In a night that witnessed champions crowned, rivalries heating to boiling point and a literal fiery moment, it’s safe to say that AX is back in full, chaotic swing.
After a brief hiatus last weekend the 2016 Monster Energy Arenacross Tour, powered by Ford Ranger, launched back into life on Saturday in Sheffield.
Unforeseen injuries meant that not all of the regular racers made it back to the Arenacross start line with a few replacement riders stepping in to mix things up.
Jordan Booker was replaced by Luke Benstead, the Italian Stallion, Angelo Pellegrini was replaced by the Portuguese racer Paulo Alberto and Fabien Izoird’s original replacement rider- Xavier Boog – was himself replaced by another Frenchmen, Jason Clermont.
So the gates were stacked and Thomas Ramette was looking to take the AX championship fight all the way to Wembley.
Youth and Pro Lites
In the Supermini class Harry Kimber was on the cusp of claiming the title one round early. Although a determined Team Green duo of Lewis Hall and Kacey Hird were looking to postpone Kimber’s celebrations.
Hall and Kimber both rocketed out of the gates and they played a game of cat and mouse early on.
After a close call in Belfast, Hall is reluctant to jump the finish line double, where as Kimber makes the leap consistently lap after lap. This enabled Kimber to stretch a small lead over his competitor.
This also allowed Hird – who was Kimber’s closet championship rival – to jump into second position as he too made the finish line leap.
The race was on between the two championship contenders. Hird made a hard pass on Kimber but Harry was able to retaliate right away and re-take the race lead.
As lappers came into the mix Hird was forced to back out of jumping the finish double, this allowed Kimber to stretch a nice lead and ride the rest of the race in comfort.
The battle for third was just as intense as Preston Williams fought to find a way past ‘The Animal’ Hall.
Williams thought he had the position as he too jumped over Hall on the finish double but Hall’s corner speed and technique through the whoops allowed him to make up time.
In two separate incidents both Hird and Williams hit the dirt. Hird lost control through the whoops and was able to remount quickly, salvaging his second position. Williams on the other hand had a big crash through a technical rhythm lane. He was unable to remount after a seemingly nasty wrist/ arm injury.
The chaos allowed Kimber to quietly run away with the race lead, take home the race win and with that claim his second Monster Energy Arenacross title in just as many years.
Hird crossed the line in second and Hall was able to put his Team Green Kawasaki on the box in third.
It was local boy (and relative AX newbie) Bailey Johnston who took the early race lead in the 65cc class. The young lad from Pontefract looked fast and confident despite this being only his second ever AX outing.
The two championship contenders, Ollie Colmer and Kiean Boughen were both fighting adversity on Saturday night. Colmer made a poor start, forcing him to desperately fight through the pack.
Colmer’s signature balls to the wall style once again proved to be a risky strategy. The Judd racing rider lost control of his bike through the very same rhythm lane that had taken out both Collin Jurin and Preston Williams previously.
Colmer went down hard. This knocked him out of podium contention. Boughen was unable to capitalise on Colmer’s misfortune. He too went down and was unable to get going quickly. Therefore Boughen was also out of podium contention.
This meant that Johnston now had a comfortable race lead. The local lad was able to claim the race win in front of his hometown crowd. He was followed by a consistent Jak Taylor in second and Nathan Perry, who had a great race, in third.
It seems as though none of the riders want to win this 65cc class championship. Either that or these young racers have an appetite for drama. This title chase will go down to the wire in Wembley.
Much like his Supermini counterpart Joe Clayton was looking to wrap up the Pro Lites title on Saturday evening.
However, his closet championship rival, George Clarke was determined to prevent this from happening. Although Clarke’s plans soon evaporated as a dismal start for the Yamaha rider hindered his chances at putting a stop to Clayton’s championship run.
Edward Briscoe took control of the early race lead before being passed by the ever impressive Clayton. From there on out Clayton had a clear road to the title paved out before him.
Meanwhile Clark had fought his way to third place. Clarke attempted some daring moves as he desperately tried to prevent Clayton from claiming the title. One of these moves backfired; Clarke managed to take both himself and Briscoe out as he attempted to make a move. This heated moment briefly became more serious when flames sprouted from Briscoe’s Suzuki. Although the flames disappeared as quickly as they appeared, the drama allowed Clayton to take an easy win and with that bring home the 2016 Pro Lites title.
Clarke did eventually cross the line in second position and Briscoe nursed his smoking Suzuki home to take third.
In Heat 1 Ashley Greedy once again showed his prowess out of the blocks and was able to claim the holeshot aboard his Wooldridge Demolition Honda.
