Saturday & Sunday 7th & 8th April 2018: Preston Docks, Lancashire, PR2 2HW
The gate dropped on the opening round of the much-anticipated MX Nationals British Championship on Saturday. Despite the best efforts of the unseasonal springtime weather, racing did get underway, albeit a shortened set.
After an early start, the hundreds of competitors were in the venue and parked up ready for the day ahead. Thanks to the weather closing in though, and a barrage of the wet stuff, the MX Nationals organising crew called a halt to proceedings in order to salvage the track. Each class had managed to squeeze in morning practice, and one race each, in challenging and physically-draining conditions.
The Expert MX2 class was first out and, with a good start, Ben Clark took an early lead, which he held for the first four laps. Tom Grimshaw in second, caught and passed Clark for the race win with Jason Meara some 30 seconds back in third. RFX Crescent Yamaha’s Henry Williams was seventh off the line and managed to push his way through to fourth but, on the last corner of the last lap, his clutch went on the bike leaving the exhausted lad to push his bike over the line in a points-scoring 16th.
In Expert MX1, local rider Will Orritt shot off the start line to grab the holeshot and led until around the halfway point. A confident-looking Zac Sealey passed Orritt and took the race win with 15 seconds to spare.
Irish rider Ryan Mawhinney took the Open 85cc win with ease. The big-wheel rider was a good 10 seconds a lap quicker than anyone else, winning the category by over a minute. Joe Brookes was the first small-wheel 85 rider to cross the finish line and Cristina Palmer, flying the flag for the girls, kept it upright to finish 30th out of a start grid of 44.
The restarted MXY1/2 group completed six laps of the rapidly-deteriorating track. The race was won by an MXY2 rider in the form of Rossi Beard. He enjoyed a start to finish win – as did second-placed RFX Crescent Yamaha’s 125-mounted Joel Rizzi, and third-placed Ryan Thompson. Two of the top six in this joint group were MXY1 riders.
In a closely-fought Clubman MX2 battle, Charlie Razzell kept it pinned to take a start-to-flag win with Henry Foster putting in his fastest lap on lap five to scoop the runners-up slot and Toby Lightbrown – sponsor Bell Helmet’s brand manager, in third.
The final race of the day saw the Clubman MX1 guys take to a decidedly muddy and slippery track. The leading trio of Harry Fletcher, Guy Prince and Matt Nash managed to stick in seven laps and finished within 10 seconds of each other. Nash took the holeshot but finished third, whilst Prince started in sixth and made his way through to second.
SUNDAY was the polar opposite to Saturday. Preston Docks track manager Lee McGarry and the MX Nationals track crew worked through the night to rework and grade the track. With bright and dry conditions and the odd ray of sunshine poking through, MX National organisers were eventually gifted with the tools to put on a full programme of top-notch British motocross racing at its very best. Full gates, a great turn out of spectators and cracking racing were the order of the day.
The Fastest 40 were first out on the well-worked track for practice and qualifying. Micky Eccles posted the fastest lap time to take the Pro MX1 pole position and Brad Anderson put in the fastest in Pro MX2 on the only 250 two-stroke in the field.
In the opening Fastest 40 moto, Stuart Edmonds rocketed off the line ahead of Jamie Law, Jake Nicholls, Micky Eccles and Brad Anderson. Third around the first corner, former MXGP runner Nicholls took the lead on lap two and gave a rough-track master class. He stretched out his lead lap by lap and went on to win by a considerable margin of some 53 seconds. Behind him, Eccles left the line in fourth but had moved up to second by the third lap, he followed in the muddy trail of Nicholls to take a well-deserved second. Elliott Banks-Browne’s start did not go to plan. He did a full spin off the gate and hit another rider’s wheel, placing him last going into turn one and a lot of work to put in on the rutted-out track. He picked his way through the field and, by mid-race distance had made his way through to fourth, passing Anderson to take third. Making good use of his gate position, Anderson hit the first corner in sixth, quickly moved to fourth, held third for a few laps and crossed the finish line in fourth overall, ahead of reigning Pro MX2 champ Mel Pocock. Gert Krestinov worked his way from 12th to sixth and, after a strong start, Edmonds finished seventh. Nathan Dixon, Liam Knight and Law rounded out the top ten. Further down the field; after a poor start, Kristian Whatley was in a points-scoring eighth, but his luck petered out in the closing stages of the race when he, amongst others, ran out of fuel.
