After the mid-week news that the Red Bull Pro Nationals series was cancelled for the 2014 season, Heads & All Threads Suzuki decided to turn the first round of the inaugural MX Nationals at Culham, into the replacement with Graeme Irwin and Luke Burton present.
The Saturday morning sessions for the Pro class were split into two groups with each going through a free practice and then a separate qualifying session. At the end of these, Irwin was scored as third-fastest in his group for a seventh gate pick, while Burton finished 18th for a 35th gate pick.
It was to the team’s dismay that the first race spelled the end of Burton’s round. Involved in a start-straight pile-up, Burton found himself at the back of the pack.
Although he attempted to finish the race, once the adrenalin rush wore off, pain and double vision set in, which made it too unsafe for him to continue. On-site medical staff diagnosed a concussion, drawing a line under his efforts on the weekend.
For Irwin, the first race was not without its troubles either. After changing some settings on the bike, Irwin struggled to make much headway from a mid-pack start. As the Pro class is a mixed race but scored separately, the results, once sorted by class, were not as bad as thought; Irwin would finish as the eighth MX1 rider.
On Sunday morning, after tweaking the settings some more, Irwin returned to the track after two sighting laps. The end result was remarkably different; this time, he was at the front of the pack in fifth, as well as fifth in the MX1 class. The final race of the weekend ended at the front too. This time Irwin battled his way forward from last to eighth in the race, which scored as sixth in the MX1 class for a fifth place overall on the weekend.
Irwin said: “The weekend was really good. I had a good qualifying, I was third in my session but when they put the times of the two groups together I was fifth. The first race on Saturday was just terrible to be honest, it was my mistake, I changed the settings of the bike. I just wanted to improve the bike and let’s just say that it wasn’t right.
“So on Sunday we changed the back shock and changed the setup. We didn’t have much of a warm-up, it was just two sighting laps and then straight into the race, and I rode a lot better than what I did on Saturday.
“I had a good start, crashed on the first lap, but I got back to fifth and was happy enough with that. In the last race, I hit the gate and was dead last, came all the way back to seventh with Martin and Kristian just in front of me. I was happy enough with that, but I’m obviously disappointed that I made the mistake of hitting the gate.”
Heads & All Threads Suzuki Team Manager – Neil Prince, said he was pleased with Irwin’s performance. However, he thinks that he lacks practice. The team are now planning on getting some practice in before the next event in Lyng.
Neil commented: “We just need practice, that’s it; you can see that when Graeme comes back from stone last to eighth place, that’s how he can ride. I think that if we can get a couple of weeks practice before Lyng, you’ll see some speed there as well, so I think that’s what we’ll do.
“He hasn’t been able to ride because he’s been injured, the ankle last weekend and the shoulder the weeks before that. The shoulder is now good, the doctor says, so we can get on with that really, so we’ll take it from there.
“Luke had a pileup on the start on Saturday, went to the doctors and they said he had a concussion, so I’m not too sure, I’ll see him this week and see where he’s at. I would’ve liked him to be at Culham to ride on Sunday but I’m guessing that whatever he did over the weekend he was in too much pain, so we’ll follow up with that this week.”