The British motocross championship rocked Canada Heights on Sunday as Wilvo Virus Performance KTM’s Shaun Simpson came out on top in the MX1 clash of the titans against fellow GP pilot Tommy Searle.
In MX2, Apico Husqvarna’s two pilots, Steven Clarke and Bryan McKenzie, battled it out for the win, with Clarkey taking his first ever double moto victory.
The huge crowd for round two of the Maxxis ACU British Motocross Championship, supported by Pro Clean, reaffirmed Canada Heights as one of the favourites on calendar and the racing lived up to the hype for the fans.
After failing to take the overall for the first time in eight consecutive rounds, Simpson – who had been struggling with a virus at the opening round at Cadders Hill – wanted to get his championship defence back on track.
Searle, who’s in his first season running a DRT powered KX450F, has suffered a mixed start to his season with some eventful outings in the GP series that has included a bloody nose in Argentina.
But that has contrasted with his impressive performance in Lyng where he took a double moto victory to get his British title chase off to the perfect start.
With Simpson now back at 100 per cent fitness, albeit battered and bruised from his outing at the GP in Mexico, and Searle now settling in with the DRT machine, the stage was set for a duel the fans were eager to watch.
Searle got off to a great start as he led the pack into the opening turn but running wide he would hit the fence. He survived the fall but it put him not only at the back of the field – it left him a long way back with a huge job on his hands.
While Searle got to work picking up the pieces of his opening moto, Buildbase Honda’s Kristian Whatley capitalised and lead the race ahead of MVR-D Fuel 10K Husqvarna’s Tanel Leok.
Simpson wasn’t too far behind the leaders and on lap two past Leok and Whatley for the lead.
While ‘Simmo’ extended his lead Whatley was left to battle with Leok and his Buildbase Honda team-mate Graeme Irwin. And in turn Irwin was being pushed by Phoenix Tools Honda’s Gert Krestinov and MX1 rookie (and reigning MX2 champion) Dyer & Butler KTM’s Steven Lenoir.
Jake Nicholls, who must have broken more mirrors during pre-season, continues to suffer bad luck. This time it was his Hitachi Revo Husqvarna that packed up on the opening lap. He got going again but was a lap down and to make matters worse he would find himself disqualified from the moto for receiving outside assistance.
With two laps remaining a three-way battle for second place developed between Irwin, Leok and Whatley.
Leok railed a rut around the outside of Whatley and Irwin took full advantage of lapped traffic to get past his team-mate too.
In the meantime Searle had been working his way through the field and incredibly had worked his way up into ninth place at the chequers.
Simpson took his first race win of the season ahead of Leok, Irwin, Whatley and Lenoir.
In moto two Searle put his first turn spill behind him as he just edged out Nicholls for the holeshot, but the Hitachi Revo Husqvarna pilot would pass him before the second turn.
Things didn’t go as well for Leok who went down in the second turn.
Searle would start to give chase and push for the moto lead and he passed Nicholls before completing the opening lap.
Lenoir also got off to a good start and would take third from Whatley who went over the berm at the foot of the staircase.
Simpson was down in seventh place at the start with Jake Shipton, Lenoir and Brad Anderson among the riders ahead of him, but it wouldn’t take long for Simmo to make the passes needed to get into to third ahead of Lenoir.
After his mechanical issues in race one there was no such repeat for Nicholls and he proved he had the speed, holding off Simpson until just a few laps to go.
Searle bossed the moto, taking his third race win of the season, while Simpson took a narrow second ahead of Nicholls. Lenoir and Irwin rounded out the top five.
A win and a solid second gave Simpson his first overall victory of the 2016 series with Searle taking second. Buildbase Honda’s Graeme Irwin claimed the third step on the podium.
Speaking to Dirt Bike Rider Nicholls said: “Canada Heights was overall a good day for me. On paper it wasn’t great with a freak mechanical in race one, stopping me only halfway round on Lap 1 while running fourth.
“I got some outside assistance to get the bike going again and finished the race strong to make sure I could fight at the front for race two.
“I Holeshot the second race, unfortunately I showed some rustiness on the race track and a slight lack of pace early on, Tommy [Searle] got away early, I held Shaun [Simpson] off for a while but then he got the better of me. I relaxed and held his pace for the remainder of the race keeping him honest to the flag.
“I’m lacking race time as its only my fourth race this year, but I’m happy with it all so far.”