In the second MX1/MX2 Pro race, Nicholls grabbed the holeshot and never looked back. There was no-one to touch him as he pulled away from the pack to take his second win of the day and a full quota of points. Said Nicholls; “The track was really good considering the weather. It was technical, but I felt really at home on it and the Buildbase Honda worked really well. I had a good start in the first race and then, once in the lead, worked away from the field. In the second race, I got a holeshot-to-flag win, which was great. It was a strong field and so it’s great for my confidence going forward. Even better – I really enjoyed myself!”
Giving the 450s a run for their money, Anderson was third off the line. In the early part of the race he had Stuart Edmonds and a goggle-less Ryan Houghton to contend with but by lap eight was in a solid second, a position he held to the finish line. Anderson now leads the Pro MX2 class ahead of Pocock; “We were testing the new engine for EMX300, and it couldn’t have gone better. Two good starts and two good wins – I’m very happy. My Verdesports Substance KTM was great and I have to say the track team did an awesome job.”
Eccles proved to be one to watch with pole, second and third, giving him second overall in the championship, ahead of Banks-Browne who had a better start in the second moto only to drop back to seventh after turn two. Making his way through to second on lap two, he crashed on a jump and had to muscle his way through to his final fourth position and third overall in the championship. “Race one was tough and it was the hardest track to pass but third was okay considering. I got out of the gate well in the second race but was boxed off in turn two which put me back. I made some passes early on as I knew if I wanted to go with Jake, that’s what I needed to do. After a huge crash I managed to get going again and salvaged what I could. All in all, it was an okay day but at least we are in the championship hung.”
In the Expert MX2 class, and having travelled the Irish Sea, Jason Meara enjoyed a successful couple of days; “This weekend was a success for me. I’ve entered this season with little preparation and have had only two races under my belt, but we’ve slowly been getting better. Yesterday’s race was just a battle to survival after a terrible start and a small crash, I managed third. Today was much better although my starts weren’t great, the riding was a lot better and I got two wins!”
The tightly-contested Clubmen groups saw Brad Thornhill take both race wins and second overall in the MX2 championship, whilst Fletcher’s consistency in the MX1 class paid dividends with a fourth and second netting him the championship lead.
Beard, appeared to have an easy couple of days in MXY2. He was noticeably better than the rest of the field, at times lapping six seconds over the next placed rider. He is a fine example of how the MX Nationals nurtures racing talent; MXY1 champ last year, and already making his mark in MXY2. RFX Crescent Yamaha’s Rizzi also showed his talent. Four out of four race in-class wins and highly-placed against the 250s.
Jack Grayshon and Mawhinney enjoyed wheel-to-wheel battles in the Open 85 class big-wheel, but they had young small-wheel rider Bailey Johnston nipping at their wheels. “Pleased with my results. The weather conditions didn’t affect my overall performance. Can’t wait for round two, it’s such a great event.”
RFX Crescent Yamaha fields a team of five riders; Jake Shipton and Nathan Dixon in Pro MX1, Henry Williams and Ben Clark in MX2 Expert and Joel Rizzi and Bobby Bruce on the 125’s in MXY1. Team manager James Nixon reflected on the team’s Preston Docks weekend; “Unfortunately, Jake had to sit this one out whilst he recovers from a back injury picked up a couple of weeks ago.
