The opening round of the 2017 Michelin MX Nationals had been set to take place on the first weekend in March, but unfortunately, a waterlogged circuit meant the cancellation of that venue and the opening round moved to Preston Docks MX for this weekend, April 1-2.
The series’ annual visit to the North West venue on the banks of the river Ribble always produces some great racing. And the organisers have pulled together an impressive rider line-up for you to enjoy over the two days. Over 280 riders have registered to bang bars for the series across seven classes and the first race of the day gets underway on Saturday with the youngest riders in the combined 85cc youth class.
As they take to the line, the fastest small wheel rider in qualifying will get first pick on the line but who will that be? Reigning small wheel champion Ike Cater will not defend his crown in 2017, the new campaign sees a number of debutants in the class with ones to watch likely to be Alfie Jones, Harvey Cashmore, Charlie Heyman, Oliver Barr and Ben Kennedy.
Bobby Bruce and Louie Kessell are likely front-runners in the big wheel category. These two have spent the winter battling indoors at Arenacross having finished second and third in the AX series and the SW championship standings in 2016. Kylie McNicol will be looking to move up the points ladder after his sixth place in last year’s standings.
The combined MXY classes have the 125cc two-strokes (MXY1) taking on the 250cc four-stroke (MXY2). Many riders have moved up from the 85 classes and will race on 125 machines for 2017 – picking a winner is a tall order.
Outgoing 85 BW champion Joel Rizzi could be one to watch – showing good form in the Dutch ONK series. And SW champ Ike Carter has shown good speed on his 125 in the two events building up to the first round of the Nationals.
In MXY2, Lewis Hall is the one to watch. Lewis used the latter part of the 2016 season to acquaint himself with a 250 machine in readiness for a title challenging year, as proven with his win at the opening round of the British championship. But he certainly won’t have it all his own way with Keenan Hird, Joe Cadwaller, and Jake Edney also likely to be near the front of the Pack.
2017 sees not one but two Elite clubman classes at the Nationals featuring both MX1 and MX2 categories. Both classes will produce some top class action as these guys and gals get to battle it out in four races per class across the weekend.
In MX2, keep an eye out for Tony Cadman, Jack Colley, Brad Thornhill and three female competitors of Gabbi Hamlet, Amie Goodlad and Sophia Levell. In MX1 those to watch are Danny Townsend, Lee Tolan, Darrell Sims and Jamie Aitken.
With both Expert classes now carrying official ACU British championship status, some riders will hope to use the class as a route to racing in the professional ranks.
Defending MX2 champion Henry Williams will be out to defend his crown this season but won’t have it all his own way. Charlie Hamlet showed some good speed at the Hawkstone International and should feature well but is like to be battling season long with Josh Coleman and Luke Mellows. These three will be hard pushed by Jason Mera, Simon Booth, John Waghorne and Charlie Putnam.
In MX1, Luke Parker returns to defend his title but will be pushed all the way as the top five from the 2016 standings all return and will be hoping to take his title from him. So with Shaun Southgate, Brad Cavill, Ben Cole and Adam Day already looking to push Parker all the way, could there be a dark horse to look out for? Lewis Trickett will be racing a 250 two-stroke in preparation for a full campaign in the new British championship two-stroke series.
If all that racing wasn’t enough, we add something to the mix on a Sunday, with two Pro 30-minute plus two lap motos that the series call ‘Fastest 40’. Reigning MX1 champion Graeme Irwin returns to defend his crown but his Buildbase Honda teammate – and defending MX2 champion – Marin Barr is looking to mix things up as he runs MX1 machinery in the series. Irwin will be looking to keep the momentum going after placing second overall at the opening round of the British championships, while Barr will be looking to have a better day after racing for most of his first moto of the year without goggles. These guys are joined by 2015 champion Kristian Whatley on his Apico Husqvarna.
There is plenty of depth to the Pros…2016 round five double race winner Jake Shipton (ROB Hooper Racing Cresent Yamaha), Gert Krestinov (Phoenix Tools Honda), 2015 MX2 champion Steven Lenoir (Hobbs Racing Kawasaki), who took the final place on the podium at the opening round of the British and 2015 champion Kristian Whatley (Apico Husqvarna) are all signed up this year.
Two-time British MX2 champ Elliott Banks-Browne (Geartec Husqvarna) and fan favourite Brad Anderson (Verde Sports Racing) showed blistering speed at Culham Moto Park a few weeks ago and should be at the sharp end this weekend in the sand of Preston Docks. Ashley Wilde (RFX KTM) and the two Cab Screens Husky boys of Dan Thornhill and James Harrison will be looking for top five positions.
And MX2 class is just as stacked. Now that Barr is racing MX1 the other two guys on the 2016 MX2 championship podium will be hoping to take his crown. But Lewis Tombs (Lings Husqvarna) and Liam Knight (Hobbs Racing Kawasaki) sure won’t have it all their own way as the other young guns will be out to claim a step on the podium. Including Revo Husqvarna’s Mel Pocock, Verde Racing KTM’s Jake Millward, Dave Thorpe Off-Road’s Josh Gilbert, RFX KTM’s Nathan Dixon, Team Green Kawasaki’s Dylan Woodcock, Revo Husqvarna’s Jamie Carpenter – in fact, the list goes on and on.
It’s Dirt Bike Rider’s home race of sorts, with Preston Docks MX just down the road from DBR Towers so why not come and join us. Racing gets underway on Saturday at 11am and Sunday at 9.30am.
Sunday’s Pro Fastest 40 races are scheduled for 12pm and 3pm. Weekend tickets are priced at the amazing bargain price of £10 (over 12 years) and under 12s are free. Tickets can be purchased on the day or via www.mxnationals.co.uk but if you want to bag yourself a Family Ticket for free, head over to TMX’s competition page and enter their comp, but be quick, it closes March 28 at midnight.