The weather outside the Odyssey Arena in Belfast may have been freezing cold but the atmosphere inside was warm and welcoming for the first of two head-to-head rounds in Northern Ireland for the 2015 UK Arenacross Championship.
The heat races kicked off the Friday evening and they were to be dominated by Heads & Threads Suzuki’s Harri Kullas – winning both his heats – and ASA Racing’s Adam Chatfield, who looked good with his first and second-place finish. In the Friday Rookie class, Ollie Osmaston had the form in qualifying nailing both sessions with Oakleaf Motorsport’s Joe Clayton looking the most likely to challenge in the final.
The Rookie final started with a yard sale crash in the holeshot corner, involving enough riders to make it unsafe to continue. The restart went off without incident with Osmaston and Clayton moving clear of the pack. Osmaston had the final under control but back markers gave Clayton some hope of catching MX World / Chichester Honda’s Osmaston but in the end Clayton wasn’t able to take advantage and Osmaston brought home the win.
Tony Saunders (Evotech Husqvarna), Jimmy Margetson (LPE Kawasaki Racing) and Johnjoe Wright (Bel Com Ltd, Bikesport Nerwcastle) completed the top five.
Team Green Kawasaki UK’s Dylan Woodcock had the pace in Friday’s first qualifying race for the Big Wheel class but a fall in quali two put an end to his Belfast trip and it was Grizzly Racing’s Jarni Kooij who took the holey, and an early lead in the final. But a mistake at mid-race cost the Grizzy Racing’s pilot and Harry Kimber (Hardcore Racing) took full advantage with a comfortable win from Woodcock’s team-mate, Jed Etchells.
Ben Burridge (MJW Kawasaki), Jarni Kooij, Archie Osmaston (MXW Racing Chichester) and Ben Hendrie made up the rest of the field.
Team Green Kawasaki UK had more injury worries after their #9 Lewis Hall went off in the Small Wheel practice and his suspected dislocated shoulder and ligament damage would rule him out for both rounds in Belfast.
The defending of his red plate didn’t start well for Kurt Griffiths who was unable to post a time in first qualifying but he held his nerve in quali two, coming in third.
In the Small Wheel Friday final MJW Shocktech Kawasaki’s #377, Preston Williams grabbed the holey but Kurt Griffiths took the lead by tap two and held off Williams who finished in second place, while Jaydon Murphy took the last spot on the podium. Bobby Bruce (Bladez Husqvarna) and Buster Hart (Sharon Dekeyser / Bikesport Newcastle) rounded out the top five riders.
It was X Bladez Husqvarna’s Raife Broadley and Auto Tek / Bucci’s Jaygo Beasty who would battle it out for top honours in the 65cc class qualifying. Broadley came out on top in both the qualifying races and the Friday final.
Rikki Priest MX Academy’s Morgan Evans came home with second on the night and Robert Storer finished third. Matthew Beattie (Solid Fabrications) took the flag in fourth and MBO / Solent Garage Services Ltd’s Callum Clarke would want to improve on his fifth place finish to keep in the hunt of the Areancross UK 65cc Championship.
There was drama before the gate drop in the Friday LCQ with Ed Allingham and Pellegrini jumping the start and failing to get off the line but that was just the start of a lap that will go down in UK Arenacross history.
Apico Husqvarna’s Steven Clarke – who had so far this series struggled to get into his normal smooth groove – face planted just before the second corner when team-mate Franklin Nogueras landed heavily on him. That gnarly crash would end Scuba’s Belfast weekend but would be just the start of the Arenacross armageddon.
MCF St Blazey’s Adrien Lopes took out Heads & All Threads Suzuki’s Gary Gibson when Lopes hit him landing the triple. The two riders were then left scrambling to avoid the inbound Ed Allingham who was unable to avoid the wreckage. Allingham tried to hold on to his bike but couldn’t stop it from piling into the barrier of the team observation area, leaving an e22 Sports employee injured.
The LCQ was red flagged and the restart went off without any further drama. Gary Gibson and Oakleaf Motorsport’s Angelo Pellegrini finished first and second respectively and qualified for the Friday main event.
There were more nail biting moments for the Belfast crowd in the head-to-head with 2013 UK Areancross Champion Adam Chatfield and LPE Kawasaki’s Florent Richier taking part in a great bar-to-bar race that had the fans on their feet. Chatfield just held off Richier to take four extra points into the Areancross Championship standings.
In the third and fourth-place head-to-head shootout SR75 Molson Racing’s Thomas Ramette came out best against Loic Rombaut after the LPE Kawasaki pilot went down in the second corner of the short sprint race.
The in form Chatfield looked to be favourite going into the main event and the ASA pilot was with Richier and Ramette as they went past the holeshot line, but by the second corner Richier had just edged out into the lead, followed closely by Chatfield and Ramette.
The Ex-Arenacross Champion didn’t waste any time making his move on Richier and once he had the lead he gapped the field taking what looked like an easy win.
Ramette claimed the last spot on the podium, while Kullas finished fourth and Pellegrini completed the top five. Ramette and Richier now sit level on points at the top of the standings followed by Chatfield just one point back as we go into Round Three in Belfast on Saturday night.