After a busy few weeks both the LPE and SJR Kawasaki teams headed to the SSE Arena at Wembley, London for the final round of the 2016 Monster Energy Arenacross Tour, powered by Ford Ranger.
The AX finale always produces some great action as everyone looks to end the series on a high. Unfortunately, Jack Brunell was unable to compete after breaking his scaphoid at the last round in Sheffield meaning that Theo Roptin would line up beside Julien Bill on the SJR Kawasaki.
Florent Richier and Jason Clermont were looking for strong results to end the year for LPE Kawasaki and Jimmy Margetson in the Pro Lite class.
During the daytime practice and qualifying sessions all four riders produced some fast lap times with Florent Richier finishing fifth fastest ahead of Jason Clermont in sixth. The SJR Kawasaki pairing finished with Julien Bill in 12th and Theo Ropton in 13th. In the Pro Lite class Jimmy finished sixth fastest.
The night show started with drama in the opening heat when the first heat was Red flagged due a false start that broke the gate. In the re-run Theo Ropton suffered a bad start and had to come from behind to finish sixth. In the second heat Julien Bill started well in second ahead of Clermont in fourth and Richier had to come from dead last to fifth on the first lap. As the race went on Clermont moved into third ahead of Bill in fourth and Richier in fifth.
The second set of heat races saw Julien Bill start in third and move into second early on but as the race went on he made a mistake and slipped to fifth at the flag. In the last heat Richier made a good start in second and moved into the lead on the second lap and went on to take the win. Jason Clermont rode a solid race to finish in fourth and transfer direct to the Main, while Ropton crashed out of fifth and finished seventh.
Next was the second Pro Lite final of the day and after the disappointment of the DNF in the first race Jimmy Margetson was looking to finish the series well. When the gate dropped Margetson was mid pack but pushed hard all race to finish a well-earned sixth at the finish.
Next was the LCQ and both Julien Bill and Theo Ropton were looking to transfer to the final but just missed out in third and fourth, although Bill would transfer via the Promoters Choice.
In the Head-to-Head races both Florent Richier and Jason Clermont both lost their opening round and miss out on the extra championship points.
The final event of the night was the Main Event and as the gate dropped there was drama from the start with Florent Richier suffering a problem on the line and heading down the straight dead last, while Jason Clermont was in fifth and Julien Bill in 10th.
In the early stage’s Richier was able to move forward quickly into the top six. But at the halfway point Clermont suffered a crash in a corner while in fourth place right on the back wheel of Chatfield and unfortunately suffered a shoulder injury and had to retire from the race.
The Main Event saw a lot of drama between the main title contenders which allowed Richier and Bill to push further forward as Bill claimed seventh at the flag while Richier would post a final charge in the closing laps to move from fourth to second on the final corner.
Richier’s podium secured him fifth in the overall Pro championship and helped to ensure that LPE Kawasaki finished second in the AX Team Championship as well.
Florent Richier commented: “Today has been a good end to the whole championship. I had some good rides in the heat races and won my second heat which was good. Unfortunately in the Main event I had a slight problem on the line and missed the gate and was last going down the straight. I knew that I was faster than most of the other riders and wanted to prove that I can win as this year has been very tough.
“I managed to avoid all the carnage and finish in second so I’m really happy. Steve and the team have worked so hard all tour and this is my second year working with everyone and I hope that I can come back next year stronger and challenge for the title.”
Julien Bill said: “The final round here at London started well. I had good lap times during the morning sessions and then got some good starts in the Heat races. But unfortunately I missed the start in the LCQ and missed the top two transfer spots, but I got in via the Promoters Choice.
“Then in the Main Event it was mad and I just rode my own race and stayed on two wheels to finish seventh. Coming into this championship I didn’t have much time to get settled on the bike but it has been a great experience riding for Steve and the SJR team. If I get the chance to come back next year then I know that I can be better prepared and challenge for podiums and race wins in the future.
Pro Lites pilot Jimmy Margetson commented: “In the first race I suffered a mechanical problem which was unfortunate and then in the second race I struggled to progress forward. I would like to thank Steve and everyone for their support as I have enjoyed competing in the series again.”
