RBPN Round 6. Hawkstone Park, Shropshire.
Round six of the Red Bull Pro Nationals took the Heads & All Threads Suzuki team to the prestigious deep sand that is Hawkstone Park in Shropshire, where Graeme Irwin and Luke Burton would swap roles with Irwin aboard the RM-Z450 in MX1 and Burton riding the RM-Z250 in MX2.
“I haven’t had a bad season on the 250 but it obviously didn’t go the way I wanted. I’m riding the big bike in the des Nations and I’m going to ride MX1 next year, so this is the perfect opportunity. I’m out of the title contention so I may as well go now.”
Saturday held the qualifying sessions where Burton, getting to grips with the 250, managed to just creep into the top 15 of MX2. Irwin took to the more powerful 450 with ease and secured top pick just head of series leader, Kristian Whatley and nearly three seconds ahead of the rest of the field.
In the first moto Irwin made the gate and rounded the first corner in 2nd just behind Whatley. The pair stayed close for the first few laps and put a good gap to 3rd place. As the race progressed, Irwin settled into his rhythm and rode smoothly to cross the line in a comfortable 2nd place.
Sunday, and the second of the pro races, Irwin took the hole-shot and held off Whatley for for the first few laps until Whatley made a pass that stuck and took the lead. Irwin stayed in contention but couldn’t quite get within striking distance as the pair equalled lap times. Settling into a comfortable flow, Irwin again crossed the line in 2nd, but just 4.5 seconds behind Whatley.
The third and final moto held some surprises for the crowd as Irwin again made the hole-shot and fended off Whatley. Whatley managed to sneak in the early stages but made a mistake and Irwin regained the lead. With Irwin now riding steadily, MX2 rider, Steven Lenoir, closed the gap right down and was hungry to be the first MX2 rider in RBPN history to win the mixed class race with two laps to go. Irwin, however, kept his cool and put the hammer down to keep the Frenchman at bay and took the chequered flag and 2nd overall.
“I’m over the moon with a 2-2-1. The track for the last race was the gnarliest I’ve ridden in a while but it’s good to see a track left alone as it sorts everyone out and you get to see who puts the work in. I ride a 450 smoother than a 250 but I think I’m still exciting – there’s still the odd bit of aggression comes out.”
Burton didn’t quite get get the start in the first moto, but managed to negotiate his way around the deep sand and a few riders to cross the line in 15th for MX2.
In moto two, Burton made a much better start but made a mistake on lap two and was stone last. As he started to make some forward progress the Hawkstone sand bit again. Obviously sapped of stamina, Burton pulled out to conserve energy for the final race.
A good start in the third moto and Burton found himself in 13th on track, but by this time the track was extremely gnarly and drained his strength costing positions and causing mistakes. Again he pulled off for his second DNF of the weekend.
The final round of the RBPN is at Culham Park, Oxfordshire, on the 21st-22nd of September.
The British Championship final round is on the 6th of October, at Farleigh Castle, Wiltshire.
Kev Reid Image