It’s crunch time for the UK’s fastest youth riders as the final round of the Red Bull Pro Nationals comes to a thrilling climax at Culham Park this weekend.
The four Red Bull Elite Youth Cup classes offer a springboard to the Pro ranks with the titles – for Rookies, BW85cc, SW85cc and 65cc – the most prestigious in the country. These are the ones all the riders want to win and with all four titles on the line at the Oxfordshire track – which we’re running in the reverse direction this time around – there’s guaranteed to be five furious blocks of racing spread across both days.
In the Rookies division 18-year-old Dan Thornhill, the 2012 runner-up, holds the lead going into the final round. The Grittenham MX KTM rider has been super-consistent all year with a 2-2-1-2-2-2 series record giving him a 69-point lead over 17-year-old Robert Davidson who’s claimed the last two overall wins at Canada Heights and Hawkstone Park.
“I’ve got a good cushion but it’s not massive,” admits Dan who’s an apprentice electrician. “The year’s been hard and I’ve had issues at every round but I’m feeling positive. I’ve had a good couple of weeks going into it and I know what I have to do.
“The pressure’s on but I’m feeling good after my crash at Hawkstone. I do like Culham – every track’s good for me but Culham does suit my style and I’m looking forward to racing it in the reverse direction. It will add a bit of extra excitement.”
Early series leader James Harrison holds third on the iFly Lanes Kawasaki and although 104 points off Thornhill’s total he still has a mathematical chance with a maximum of 225 points up for grabs over the weekend.
The BW85cc class has been a tale of three riders with Jay Hague setting the initial pace before Mitch Lewis took over midway through the season. Then, at round six at Hawkstone Park at the start of this month, Jordan Eccles hit the front on the back of three straight overall wins.
“I’ve got the red plate now and I aim to keep it,” says Jordan. “I’m feeling really confident and I can’t wait until Culham.”
Heading into Culham the 15-year-old from Yorkshire has a 21-point advantage over Lewis – who won there in June – with Hague a further 21 points back.
And it’s just as tight in the SW85s with Charlie Cole heading Jed Etchells by 22 points with Dylan Woodcock third just 40 points away from the top of the standings.
Charlie lost the opening round of the series at Landrake back in April on a tie-breaker with Tom Grimshaw, then bounced back to win at round two at Weston and has never been headed since. But with five races still to run this championship looks likely to go down to the wire.
“I feel great knowing I’ve already won at Culham this year,” reckons 12-year-old Charlie. “It’s my closest race to home so usually my whole family come up to watch and cheer me on. I’m relaxed so I’m just going to go out there, treat it like any other race and have fun.”
The 65cc class has seen some of the most closely-contested racing in the championship with five different round winners. Gary Ashley won at Landrake and has kept hold of the red series leader’s plate ever since but consistent performances from Jack Carpenter have kept him within two points of the title and Lewis Hall is only another 14 points behind.
A last race problem with his stator at Hawkstone Park cost Gary a heap of points but the 11-year-old from Kent has shrugged off this setback.
“I’ve had a few technical issues but my dad’s been working hard to sort them out and I feel really good,” he says. “I’m confident and I’ve always had good luck at Culham. I haven’t got a race plan apart from going there to win.” The seventh and final round of the 2013 Red Bull Pro Nationals takes place at Culham Park on September 21-22. On-the-gate admission is just £13 for adults, £3 for children and £30 for a family of four. Culham Park is just off the A415 east of Abingdon. Postcode OX14 3DA.