He led the pack early on and was followed by the reigning champ Ramette. James Dunn looked refreshed and confident after a week off as he sat in third place. The day’s top qualifier Cyrille Coulon was well down the leaderboard on lap one, he looked to fight through the field to make it into a qualifying position.
Out front Greedy held his own for longer than he has all season long, but he eventually gave way to the intense pressure from Ramette. This pass seemingly rattled Greedy as he was soon swallowed up by the hungry pack behind him.
Dunn, now in second, fended off attacks from Coulon who had forced his way in to a podium position. Coulon soon found a way around the Hitachi Husqvarna rider to make it an SR75 one-two.
Behind Dunn, Adam Chatfield and Florent Richier battled over fourth position. Chatfield held his own in an aggressive manner, bumping Richier off the track. This allowed the Brit to cross the line comfortably in fourth place behind Dunn, Coulon and Ramette. A good start to the night for the Brits but an even better start for the SR75 Molson Racing Suzuki team.
Heat two would see the Pro debut of the Pro Lites champion out Joe Clayton as he stepped in to replace MVRD team-mate, Harri Kullas.
Clayton would find himself thrown in at the deep end as he would have to take on the current points leader Cedric Soubeyras in his very first Pro class race.
Matt Bayliss proved that the Wooldridge Demolition Honda’s are fast out of the gates as he also claimed a heat race holeshot to match his team-mate.
Although Bayliss was soon passed by both Jack Brunell and Soubeyras. As Soubeyras searched for a passing position Collin Jurin was able to find a way around Bayliss and he too joined the fight for the race lead.
However, that fight was short lived. Soubeyras was able to make an aggressive pass on Brunell and run away with the race lead, leaving the Brit and the American to battle over second. The two riders raced side by side, just inches apart through one of the technical rhythm lanes. Those inches turned into millimetres.
The two riders touched, but appeared to escape disaster as both racers were able to ride out of the rhythm lane. That was until Jurin pulled off the track. The American had clearly popped out his shoulder in the altercation with Brunell.
This knocked Jurin out of the night’s racing and handed the final podium position to the Buildbase Honda fill-in rider, Paulo Alberto. Soubeyras came home with the heat two win and Brunell was second.
Heat three saw both Ramette and Dunn continue the form that they showed in their first outing. The pair led the field early on, but from out of nowhere Romain Biela was able to make a pass on Dunn and put his Shocktech Honda into second position.
Richier followed Biela through and he too was able to make a pass on Dunn. Richier then set his sights on Biela; it didn’t take long for the super smooth Frenchmen to find a way into second position. By that time Bayliss had also passed Dunn.
The Wooldridge demolition rider then looked to make a pass on the Shocktech rider but the two Hondas came together and both riders hit the dirt. This gifted third position to Dunn. Ramette eventually claimed the chequers followed by his countryman Richier who was second.
Control of the final Pro heat was initially claimed by SR75 Molson Racing Suzuki’s Coulon. He was followed by Soubeyras and Chatfield – who was showing good form.
As ever Soubeyras looked fast and aggressive in Sheffield, but it seemed as though the Frenchmen was holding back a little and refused to display his full potential until it truly mattered. It seemed as though the top three riders had settled into their positions as the race was coming to a close.
But a small mistake from Coulon saw his front wheel wash away at the top of a pebble speckled berm. This dropped the SR75 rider from the leading position down to fourth. This handed the lead to Soubeyras, second to Chatfield and bumped Alberto up into the final podium position. A solid and consistent AX debut for the racer out of Portugal.
A dramatic get off for Brunell in his second heat race saw the SJR Kawasaki rider sent to the LCQ where he came out swinging, taking the holeshot and running away with the race lead.
Brunell eventually crossed the line in first place, earning himself a spot in the main event. He was joined by the LPE fill-in rider Jason Clermont.
The technical design of the race track in Sheffield combined with the hard, slick, pebble-dashed soil meant that the racers found it difficult to push hard without making mistakes.
This gave the Sheffield crowd a chance to watch a different sort of head-to-head style on Saturday evening. Rather than the all out brawls that we’ve seen in previous weeks we saw more calculated duels.
Both Ramette and Soubeyras had shown their prowess on the difficult Sheffield race track all evening long and these two rivals blazed their way to the head-to-head final.
After an intense start to the race Soubeyras was able to emerge victorious and walk away with the important bonus championship points.
After two main event wins in Newcastle a fortnight earlier, and a perfect night so far, Soubeyras entered the main in Sheffield riding a wave of confidence.
