The third round of the increasingly-popular Michelin MX Nationals headed to one of the riders’ favourite tracks, the iconic Hawkstone Park circuit over the Whitsun bank holiday weekend.
The elements helped with build up during the week, giving the track a natural watering and, and the track was well prepped for the hundreds of competitors – just shy of 300 – and their families who were ready for another two days of action-packed, highly-charged fun. The forecasted rain and thunder storm held off until the last two laps of the final Pro race, at which point it bucketed down and threw in a few shows of lightening for good measure to.
In the Pro class, it was business as usual in both MX1 motos for Buildbase Honda’s flying Jake Nicholls, taking start to finish wins. He was followed across the finish line by MX2’s Brad Anderson on his Verdesports Substance KTM 2-stroke and an on-form Martin Barr (Revo Husqvarna) in the first race. In the second Pro outing, Elliot Banks-Browne (Geartec Husqvarna) and Gert Krestinov (Phoenix Tools Honda) kept the MX2 boys at bay, to round out the top three.
The MX1 storyboard is becoming something of a familiar one with Nicholls clearing off and Banks-Browne in pursuit. “I had two good starts and another double win, so I’m happy,” said the championship leader. “The track was rough and challenging what with so many different classes and skill sets going around there, but the track crew did a good job. I was sensible in the last race as it got dark and started to rain so I didn’t want to take too many risks.”
Whilst Nicholls’ winning margin was again considerable to the tune of over 30-seconds, Banks-Browne had his work cut out in both races, with pressure from the hard-charging Krestinov, who put in a strong ride in the second race to work his way up from 13th to third. “The day was okay considering I’ve had a week of being unable to ride due to my wrist being sore from last week’s crash,” commented EBB. “In race one, I struggled a lot with the bike set up but we made some changes and race two was much better. Jake and I had a good battle for around four to five laps but, after landing in a hole and jarring my wrist, I was unable to keep the pace up so just had to ride around and settle for second.”
Having enjoyed a third overall at Preston Docks in the previous week, Micky Eccles was unlucky in the MX1 opener when his bike cut out and died as he took off on a jump. “I had a scary crash,” said Eccles, “ I managed to get out in the second race on my spare bike, but could only manage what a sixth with the pain I was in.” Elsewhere in the class, another top contender wasn’t faring so well; Kristian Whatley finished 12th in race one and didn’t go out for the second. Team boss Rob Hooper explained; “Kristian was very ill last week at Preston Docks during and after the second race. It would seem that whatever struck him down there is still in his system. In the first race today he went backwards through the field. He has no strength to stand up and had blurred and hazy vision. He is going to hopefully get a blood test on Tuesday to try and find the cause of his illness.”
Over in the Pro MX2 group; Revo Husqvarna’s Martin Barr, now fully recovered from injury, made his 2018 MX Nationals maiden appearance. Setting fastest qualifying time, he was looking in fine form and took a solid second in the opening moto. A crash in the second moto, whilst in third and trying to catch EBB put him down the proceedings but he said he felt good, and was glad to be back racing at the ‘Nationals’.; “It was really good to be back in action yesterday at a nice and rough Hawkstone Park. I qualified quickest which was really good, and I made a decent start in race one, but got caught up in a second turn crash and lost a few positions. I battled back through to second by the flag though. I felt a lot better in race two and had another good start. I was leading the MX2 but threw it away with a crash which resulted in a bent bike, and that cost me the overall as I couldn’t finish. But, it’s the best I felt from the start of the year so I’m really happy about that and also getting over my injuries.” Team-mate Mel Pocock, also recovering from injury, posted a third and second place finish.
Two-stroke mounted Brad Anderson again ruled the MX2 class with two wins – start-to-finish in the opener – and the overall on the day. “I got real good start in the first race laying second in MX1 and first in MX2 and that’s where I stayed for the full race. In race two I didn’t get the best start and had to fight through the pack. Martin Barr came off and handed me the MX2 win, so a perfect day for me going 1-1 and extending my championship lead.” After a great result at round two, Josh Gilbert didn’t have the best day – he had a bike problem in the first race, finishing 29th in the race and 19th in class and in the second race worked his way up from the back of the field to 11th overall and fifth in the MX2 group.
All other MX Nationals classes had a day’s racing on Saturday. The format followed the series-long pattern of timed qualifying, followed by two sets of racing for each class, except the MX1/MX2 Pros who race only on Sunday.
The Experts were out first with the MX2 riders. In the first race Finley Rossi Beard took the win by just over four seconds ahead of Josh Coleman and Ryan McClean. Currently leading the class, Tom Grimshaw crashed early in the race and was down in 20th place at one stage. He steadily picked his way through the pack though and made up eight places to finish 12th. In the second race, Ben Putnam had a great start and led all the way to the finish line, while Coleman took his second runners-up slot of the day and Northern Ireland’s Jason Meara crossed the line in third. Early leader Beard, stalled his bike only to get going again and was then taken out in next corner. He finished 11th.
In the Expert MX1 group, Josh Waterman posted the fastest time in qualifying and then went on to win both motos. He was followed home by Richard Bird and James Dodd in the first moto, and then James Dodd and Edward Briscoe in the second. Local rider Zac Stealey didn’t fare quite so well, with a crash in the opening race relegating him to 20th. He managed to claw his way back to 10th and vital championship points and then claimed a hard-fought fifth in the second race.
