The MXGP of Germany held at the Teutschenthal circuit in the east of the country is the eighth stop for the Grand Prix circus but the first round of five for the EMX300 two-stroke championship.

The track is similar to Matterley Basin, hard packed soil and swooping around a valley with the paddock on one side and plenty of stands selling beer and bratwurst on the opposite side.

This track always gets rough and technical and with the soil well harrowed then watered by a heavy thunderstorm on Friday evening it was set for difficult conditions on Saturday.

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Youthstream implemented a revised schedule to give themselves time to do some track repairs which meant MX2 were out first. With the sunshine and a strong breeze the track would dry out, but early conditions were deceptive.

MXGP

Injuries have already claimed three of the top four British riders, Tommy Searle (pre-season ACL), Jake Nichols (dislocated hip in Trentino) and Shaun Simpson (broken hand in Kegums). Max Anstie returned in Latvia after missing two GPs with damaged knee ligaments to score sixth overall and was keen to regain some momentum, and Ryan Houghton continues to gain experience in the premier class on his iFly JK Yamaha.

“Practice was horrible! Really heavy and ruts crossing everywhere,” said Houghton, which pretty well summed it up.

Anstie was one of the first to attempt the uphill double in the tricky conditions of first practice. There was upset aplenty for HRC Honda as Bobryshev crashed and broke his collarbone and in the qualifying race Gajser crashed hard and pulled out. Houghton was also in the wars, breaking a rib when he hit the handlebars. An X-ray confirmed a cracked rib, which meant a painful medical assessment on Sunday to clear him to race.

There was no drama for Anstie in a lonely 14th with Houghton a painful 27th, but with a start gate that really favours the inside both Brits had left themselves work to do. Anstie looked fast in Sunday warm-up, posting 11th fastest.

Race one saw Anstie gate well and end lap one in eighth. Battling with Tixier over that position for a few laps before Tixier crashed, Max then caught Febvre but was unable to make a move, but held off Tonus to finish eighth.

Race two was a repeat for Anstie, gating seventh then inheriting sixth when van Horbeek endo’d in the ruts before the pit straight. A mid-race battle and Coldenhoff who was pressured into a mistake and overshot a turn put Anstie fifth but the battle had allowed Febvre to close in and eventually pass Anstie. Two solid results and seventh overall left Anstie happy.

Houghton raced hard but with every bump sending a pain through his chest he did well to finish both races. “I have never raced a track like this,” he offered, “so fast and so rough. There were times I thought I would have to pull in but I need the experience.”

MX2

Ben Watson is flying the flag in MX2 with the unlucky Adam Sterry out for the rest of the season with a knee injury and already replaced on the factory Kawasaki by EMX250 points leader Morgan Lesiardo, and fellow Brit Conrad Mewse out with a broken ankle sustained during mid-week training, but hopeful of a return in Ernee next weekend.

Watson confirmed Houghton’s assessment of the early conditions, telling the team it was much more difficult to ride than it looked. In the qualifying race, Watson was a comfortable 12th until the tricky conditions caught him out. A rut took his feet off the pegs and the resulting ‘whisky throttle’ sent him smashing into the track and cost him 20 places. Fortunately, nothing broken but definitely feeling sore for race day.

Race one saw Watson 20th on lap one which was probably as good as could be expected from his outside gate. The track was still extremely fast and passing difficult but Watson was aggressive from the start and moved up to 14th before losing a spot to Covington at the end.

Race two ended on lap two as the KTM stopped at the bottom of the track. Full credit to Watson who pushed it back up to the paddock area. The team said there was “no obvious reason” why it stopped, but an unlucky way for Watson’s weekend to end.

EMX300

Run over five rounds, the two-stroke championship has six Brits entered along with one ‘honorary Brit’ Mike Kras. The 2016 champion races for the GL12 Racing KTM team based in Gloucester and is also the current points leader in the newly formed British two-stroke championship. Unfortunately, his team-mate Lewis Gregory is still recovering from a big crash at Hawkstone but has been replaced by James Dunn, who returns after a short break from racing.

Evergreen Brad Anderson on the Verde KTM and ‘Factory’ Phil Mercer (who turned 46 on Thursday) show no sign of slowing down, and at just half Phil’s age, 23-year-old Jersey man Aaron Pipon, Gloucestershire’s Rob Holyoake, and Will Worden also line up.