But this momentum was unable to give Cedric a boost out of the gate.
The Frenchmen reverted back to his old ways, only managing a mediocre start. Where as his championship rival, Ramette was able to claim the holey and early race lead.
Dirt Bike Rider mentioned in their Sheffield AX preview piece that Ramette not only needed a win this weekend but he needed a bunch of riders between himself and Soubeyras. And a whole host of riders did indeed sit between Soubeyras and Ramette, but could the red plate holder do anything about it?
Chatfield sat in second position early on and Ramette’s team-mate, Coulon moved around Richier to take over third place.
Chatfield’s main event performance on Saturday was the best we have seen him ride all season long. The Buildbase Honda rider put his head down and attempted to close the gap on Ramette.
Meanwhile Soubeyras frantically tried to fight his way through the field. The Geartec Yamaha rider was having a tough time finding passing places, but it was damn good to watch him muscle his way through the field.
Out front Ramette displayed his signature smooth and effective style. Despite Chatfield’s best efforts he was only able to make minimal impact upon Ramette’s race lead.
Ramette eventually took home the race win. He was followed by Chatfield in second – his best result of the season so far.
Coulon had a quiet race in third place and Dunn claimed a solid fourth place result. Soubeyras was only able to make his way to fifth position, meaning that Ramette was able to close the gap on the point’s leader considerably.
The AX championship fight is going to go down to the wire!
“It’s so nice to be back on top,” said race winner Ramette. “It was a hard weekend in Newcastle, I had food poisoning and I had to deal with that. So my two second-places there were good.
“Tonight I needed to be out front and close the gap on Soubeyras. That was my plan coming in. Now I’m just three points down, which is almost nothing. It’s going to be an exciting final in London.
“London has always been good to me and I’ve always been on the podium there. Now we’ve got a week off and I’m going to work really hard to be ready to win this championship again.”
- 1. Thomas Ramette #1 SR75 Molson Racing Suzuki 25.207
- 2. Adam Chatfield #407 Buildbase Honda 25.314
- 3. Cyrille Coulon #5 SR75 Molson Racing Suzuki 25.929
- 4. James Dunn #200 Hitachi Revo Husqvarna 25.954
- 5. Cedric Soubeyras #120 Geartec Yamaha 25.779
- 6. Paulo Alberto #941 Buildbase Honda 26.283
- 7. Jack Brunell #155 SJR Kawasaki 26.058
- 8. Matt Bayliss #4 Wooldridge Demolition Honda 26.065
- 9. Florent Richier #2 LPE Kawasaki 26.434
- 10. Julien Bill #25 SJR Kawasaki 26.844
- 11. Xavier Boog #121 LPE Kawasaki 26.438
- 1. Cedric Soubeyras #120 Geartec Yamaha 189
- 2. Thomas Ramette #1 SR75 Molson Racing Suzuki 186
- 3. Cyrille Coulon #5 SR75 Molson Racing Suzuki 157
- 4. Adam Chatfield #407 Buildbase Honda 135
- 5. Fabien Izoird #871 LPE Kawasaki 128
- 6. Jack Brunell #155 SJR Kawasaki 127
- 7. Florent Richier #2 LPE Kawasaki 111
- 8. Matt Bayliss #4 Wooldridge Demolition 110
- 9. Angelo Pellegrini #941 Buildbase Honda 100
- 10. Josh Hansen #100 SJR Kawasaki 79
- 1. SR75 Molson Racing Suzuki 343
- 2. LPE Kawasaki 271
- 3. Buildbase Honda 248
- 4. SJR Kawasaki 222
- 5. Geartec Yamaha 192
- 6. Wooldridge Honda 126
- 7. Xbladez Husqvarna 82
- 9. MVRD Fuel Husqvarna 59
- 8. Hitatchi Revo Husqvarna 72
- 10. Shocktech Honda 8
Pro Lites Main
- 1. Joe Clayton #14
- 2. George Clarke #161
- 3. Edward Briscoe #56
Pro Lites Championship
- 1. Joe Clayton #14
- 2. George Clarke #161
- 3. Jordan Moxey #981
- 1. Harry Kimber #78
- 2. Kacey Hird #28
- 3. Lewis Hall #419
- 1. Harry Kimber #78
- 2. Kacey Hird #28
- 3. Lewis Hall #419
Junior 65 Main
- 1. Bailey Johnston #19
- 2. Jak Taylor #22
- 3. Nathan Perry 77
Junior 65 Championship
- 1. Kiean Boughen #5
- 2. Ollie Colmer #6
- 3. Jak Taylor #22