On Sunday, Meara, Putnam and Jamie Wainwright were out front in the MX2 group first race, with Coleman, Meara and Wainwright doing the honours in the second. A big crash put paid to Grimshaw’s day, which was bad enough for him to be taken to hospital; an update on his condition is expected soon. Beard got jammed in the start gate and made his way from last to second, but lost the back brake and went backwards. An average start in the last race saw him make it to second but he caught his leg on a post and finished seventh.
Josh Waterman was strong all weekend in the Expert MX1. Waterman, Dodd and Bird took the MX1 top three positions in the first race of the day, with Brad Cavill, Dodd and Waterman taking one-two-three in the second moto. Shrewsbury’s Stealey struggled with the difficult track conditions on the Sunday but managed to finish seventh overall and maintain his third place overall in the championship itself. Said Stealey; “It was an up and down weekend for me. Not my best weekend of racing at my local track, but it was the same for everybody and so I can’t complain too much. At the end of the day, we had fun, I picked up solid championship points and it was a well-run meeting. I really must thank Steve and Brian from Shrewsbury-based Dulson Training for all the time and effort they put into my racing as, without them, I wouldn’t even be out on the track!”
In the Clubman classes, Brad Thornhill took a win and second in MX2 to lay claim to the overall on the day with 90 points, whilst in the MX1 group, Jamie McCarthy and Joe Roberts took a win apiece.
With the battles raging in the sky above, the MX Nationals participants left the challenging Hawkstone circuit happy but exhausted. The overall consensus from all was that the ‘Nationals’ had once more delivered a flawless weekend of motocross racing at its very best.
Pro MX 1
Race 1. 1. Jake Nicholls, 2. Elliot Banks-Browne, 3. Gert Krestinov, 4. Ryan Houghton, 5. Liam Knight, 6. Dan Thornhill
Race 2. 1. Nicholls, 2. Banks-Browne, 3. Krestinov, 4. Knight, 5. Micky Eccles, 6. Houghton
Overall: 1. Nicholls 50 points, 2. Banks-Browne 44, 3. Krestinov 40, 4. Knight 34, 5. Houghton 33, 6. Carlton Husband 25
Championship: 1. Nicholls (Buildbase Honda) 150 points, 2. Banks-Browne (Geartec Husqvarna) 126, 3. Eccles (Manchester M/Cs Husqvarna) 98, 4. Houghton (Rob Hooper Yamaha) 98, 5. Knight (Trevor Pope KTM) 91, Krestinov (Phoenix Tools Honda) 82
Pro MX 2
Race 1. 1. Brad Anderson, 2. Martin Barr, 3. Mel Pocock, 4. Todd Kellet, 5. Alexander Brown, 6. Robbie Dowson
Race 2. 1. Anderson, 2. Pocock, 3. Kellet, 4. Michael Ellis, 5. Josh Gilbert, 6. Jordan EcclesOverall: 1. Anderson 50 points, 2. Pocock 42, 3. Kellet 38, 4. Ellis 30, 5. Brown 30, 6. Lewis Tombs 27
Championship: 1. Anderson (Verdesports Substance KTM) 144 points, 2. Gilbert (Honda Adventure Centre) 94, 3. Tombs (Putoline Planet Racing) 87, 4. Pocock (Revo Husqvarna) 86, 5. Brown 79, 6. Ellis (ASA P&H KTM) 77
Race 1. Brad Thornhill, 2. Fabio Rizzi, 3. Adam Pierce
Race 1. Pierce, 2. Harry Foster, 3. Rizzi
Race 3. 1. Thornhill, 2. Rizzi, 3. Pierce
Race 4. 1. Foster, 2. Thornhill, 3. Pierce
Overall: 1. Thornhill 90 points, 2. Pierce 85, 3. Foster 80
Championship: 1. Foster 222 points, 2. Pierce 200, 3. Rizzi 197
Race 1. 1. Scott Bates, 2. Joe Roberts, 3. Jamie McCarthy
Race 2. 1. Roberts, 2. Aiden Christie, 3. Harry Fletcher
Race 3. 1. McCarthy, 2. Joe Walklett, 3. Guy Prince
Race 4. 1. Roberts, 2. Prince, 3. Chris Neesan
Overall: 1. Roberts 91 points, 2. Christie 76, Prince 73
Championship: 1. Christie 234 points, 2. Prince 208, 3. McCarthy 189
Race 1. Josh Waterman, 2. Richard Bird, 3. James Dodd
Race 2. Waterman, 2. Dodd, 3. Edward Briscoe
Race 3. 1. Waterman, 2. Dodd, 3. Bird
Race 4. 1. Brad Cavill, 2. Dodd, 3. Waterman
Overall: 1. Waterman 95 points, 2. Dodd 86, 3. Bird 76
Championship: 1. Bird 233 points, 2. Crowder 204, 3 Stealey 176
Race 1. 1. Rossi Beard, 2. Josh Coleman, 3. Ryan McClean
Race 2. 1. Ben Putnam, 2. Coleman, 3. Jason Meara
Race 3. 1. Meara, 2. Putnam, 3. Jamie Wainwright
Race 4. 1. Coleman, 2. Meara, 3. Wainwright
Overall: 1. Coleman 87 points, 2. Meara 79, 3. Wainwright 70
Championship: 1. Meara 212 points, 2. Coleman 202, 3. Wainwright 180
Pictured: MX2 Expert start; #293 Ryan McClean, #40 Jamie Wainwright, #121 Keiron Cooke.