Eight British Championship rounds, eighteen FIM Motocross World Championship stops and a handful of unique international races lie in the rear-view mirror for Wilvo Virus Performance KTM but there was an extra stop, the Motocross of Nations, for the popular squad this past weekend. A British flag had to be added to the side of Shaun Simpson’s 450SX-F, as he was selected to fill the Open slot on Team Great Britain.
Reaping the benefits of some recent testing, Simpson got off to a great start in the Open qualifying heat on Saturday and sat comfortably inside the top six early on. A handful of consistent lap times on the choppy track, which caught out countless world-class competitors, aided him in his quest to move forward and he eventually got around Russia’s Evgeny Bobryshev to break into the top five and play a large role in helping Team Great Britain qualify sixth overall for the main races.
The second of three motos on Sunday, which consisted of riders from the MX2 and Open classes, was an action-packed affair, as Simpson found himself right in the thick of the battles with riders from other leading nations. After starting in 10th he quickly forced his way into 8th before gaining another position at the halfway point. He spent the rest of the race chasing Jeremy Van Horebeek of Team Belgium but the track was proving very difficult to make passes on. He eventually prevailed, albeit on the last corner, to cross the line in sixth position and gain valuable points for his nation.
The mixed MXGP and Open moto, which also marked the final moto of the event and season, unfortunately, did not quite go as planned for Simpson. He opted to take the outside gate so that his team-mate could benefit from a starting position that was more competitive on the inside, which put him in a difficult position at the beginning of the race. He got caught up with a downed rider on lap one and faced an uphill climb from there, but was ruled out of the race shortly after with a freak mechanical issue, as a rock dislodged his chain which subsequently damaged his bike and despite quickly putting his chain back on he was forced to retire from proceedings. Despite his misfortune, he still ended the day 11th overall in the individual Open class classification, which helped Team Great Britain to seventh.
“It was nice to have a great first race and if I could have passed Van Horebeek then I feel I could have gone a bit,” offered Simpson. “I felt like I was riding well and my lap times were coming down all the time.
“The second race was a wrench. I had the outside gate pick, which I couldn’t complain about too much because there were hole-shots coming from there all weekend, but I never made it work for me. I made a few good moves in the first turns but then [Pritt] Ratsep went down in front of me and I got tangled up with him. I was outside the top 30 and managed to get up to outside the top 20 after two laps and I felt strong and I could have charged on. I knew the track and was moving forward but it was all in vein when the chain came off – the second time in three years! A bit of a shame really to finish the weekend on a bum note. I’ll try and take the positives and I don’t think it would have changed the outlook much for Team GB.”
Steve Turner commented: “Shaun rode really well again this weekend. In the qualifying race on Saturday and his first race on Sunday he was really strong. It was gutting for him to have a DNF in the second race for such an unlucky incident. It looks like a rock has gone in his sprocket and thrown the chain off.
“We always run case-savers on the bikes to stop the chain smashing the engine casings but the force actually broke the case-saver which in-turn damaged the slave cylinder, leaving him with no clutch.
“It’s a crappy way to finish the season but there’s nothing else that we could have done to prevent something like this happening. We’re proud to use Tsubaki chains which in our opinion are the best you can use and we already rivet the chains instead of using split links to prevent any possibility of a failure in that area but sometimes the gods are against you and you just have to accept that. In the end, it actually made no difference. Even if Shaun had won the last race we still would have finished 7th.”