Simpson takes ownership of the red plate ahead of round three, which takes place at the famous Hawkstone Park circuit in Shropshire on May 22.
With Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Max Anstie and Conrad Mewse unable to make a season long commitment to the series. There would be a new owner of the red plate at the end of the day’s racing at Canada Heights.
Setting the early pace, Verde Sports KTM’s Jake Millward got off to a blistering start and led Apico Husqvarna’s Bryan MacKenzie and SJP Moto Husqvarna’s Rob Davidson around turn one.
Buildbase Honda’s Martin Barr also got off to a good start but was quickly passed by a hard charging Apico Husqvarna pilot, Steven Clarke.
Clarkey’s team-mate MacKenzie dropped the hammer on the downhill staircase and out-braked Millward for the lead, which was a place and manoeuvre that proved popular as Barr did the same thing to Clarkey to reclaim fourth.
After taking fourth, Barr got hard on the gas and made light work of SJP Moto Husqvarna’s Rob Davidson, who eventually dropped back to sixth.
As Barr chipped away at Millward, who was running second at the time, he soon found himself switching from attack to defence as Clarke had hooked a gear and was up for the challenge once again.
Clarke made the pass stick with a sick move, scrubbing the tabletop heading into the waves and keeping the bike low. The next victim on Clarkey’s hit list was Millward.
He got the job done in no time and went after his team-mate. Meanwhile Barr found a way around Millward for third, but the action that had everyone’s undivided attention was the battle for the lead.
With eight minutes left on the clock, Clarke stole the lead and started to inch away. MacKenzie was suffering with arm-pump and Barr whipped out his rut railing skills with three laps to go and took second from the Scot.
Back in fourth, Millward was feeling the heat from newly-announced GP rider, Hitach Revo Husqvarna’s James Dunn, but he didn’t crack and managed to hold on till the flag.
Moto two was all about the lightning fast Apico Husqvarnas.
Clarke claimed his first holeshot of the year ahead of MacKenzie. And making his return to racing following a broken wrist, Wilvo Virus Performance KTM’s Adam Sterry was third around turn one before being dropped back to fourth by another rider making a very welcome return to British championship racing, Monster Energy DRT Kawasaki’s Mel Pocock.
Behind these two Barr and Dunn were hungry for championship points that could potentially reward them with the MX2 red plate, and they passed Sterry in the first few laps.
Barr was looking awesome out on the caramel coloured soil of Canada Heights as he picked off Pocock for third and chomped down the gap that MacKenzie had pulled in second.
Eventually Barr took the spot from BryMac with a super sweet move around the outside, while Dunn patiently waited for the prime time to pounce on Pocock and did so with five minutes to go.
Barr pushed hard to catch Clarke for what could have been an epic penultimate lap showdown, only to crash.
MacKenzie then inherited second but was dropped back to third by Dunn on the final lap. Barr recovered for fourth while Pocock, who was mightily impressive on his championship return rounded out the top five.
So at the chequers it was a smooth race for Clarkey. And perhaps now has finally put his bad luck behind him with a perfect weekend of two moto wins, overall and the red plate.
Apico Husqvarna team-mate, MacKenzie bounced back from a disaster of a first round with a pair of third place finishes for second overall, while Buildbase Honda’s Martin Barr tied with him on points to round off the podium.
DRT MGP Steel’s Brett Pocock took the holeshot and held the position for the opening lap but was then passed by the top qualifier, RFX KTM’s Henry Williams when he railed right around the outside of him.
Pocock instantly lost concentration and lost a spot to Apico Husqvarna’s Alexander Brown who went on to battle Williams all the way to the finish and the Husky rider came out on top with the first race win.
P & H Motorcycles’ Michael Ellis, Carl Nunn KTM’s George Grigg-Pettitt and Holeshot Motocross’ James Carpenter dropped Pocock back to seventh and made up the top five.
In race two Brown and Ellis charged hard for the lead and for the majority of the race Ellis led, but was passed by Brown with a handful of laps to go.
Brown, who had won three from three races leading in, would have been the one you would put your chips on. However, Ellis didn’t back down and impressively took the lead with just two laps to go and that’s the way it finished.
Meanwhile Carpenter got RMJ Academy – Husqvarna UK’s Dexter Douglas for third as George Grigg-Pettitt came from miles back to round out the top five.
Brown topped the box once again while Ellis had a fantastic day for second ahead of Williams in third.
See you in Shropshire at Hawkstone Park on May 22. It’ll be epic!