The week leading up to the British Motocross Grand Prix has been stressful for Oakleaf Kawasaki, but the end result on Sunday afternoon had everyone satisfied that everything was well worth it. After initially left out of the list of riders included in the eighth round of the world championship, it was only mid-week that confirmation was received that the team was, in fact, racing in the premier MXGP class.
Although Oakleaf Academy rider Gradie Featherstone was cleared to compete in the EMX250 class of the Motocross European Championship at the same round, he was unsuccessful in his quest to be one of the fastest forty riders in Europe, and was forced to watch the rest of the weekend from the sidelines.
For riders Shane Carless and Priit Rätsep, the very wet and slippery Saturday morning practice session delivered mixed results, with both riders going into the qualifying race later on Saturday afternoon in twenty-seventh and twenty-fourth respectively. The qualifying race marked an improvement on Carless’s part with a twenty-sixth place as the nervousness of racing the world’s finest subsided. Rätsep’s position was unchanged from his practice session.
Carless’s roller-coaster ride was not over. Sunday’s first race saw him start in the back of the pack after a difficult start. Several small mistakes early in the race cost him precious positions; despite this he recovered very well, ending the first race in twentieth, with his first MXGP points in his pocket. The second race never got under way. Although he went out for a sighting lap, he discovered a problem with his rear wheel, which the team tried to fix on the start line. Unfortunately, the time under starter’s orders expired and Carless was forced to watch his rivals roar off the start without him. He nonetheless ended the weekend in twenty-third.
Rätsep didn’t have the easiest of weekends either. Despite a first race start just outside the top twenty, a small crash early on dropped Rätsep back to last, from which it was difficult to recover from. He ended the first race in twenty-third. The second race on a distinctly drier surface was a consistent run just outside the top twenty again, ending twenty-third for a twenty-sixth overall. Although the results may not be spectacular, for sand specialist Rätsep the focus was to use the unforgiving hard pack surface at world championship speed as practice for his next MX Nationals championship race and to gauge his progress. Whether the mission has been accomplished will only reveal itself next weekend.
Priit Rätsep — MXGP #221
It was a really, really rough weekend, really, really good training. Big ruts, big jumps, and it took me quite a while to get comfortable on the track. The guys were running really good lap times, the speed was just a little too fast for me. I really had to push hard, even though I wasn’t running for a front position, to keep up. Our main championships are still the British championship and the MX Nationals, so this was really good training for that. To walk away healthy is one of the main things, I think, from this weekend, and prepare for Pontrilas next weekend. I want to thank the Oakleaf Kawasaki team who did a really great job this weekend and I’m really happy with them.
Shane Carless — MXGP #68
My first ever world championship at Matterley Basin on the MX1 bike, obviously coming here as a nobody, I was very nervous, racing with the best guys in the world. Free practice on Saturday was very wet, I didn’t have the best start in the qualifying race, managed to pull up to twenty-sixth. I wasn’t very happy with it but I knew I can do better.On Sunday in the first race I hit a couple of people in the first corner, which was my fault, I pulled through and got a rhythm, which was a little too late in the race and we ended up twentieth, which the team and myself are happy with. Obviously I scored my first championship point, and went into the second race really confident, lost the nerves and did the sighting lap. We then spotted an issue with the bike, we tried to solve it but ran out of time and that was the end of it. But thank you to the Oakleaf team and the sponsors, the guys worked really hard!
Shaun Anthony — Team Principal, Oakleaf Kawasaki
This was our third attempt at the British GP, we use it solely for mental strength and confidence for the riders, the stress and nerves is high for them as it’s a world championship race and a one off ride, and this helps them at the British Championship level. They are fit lads, but mental strength is also key to any top rider or sportsmen, and our expectations was to get into the top twenty which we did with Shane. Priit was not far off. It is a good tester for the riders to know how fast the guys are at this level. Our Academy rider Gradie Featherstone couldn’t have had a worse preparation for it as he has been unwell, and hence his no-show at Canada Heights. He failed to qualify at Matterley Basin, but he will have to go back and work harder if he wants to succeed at the level he intends to. He has great potential and he’s a lad we want to work with long term, we look forward to this weekend at the MX Nationals and also the Pro National Festival in Weston-super-Mare in two weeks’ time. I would like to thank our sponsors so far this season and a big shout out to White’s Transport for their help this weekend.