Jason Clermont said: “On the whole it was a good weekend and I felt better on the bike with each session. I’m happy with my two heat races as I got two good results and transferred direct to the Main. Then in the Main I was riding really good and was in fourth place when I crashed and hurt my shoulder but overall I’m happy with my speed.”
Stand-in rider for SJR Kawasaki, Theo Ropton said: “It has been a really good experience and my first time in the 450 class but I felt better with each session on the track. I narrowly missed the final so maybe next time I will be able to make the final and battle with the best riders.”
L.P.E and SJR Kawasaki Team Manager, Steve James commented: “Well it’s been a bloody tough series this year and we’ve not had it easy or had the best of luck.
“The departure of Josh Hansen at round six of the tour in Birmingham when he was only three points off third place and was capable of challenging for the title. Then Fabien getting taken out by Pellegrini on the second corner of the final at Birmingham, resulting in a broken leg and putting Fabien out of the tour, and out of title contention…while holding the red plate and a five point lead in the championship.
“This was so hard to take as our title aspirations were over and it was a bitter pill to swallow. If I’ve learnt anything from what has happened in my life it’s that you never ever give in, keep fighting and don’t quit until the job is done.
“So we picked ourselves up dusted ourselves down and got stuck into finish what we started and stay professional to the end and honour the series and all our many loyal sponsors.
“We may have lost the chance to win the title but we still had Flo and Jack flying the flag for L.P.E Kawasaki Racing and SJR Kawasaki and they did an amazing job too.
“Both rode very well, claiming more heat race wins and main event podiums and giving us all something to be proud of so it’s still been an absolutely awesome Monster Energy Arenacross Tour.
“We’ve had a blast and to finish on a high tonight with second in the main event final with Florent Richier, also taking the Pro team overall on the night for L.P.E Kawasaki Racing with Flo and Jason means we can leave London smiling because even though we have had a tough time this year both teams and all the riders have done an awesome job in the Pro championship overall.
Flo ended up fifth and Fabien seventh and with the help of stand-in / replacement riders Xavier Boog and Jason Clermont L.P.E Kawasaki Racing also took second in the final standings of the Pro team title.
“Jack Brunell finished eighth in the Pro championship and Josh Hansen 11th and with the help of Julien Bill and Theo Roptin SJR Kawasaki finished fourth overall in the Pro team championship and equal fifth on the night in London.
“Overall we had three riders finish in the top eight out of 20 riders and both teams finish in the top five out of 10 teams. If the talk of a manufacturers title is still happening we will have won that for Kawasaki Motors UK by a clear 113 points, so considering we’ve had a bad year I’m very happy that we dug deep and kept working hard to the end. We still have something to show for it to honour all our sponsors and repay everyone who has helped us and believed in us and we’ll be back next year to do it all again.
“Thank you so much to Matt Bates and all the hard working e22sports staff, Roy and all the staff at MCF. To all the riders that we have had this year Fabien Izoird #871, Flo Richier #2 Jack Brunell #155 Xavier Boog #121, Jason Clermont #817 Jimmy Margetson #119, Jack Brunell #155, Josh Hansen #100, Julien Bill #25, Theo Roptin #362. Our Press guy Richard Blyth AKA Slinky, all the Mechanics, Minty, Chris, Ian, Ben, Steve, Paul, Jamie and all the Team helpers Tom, Adam, David, Geoff, Cory, Rob, Ben, Sophie, Dan and Teresa in the office, my Mum and Dad for looking after my place while I’ve been away.
“Finally, all the teams many loyal sponsors Links Plant & Equipment Ltd (L.P.E), Ross, Howard, Mark, Steve and everyone at Kawasaki Motors UK. Derek, Don, David, Steve and everyone at Maxxis UK. Dylan, Anna, Scott, Mark and everyone at Apico Factory Racing. Lester, Nat and all at Rip n Roll. Sean, Martin and all at Spiral GFX. Mitch, Jim, Dan and Camila at Pro Circuit USA. David and Nick at CGH Imports. Nick and Richard at Pro Carbon Racing. Rob, Dave and all at Talon. Donny at FMF USA, Matt at Evotech. Paul at PK2 Suspension, Rob at Regent Motocross and Ed at Motoseat. Also a big thank you to Gerard Valat for hooking me up with some great riders and sorting their contracts, Gerard acts as Manager to all the French Riders.”