Graeme Irwin put his Buildbase Honda on the second step of the MX1 podium with two gutsy rides at the opening round of the 2017 Maxxis ACU British Motocross Championship supported by Pro Clean at Culham Moto Park on Sunday.
His teammate Martin Barr had a much tougher time in MX2 with crashes in his opening moto proving costly but he fought back in race two to underline his status as a genuine title threat.
Following an off-season spent training and testing in Sardinia the team headed to Culham looking for strong finishes. Rain leading up to the event resulted in challenging conditions on a track that is testing at the best of times.
Graeme – in his first race back following shoulder surgery – looked rock-solid all day on his CRF450R, mastering the muddy ruts and changes of elevation to run 4-3 on the circuit on the banks of the River Thames.
“With these track conditions if someone had said at the start of the day I would be a second overall I probably would have taken it,” he said. “This is my first race back since shoulder surgery so I’m happy with that.
“There’s no problem with my shoulder – I didn’t notice it one bit – so the plan is to keep building and get stronger and stronger. I’m not going to lie, I definitely didn’t have the best off-season – I didn’t race in Sardinia, when we went out I’d just started riding again, so I’ve been on the back foot.
“I’m not far away but I think there’s more to come so we’ll keep working hard and moving forward.”
An early crash in the first MX2 moto cost Martin positions but worse was to come when he was forced to discard his goggles after the roll-off system was smashed by a rock. Stuck in the pack with mud and stones flying, he fought his way through to 14th on his CRF250R but with no protection for his eyes it was a long, hard slog.
In moto two, despite suffering impaired vision, he bravely battled up to second at the flag.
“I didn’t get such a good jump in the first race but in the second corner I managed to cut up inside a lot of people,” he said. “In the third corner there were bikes everywhere and I lost the front end and went down.
“I got going again but at the end of the first lap a big rock came up and smashed my goggle canister – I tried to keep them on as long as I could but eventually I had to throw them off and after that it was a long race. I crashed four times but I kept going just to try and get some points.
“The second moto was tough – I was just constantly blinking and when there are big, long ruts it’s hard to keep your concentration. I dug deep and I think I was about fifth or so and could see I was closing so I put a charge on for the last 10 minutes and managed to finish second.
“All-in-all it was a case of damage limitation but it’s a long season yet. My eyes are absolutely killing me now. I think I’ve scraped the right eyeball and bruised the left.”
For team boss Dave Thorpe it was a day of highs and lows. “The first round is always difficult and I feel for Martin,” he said. “He made a solid start in the first one, took a tear-off, the front tucked and he went down. If ever there was a day that he didn’t need to go down it was today. Then a stone hit his roll-offs so he lost his goggles and it was an uphill battle from there.
“He was struggling to see in the second race but still finished a solid second. We’d have preferred two seconds but that’s racing…
“Graeme is still on the climb back and I’m pretty pleased with him although I’m disappointed and surprised that Brad [Anderson] got him in the second race.
“We’ve all worked extremely hard throughout the winter and conditions were tough today. Martin didn’t get the roll of the dice but that’s just the way it is sometimes.”