St Jean D’Angely, France was due to be our first long trip of the year and a very exciting one as it was to be Luke’s first European Championship race on a 250.
This track is located close to La Rochelle western France and due to host the 6th round of the FIM World Championships which includes most of the top riders in the world including Max Anstie a great friend of ours who we were looking forward to seeing again.
Having parked up in a good spot we managed to get organised and sorted early on so had plenty of time to check out the track and take in the great set up with the big teams. It really was a dream come true to be in amongst the top riders and to see people that we love to watch on TV.
The track was in prime condition and hard pack which suited Luke well with lots of steep hills and jumps but it was very fast so knew that it would be good for everyone.
Saturday morning we were up very early for timed practice which started before 8am. We knew straight away that it was not going to be easy as 68 riders were fighting for 40 places. The format was 2 heats of 34 riders from which 18 riders would progress to the main races then a last chance timed qualification where 4 riders would progress through.
It was clear from the start that there were a lot of very good riders in the championship. Luke started off the session well putting in some good times, Luke was 21st fastest but 1 second would have put him in 12th position and 2 seconds would have got inside the top 10. Great encouragement that we were on the pace and within reach of being quick enough to qualify but knowing that Luke would need to pull out all of the stops to get there.
From timed practice Luke had 21st gate pick but was not able to line up in the best spot on the start line so was further towards the right hand side which was not ideal.
The gate dropped for the 15 minute + 2 lap race, Luke got over the gate really well however managed to get boxed in so didn’t get the best of starts. From then on it was a fight all of the way, all riders wanted to qualify and no one was letting up. Luke pushed his way through to get into 21st place but just couldn’t make any progress, everyone had the same idea and didn’t want to miss out. Luke battled through to the end but finished in 21st place, he was very disappointed that he couldn’t make that last push up into the top 18.
This meant that Luke had to go to the Last Chance Qualifying practice which we had heard usually turned into mad panic, not what we wanted but knew that Luke would give it his all.
Last Chance Timed Practice
Luke went out wanting to put in some very good early laps as they only had 15 minutes to do the best they could. Luke put in a blinder first lap and jumped into 3rd position but as warned the riders were doing all sorts of things including getting in the way if they were on a slow lap and a rider was coming through fast, this happened a few times to Luke so improving on his time was virtually impossible, he finished up in 11th position 2 seconds off qualification which would have been possible with a clear lap!
Luke was very disappointed but felt that he had learnt an awful lot and that he would be much better prepared next time. Whilst disappointed both Luke and Matt believe that there are further improvements which can be made to both Luke’s preparation and the bikes performance so it would be back to the drawing board for them both to get ready for the next race.
We all really loved the experience and want to definitely do as many of these races as possible with Luke being determined to do much better. It was great also to watch the World Championship riders and to sample the atmosphere with so many people in the crowd.