to make passes, everyone seemed to mention that. However, Whatley proved that it was possible in that final moto! I think that the track was good as a one-off. But, in my opinion, it would not work to use tracks like Farleigh Castle all-year long – the sport has evolved too much.
When the Maxxis British Championship last visited Farleigh Castle, a lot of riders complained about the woods section resembling an enduro, rather than a motocross track. Admittedly, I think that it was the same this weekend. I was not a fan of some parts of the track, like the corner in the woods after you went halfway up the first hill. It was too tight, and one lined for a professional meeting, in my opinion. However, overall, I thought the woods were the most interesting feature of the track, as it really tested the riders’ technical ability. Interestingly, the track was a bit different to what we saw at the Veterans MXdN, as the riders went up the first set of steps. Some elected to attempt to double up the first two, which was just incredible. Both Graeme Irwin and Luke Norris actually struck me as the riders that did this best.
Shall we finally get into the results and the racing? I was really happy to see Kristian Whatley clinch the title, as it was quite clear that it meant a lot to him, and the MBO Sport Yamaha team. Whatley just had to post some solid results in order to obtain the title. However, he went above and beyond that, as he seemingly wanted to make a statement. Following his ride on Sunday, there is no doubt in my mind that he is the deserving MX1 Maxxis British Champion. I mean, his rides whilst on the way to the win in the opening two motos were impressive, but the way that he sliced through the field in the final moto was something else!
It is quite funny really, as he has managed to avoid bad luck for most of the year. Then, as soon as he has clinched the title, he gets struck down by a first turn fall! I honestly thought that he was just going to pull in – he was so far behind, and there was no need to go all out to win. But, after getting his front brake calliper cut off, he left it all on the line and pushed through the field to seventh. It was obvious that he wanted to go out with a bang, and take the overall win – he did just that.
Brad Anderson finished second overall on the day, and won a moto, which was great to see. But, in my opinion, he still didn’t look like the same guy. I mean, when Brad was battling for the title, he looked very aggressive. Now, he looks completely different. In that final moto, he was battling with Gert Krestinov for the whole race. I don’t think that Brad should be battling with a rider like Gert, but he struggled to drop him. So, you have to think that Brad won because of Whatley, Karro and Aubin crashing in turn one. In my opinion, his second in moto one was more impressive – he looked more like his usual self in that one. 2014 is going to be a make or break year for him, so it will really be interesting to see whether he is a title contender, or whether he slips into that second tier.
Will the real Jonathan Barragan please stand up? Seriously, I don’t know what has happened to the Spaniard. Remember when he was winning GPs? Yeah, that was just four years ago. In the past four years, he has lost so much speed and desire that he now isn’t a factor to win at British Championship level. Why has he dropped off so much? Honestly, no one knows. Once again, his performance at Farleigh Castle was lacklustre, as he finished seventh overall following some disappointing performances. It seems like Jonathan is off to enduro now, which is good, in a way, hopefully the new surroundings will help him find some kind of comfort. Although he finished second in the series, his results this year indicate that he was lucky to finish there.
Although the year as a whole has been very difficult for Elliott Banks Browne, he managed to clinch the MX2 Maxxis British Championship title at Farleigh Castle, which certainly made his season more positive. Prior to Farleigh Castle, EBB had not won an overall since Milton Park in May. So, there was a bit of a drought there in the middle. But, he rebounded at the finale by standing atop the podium. Interestingly, I noticed that Elliott seemed to tackle the races in a different way to the rest of the frontrunners, as he just kept chipping away during the moto, rather than sprinting in the early laps. Obviously, this strategy comes from racing the GPs. Anyway, congratulations to Elliott on a second MX2 title, there is no doubt that he earned it.
Bryan Mackenzie ended the season with a bang, seemingly. In fact, I would argue that he was the best rider on the day; he probably should have won the overall. However, he lost out on the victory by one measly point. But, the Pendrich Kawasaki rider still collected two moto wins to go along with his one from earlier in the season. Bryan had to withstand some immense pressure from a number of different riders in moto three, which was impressive to see, as he had a few different guys all over his back wheel for the duration of the twenty-minutes. It was certainly a positive day for him, and to top it off, he got around both Graeme Irwin and Nathan Watson in the series standings, to end the season fourth.
Steven Lenoir was perhaps the most vocal about his disdain for the Farleigh Castle circuit, as he seemed to be uncomfortable with the track all-day long. Despite this, the Frenchman put in some solid rides to finish third overall, following a second and two fourths. It was by no means an easy day for him, as he seemed to be in the midst of a battle every time that I saw him out there. The battle between Lenoir and Bradshaw for third in the championship was a close one, as Steven came close to losing it when he dropped back at the beginning of the final moto. But, in the end, he came through to clinch the position, which concluded a great season for him and the Evotech KTM team.
Aside from the champions (obviously), Adam Sterry was the standout performer for me. If you look at his results, it looks like he had a good day. But, if you were trackside, you will know that it was a great day. Really, we should have known that he would be up front, as he already proved in the practice sessions that he had the speed to contend. However, translating that into the races is a completely different story – Sterry managed to do that though. In moto one, he latched onto the back of a great four-rider battle for the win, before eventually finishing third (a career best).
Although he finished outside of the top five in the last two races, it was evident that he had the speed to get up front. But, he was a victim of bad starts, and a track that was tough to pass on, which hindered his results. Still, he ended the day in fifth overall – a great result. I am really quite interested to see how Sterry fares next year, as he is certainly on the path to success, judging by his recent form.
Well, I guess that is it then. 2013 is done, and dusted – what a year it has been! 2013 has been an exciting year, with a few surprises. But, 2014 is looking even better for the Maxxis British Championship, as Jake Nicholls, Shaun Simpson and Mel Pocock will all be returning to the domestic series, it seems. But before that, we have these long, cold winter months to get through. Roll on next year!
Words by Lewis Phillips
Image courtesy of Elliot Spencer