Martin Barr (MX2): Quietly, Martin Barr had a brilliant ride at the Hawkstone International. In fact, it might have been the best we have seen him ride in quite some time. Barr finished fourth overall on the day, but even that does not reflect how well he was riding. Martin fell on the second lap of the first moto, which dropped him down to twenty-seventh. He then made great progress through the field, and finished an impressive ninth.
In the following two motos (the final one being the superfinal), Martin showcased the same sort of speed. However, with no major incidents to speak of, he came away with some very strong results. The Irishman finished third in moto two, just over a second down on the runner-up, Mel Pocock. He then went and backed this up with a fourth (the third MX2 rider) in the superfinal!
Now, heading into the event, I personally did not expect Barr to be battling with Mel Pocock. Why was he so much better than he was last year? Well, surely the fact that he has had time to actually prepare for the season this year has helped? It took him quite a long time to get a deal sorted for the 2013 season, so he came in unprepared last year. In comparison, this year is completely different, as he re-signed with the VMX Moto team at the end of the season and has been fine-tuning his setup ever since.
Obviously, this means that he is ready to race, and contend. Judging by the speed that he showcased, Barr (who is technically a veteran in comparison to some of his MX2 title rivals) will be hoping to secure that elusive Maxxis British Championship title this year. It would certainly be a great story if he can do it, as he is clearly coming in as an underdog.
Ben Watson: I feel like I have written this a lot, but I was really impressed with Ben Watson at the Hawkstone International – he was riding very well, and has clearly made some big improvements in the off-season. Now, some people are putting his ride down to the fact that the Watson brothers have always been great sand riders. However, if you look at how Ben finished at the Maxxis British Championship round that was held at Hawkstone Park last year, it is clear that he has stepped it up in recent months.
In the first moto, Ben finished fourth, but that could have easily been a second, as he was just three seconds down on Petar Petrov. In the final few laps, he really closed in on Lars Van Berkel for third. In fact, he was pretty much side by side with him as they crossed the chequered flag. The younger Watson brother was again up front in moto two, but a mistake on lap six cost him dearly, as he ended the race in eighth.
There are a lot of positives that Ben Watson can extract from his ride at the Hawkstone International, and that confidence will surely aid him at Landrake in a couple of weeks time. Whereas Ben finished in the lower half of the top ten a lot last year, I now believe that he could become a consistent top five threat, and even break onto the podium a couple of times. Of course, time will tell, but things do seem promising.
Words: Lewis Phillips
Image: Elliot Spencer