The revised schedule put the 300s out for qualifying after the MXGP free practice so there were some lines formed but the track was still very heavy if you went off line. Anderson was third, Dunn 11th and Pipon 18th.

The EMX get one race each day and with the track rapidly drying but with some deep ruts in places race one went off the line. Ando was in third but soon into second and trying to pass Yental Martens for the lead when he nearly threw it away, feet off the pegs and full throttle up to the Monster finish jump, before settling down. “I thought just settle down and don’t do ought stupid,” said Ando after the race. Keeping the pressure on Martens worked as a few laps in Martens overjumped and crashed, unfortunately, it looked like a broken ankle and he was out.

Ando then controlled the race, his lead dropped to 12 seconds as Mike Kras got to second before Ando pulled out to a comfortable 20 seconds win.

James Dunn was 14th, happy to be back at this level but not content with his result, while Phil Mercer was most unhappy in 29th after three crashes. With Worden 23rd, Pipon 26th and Holyoake a DNF after a crash, Anderson was the only happy Brit.

Race two was first out on Sunday morning and with the whole track graded the smooth, fast conditions looked to favour Mike Kras. Anderson was pinched in going into the first bend but emerged fifth with Kras in fourth, Dunn seventh and the rest of the Brits inside the top 20. Kras used a sweeping outside line to jump into the lead on lap two with Ando in tow and it looked to be over as Kras pulled a couple of seconds lead, but on lap eight Ando was all over Kras and slipped past on the inside as they dropped downhill.

Ando pulled out a small lead as Kras seemed to tire but with two laps to go Kras got his second wind and started to pressure Anderson as they moved through lapped traffic, crossing the line less than a second back.

It was the perfect start for Ando with two race wins and the red plate, and with Martens out it looks very much like the championship battle will be a two-horse race.

Dunn battled away, moving up to sixth with Holyoake having a better ride in 11th. “The track was so much better than yesterday, at least you could race,” said Holyoake afterwards.

Pipon was 14th and agreed, saying that just the atmosphere of the GP was amazing to race in. Worden was 19th and Mercer 26th. “I’m happy but not happy,” stated Factory Phil. “It was so fast and I made too many small mistakes trying to push it. I’ve never liked this place but at least I’m going home healthy.”

EMX150

This is a one-make series sponsored by Honda and not surprisingly using their 150cc four-stroke.

Riders between 11 and 14 years old can apply online and after the applications are shortlisted, successful applicants are invited to a final selection camp in January.

Honda provides identical bikes with riders only allowed to change spring rates and fit handlebar risers if necessary. Honda Europe Boss Gordon Crockard said: “We look at the rider’s achievements so far and what’s on their CV. There are always some returning riders from the previous year but we look at riding ability when we do the selection camp. We also look at nationality as we want to give the opportunity to riders from all over the world. If they win they will get a Honda supported ride in EMX250, and if they win that then MX2 and MXGP.”

Four lads from Britain were entered: Tobias Sammut, the Portsmouth club holeshot king raced last year and loves the atmosphere of the GPs, and Ryan Mawhinney aged 14 also returns after his season was cut short with injury last year. For 14-year-old Cain McElveen from Northern Ireland it’s his first year having only been racing for two years and Charlie McCarthy riding bike number 13, obviously not feeling superstitious.

With the smaller wheels on the 150s (17″ front and 16″ rear) the ruts and bumps created by the GP bikes make it a real challenge for the young riders, and like the other EMX classes they get 35 minutes of free practice and qualifying which is a long time on track for lads more used to 15-minute motos. Luckily, their first race was at the end of the day when conditions had dried and were at their best.

Mawhinney made the best of the drying track finishing 12th, a disappointed Sammut was 17th with McCarthy 22nd and McElveen 26th.

Before race two on Sunday morning, incredibly the track had dried so much that it was watered ready for the first MX2 race. Unfortunately, this meant the 150s were faced with some slippery conditions. Mawhinney made the best of the wet track finishing 10th with the other three Brits outside the top 20 but all enjoying the fantastic opportunity to race then watch their heroes.

Next week the MXGP circus moves to Ernee in France, with the return on the EMX125 and 250 championships plus the WMX. It’s another hard-packed hillside track that will hopefully see the Brits doing well.

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