“Saturday’s highlights were definitely Joel’s race win in MXY1 and Ben’s 2nd in MX2 Experts. Henry’s race finish though was heroic and something we won’t forget in a long time, after a mid-pack start he battled through tough conditions to get into fourth by the final lap then within sight of the line he lost all drive. After 25mins of the toughest racing we’ve seen in a long time, he used every ounce of energy he could find, to push his bike with a locked-up wheel through the mud to the line to finish 16th. To be there and see first-hand the moment when exhaustion overtakes a person who has literally given everything they have to cross the line, is something else. This guy is a fighter!
“Sunday didn’t disappoint, again in really tough conditions, Nathan qualified well and took a career best sixth in ProMX1 race one. Henry grabbed a second in MX2 Experts race two and Ben took third overall. Joel took two more race wins in MXY1 taking first overall and Bobby, in his first race on the 125, showed he’s got plenty of talent. A massive thanks to everyone involved and especially the MX Nationals team that, like the riders, don’t give up when the going is tough!”
- #45 Jake Nicholls, Buildbase Honda, 50 points
- # 148 Micky Eccles, Manchester M/Cs Husqvarna, 44
- # 44 Elliot Banks-Browne, Geartec Husqvarna, 40
- # 37 Gert Krestinov, Phoenix Tools Honda, 33
- # 162 Stuart Edmonds, Apico Husqvarna, 30
- # 21 Ryan Houghton, Rob Hooper Yamaha, 28
- # 134 Liam Knight, Trevor Pope KTM, 27
- # 25 Jamie Law, RSS Apico Yamaha, 25
- #227 Kristian Whatley, Rob Hooper Yamaha, 24
- #360 Nathan Dixon, RFX Crescent Yamaha, 23
- #1 Brad Anderson, Verdesports Substance KTM, 50 points
- #119 Mel Pocock, Revo Husqvarna, 44
- #177 Jay Hague, Kawasaki, 32
- #38 Gavin Stevenson, Manchester M/Cs Husqvarna, 30
- #575 Taylor Hammal, Trevor Pope KTM, 29
- #33 Josiah Natzke, Buildbase Honda, 29
- #3 Josh Gilbert, Honda Adventure Centre, 26
- #337 Glenn McCormick, Norman Watt KTM, 21
- #303 Jake Millward, Craigs Honda, 20
- #10 Michael Ellis, ASA P&H KTM, 20
- Harry Foster, 66
- Brad Thornhill, 65
- Adam Pierce, 54
- Toby Lightbrown, 49
- Fabio Rizzi, 45
- Michael McAlister, 44
- Harry Fletcher, 65
- Guy Prince, 64
- Aiden Christie, 61
- Joe Roberts, 45
- Matt Nash, 45
- McCarthy, 35
- Bailey Johnston, 72
- Ollie Colmer, 69
- Ben Mustoe, 58
- Charlie Reynolds, 50
- Arai Elcock, 48
- Boston Gilbert, 44
- Jack Grayshon, 72
- Ryan Mawhinney, 69
- Vinnie Guthrie, 54
- Buster Hart, 54
- Sam Atkinson, 50
- Callum Baldwin, 39
- Joel Rizzi, 75
- Dylan Spenser, 58
- Kyle McNicol, 53
- Aaron Colley, 48
- Oliver Beamish, 47
- Tom Murphy, 43
- Rossi Beard, 75
- Aaron-Lee Hanson, 62
- Ryan Thompson, 53
- Cailum Mera, 52
- Denny Rapson, 49
- Callum Green, 47
British Expert MX2 overall
- Jason Meara, 70
- Tom Grimshaw, 67
- Ben Clark, 49
- Josh Coleman, 45
- Henry Williams, 45
- Ryan McClean, 43
British Expert MX1 overall
- Ryan Crowder, 62
- Richard Bird, 57
- Zac Stealey, 57
- Brad Cavill, 54
- Will Orritt, 45
- Jake Edey, 38
Pictured; Rossi Beard #123 leads the MXY1