With six British riders signed up across the MXGP and MX2 classes and a whopping 16 in the EMX classes, hopes for success in Valkenswaard for the MXGP of Europe were high. So how did our boys get on over the weekend? Here’s how the weekend shaped up at the Euro Circuit.
Although we had plenty of Brits to shout for over the cold weekend in the Netherlands, there were three notable absences in MXGP.
Tommy Searle has only just started to throw his leg over a bike again so it was too early for the British champion to be at the gate.
Jake Nicholls dislocated his hip last weekend at the MXGP of Trentino in Italy and is currently immobilised – sadly, it’ll be a while before we see Jake racing again.
And then there’s Max Anstie. Mad Max was forced to withdraw, his knee still not recovered from the injury sustained at the Dutch Masters two weeks ago.
He was at the track and surprisingly said his knee actually felt okay, but he had stretched the internal ligaments and the Doctors said he should give it another week.
So down to the racing.
Shaun Simpson always goes well in the sand, and after setting the 15th fastest time in both free and timed practice found some extra pace in the qualifying race, passing Romain Febvre, Glenn Coldenhoff and Evgeny Bobryshev to claim seventh. Unfortunately, that didn’t translate into race results as 12th and 13th were disappointing for the flying Scot.
Ryan Houghton on the iFly JK Racing Yamaha started his MXGP year with 30th in timed practice and 32nd in qualifying. With only one previous GP in 2014, Houghton intends to compete in at least six this year. No points were scored but he was happy to have taken the first step and knows what he needs to do to improve.
Ashley Wilde had decided to enter his first GP after good results this year in the British championship but, unfortunately, picked up tendonitis in his right forearm on Thursday. “A lot of people have helped with my entry so I’ve got to try and ride,” Wilde said. But after three laps into warm-up, he was unable to hold on and was forced to withdraw. “I need to see a specialist tomorrow,” he later told me.
Adam Sterry started the day with something to prove after being disqualified from the second race in Trentino for cutting the course.
A first turn pile up during race two in Italy left Sterry with nowhere to go so he went outside the course markers and behind the Fox banner before re-joining the course.
He was allowed to continue racing and disqualified afterwards. “I would have protested if I was further up but it was pointless,” said Sterry. The British MX2 champion recorded 10th in timed practice, making him the top Brit.
Conrad Mewse was half a second back in 14th with Ben Watson in 26th.
The qualifying race saw Sterry start in seventh but a crash when he cross-rutted on the back rhythm section cost him seven places for a 15th place finish. Mewse started in 14th and made steady progress, catching Watson with three laps to go. The young Brit then made a last lap pass to secure ninth with Watson one place back.
Race 1 was eventful for the Brits. Sterry held third for half the race until Calvin Vlaanderen smashed his leg, bending it sideways. In too much pain to continue Sterry retired and went off for an MRI scan to ascertain the true extent of the damage.
Watson also came together with Vsevolod Brylyakov over the finish line table top causing Watson to crash and injure his lower leg and Mewse collected a single point for 20th. Race 2 saw Watson struggle to 12th and Mewse fail to score – he was just glad the weekend was over.
Out on track first, at 8 o’clock, Group 1 featured 16-year-old Chris Mills – now living in Holland and riding for Pro-Grip MX Unlimited – and Charlie Cole on a private Husky.
Each group gets five minutes of start practice followed immediately by 20 minutes of free practice, which leads straight into 15 minutes of timed practice. Mills’ best flying lap of 1:48.0 was good enough for sixth but Cole was on a 1:49.9 and with five minutes needed to find half a second to get through he would be off to the LCQ, which he said might suit him more than trying to get a single fast lap.
Group 2 featured Adam Collings and Hitachi KTM UK’s Jack Bintcliffe. 15-year-old Collings spent last year racing in the Dutch championship finishing fifth with seven moto wins but after being out with a knee injury he was a second and a half off of qualifying. Jack Bintcliffe was bumped out of qualifying in the final second, finishing 19th, just 0.03 outside on his Hitachi KTM.
In the LCQ, true to his word, Charlie Cole started in fifth and moved to the front in the first few laps taking a comfortable win and qualifying at his first European race. Jack Bintcliffe and Adam Collings both started mid-pack and were unable to make the top four to qualify.
Race 1 saw Chris Mills start around 15th but a high side on lap three catapulted him into the ground and dropped him to 24th before he pulled out on the next lap, while Cole was unable to repeat his LCQ speed and faded back from a mid-pack start – ending up 30th. Race 2 saw Cole again get a bad start, and unable to recover, finishing 32nd with Mills riding round in 15th. “My back was really sore after yesterday’s crash, so today was damage limitation,” Mills explained.
Cole was just happy to have qualified and completed two full races.
The British-based GL12 squad were here to use the EMX 250 race as a test and warm up for the EMX300 that starts in Teutschenthal, Germany in a few weeks time. Riding two-stroke KTMs, Mike Kras topped Group 1 proving that in the right conditions the two-strokes were a match for the four-stroke bikes. Teammate Brad Anderson also qualified in Group 2 but Lewis Gregory missed the cut by a second. While Micky Eccles was comfortably through in eighth.
In Group 1, Brad Todd had a big crash when he landed in the soft sand at the edge of the step down double but still qualified in 15th. Mel Pocock was half a second faster in 11th.
Luke Norris, Todd Kellett, and Matt Moffat would get a final chance in the LCQ as John Robson was out altogether.
Kellett got a decent jump off the gate in the LCQ and quickly moved to the lead on lap three pulling five seconds in that lap. “It feels great to take the win, even if it is the LCQ,” a buoyant Kellett shared. “I think that shows I should have qualified earlier.”
Unfortunately, Norris and Moffat were never able to challenge for a qualifying spot.
Race 1 saw last week’s winner Simone Furlotti lead half of the first lap before crashing back to 25th place at the end of lap one. As an indication of how deep the competition is in this class, he was only able to make up seven places by the chequered flag.
Pocock started in eighth but was passed by Swede Ken Bengtson on lap three but both riders passed Group 1 winner Mike Kras as he faded from a fifth place start.
Kellett, Eccles and Ando were battling over 13th place until mid-race when Eccles bike lost power with a valve failure and DNF’d.
Kellett charged all race, ending 11th, with Anderson in 14th. Brad Todd had earlier struggled with forks that were too hard for the soft sand and a first lap crash left him 38th at the end of lap one and 30th at the flag. “I landed on someone’s bike after the big jump – I had nowhere to go,” said Todd. Race 2 brought more of the same for Todd as Zachary Pichon jumped across into him in the first chicane. Looking at his swollen right hand, Todd said: “I need to get an x-ray!”
Kellett would pick himself up from a first turn crash and end up 18th for two points scoring rides, while Pocock worked from 12th to seventh before a crash after 23 minutes relegated him to 15th.
After his mechanic had rebuilt the race bike overnight, Eccles charged from a poor jump off the gate, making clever passes in the first lap and pushing hard to end up fourth, passing three riders on the step up after a big sweeping left hander. “I just pulled my finger out today,” was his reply when asked what made the difference. “I was happy with that, felt comfy, felt just like practising in the week!”
Ando was also on a charge from 27th to ninth but was penalised five places after the race when his bike failed the noise test. He wasn’t available to comment!
So a mixed weekend for the British riders, a few sore bodies, but plenty of potential as the MXGP and EMX championship moves on.