The 2019 Apico 2-Stroke Festival kicked into life over the Whitsun bank holiday weekend, welcoming a good turnout of enthusiastic riders and their families. A tiny drop of rain on Saturday afternoon mixed with beautiful Kent sunshine to produce perfect race conditions at Sellindge MX, and an opening round to remember.
Five blocks of racing were completed over the two-day event, catering for riders from as young as six-years in the auto class, right the way through to those more mature riders (in years anyway…) in the adult groups.
Maximum scores featured across several classes with 125 Rookie Jack Grayshon, 125 British James Cottrell, 250 British Brad Wheeler, BW85 Sam Atkinson, 65cc Archy Atkinson, and Super Evo British Billy Mackenzie each taking five wins apiece.
It was also hugely-successful on the Family front, with parents and siblings switching between racing and supporting their relatives out on track. One such family was the Baum crew who had Leigh in the 250 Fast group (3rd), Nicholas in the Evo (5th), Harason in the 65s (4th) and young Franki in the Auto (7th). Then Steve Bixby managed to finish runner up in the 250 British Championship, whilst cheering on his lad Sonny to fourth in the Autos. Sam and Henry Lewis were another dad and lad combo, with Sam contesting the 125 Fast group and Henry racing to an impressive third in the auto class
And so to the racing … In the 125 Rookie class, Apico Racing-backed rider Grayshon was in outstanding form to win all five races ahead of hard-charging Ben White in second and Billy Collins in third. Harvey Fagg and Taylor Duke were also in the thick of it out in the competitive mixed field of 125s, to round out the Novice top five. The 125 Fast class produced tight and exciting battles in five action-packed races. The overall winner of round one was Ben Reeves, who took the honours from Sean Dath and Guy Raines. Brandon Love, Paul Atkinson and Sam Cheesman – on a borrowed bike to get in his day’s racing – were next in the overall stakes and, with only a handful of points between them, are lined up to take it to the wire in the next round.
With the newly-introduced 125 ACU British championship up for grabs in 2019, the action was tight through all blocks of racing. This is a super-competitive class, with no margin for error. Cottrell made a return to the track after a few years of retirement, and looked in amazing form to rip a five-race maximum overall win. He needed to be in top form to stay ahead of Jordan Keogh who travelled across from Ireland, jumped on an unfamiliar machine and was straightaway on the pipe and up in second. Behind them was 125 2-stroke specialist Ashley Crossley who put in a supreme performance to take the third step of the podium, whilst Chuck Davies was unlucky to miss the podium, but did sterling work to secure fourth. The final two rounds are going to be super close for the chase for this championship.
The 250 Fast class proved to be just as competitive as the 125s. Ady Peedle took four out of the five races to walk away as the round winner. Craig Cording and Leigh Baum followed closely in second and third respectively. A special mention goes to Jacob Grossman who crossed the finish line in first place in the final race of the day. Jon Reeves worked hard to secure fourth overall ahead of night-time DJ Nick Shaw and, sporting the biggest grin of the day, Bethany Farmer riding a 150cc KTM in the open class, scooped up a well-deserved sixth. The special ‘Promoter’s grass-roots rider of the meeting award’ went to three riders in this class, namely, Phil Jackson who rode with tennis-elbow, Steven Halfhide at 53-years-of-age, and Jon Ashdown who finished 11th. They are the foundation upon which the Two-Stroke Festival is built!
The new 250 ACU British championship witnessed exhilarating action, with Wheeler in devastating form from the word go, taking all five race wins to kickstart his challenge for the title in the best possible way. Veteran 2-stroke ace Bixby stuck to the task in hand, even after a nasty crash in the final race, to finish in an impressive second place. Ryan Butler and Luke Gidney tied on points for third with Butler taking the final podium spot on countback. Mitchell Lewis was unfortunate when a day one crash sidelined him, ruling him out of the competition – he’ll be keen to make amends at round two.
The third British title up for grabs in 2019 is the EVO class. These guys gave it everything and the racing was as intense as it was brilliant to watch. George Gough just did enough to take the overall from veterans Brian Wheeler in second and Jon Barfoot in third; the scene is set for the final two rounds to go to the wire.
All eyes were on the Super EVO British championship opening round, the main reason being that former British MX Champ and MXGP winner Billy Mackenzie was back racing a 500cc Honda. Mackenzie took a clean score card and looked in cruise control throughout the two days. James Lassu did his best to stay with the flying Scotsman and finished second just ahead of Daryl Hall in third.
Sam Atkinson was the rider to catch in the BW85 class, Sam took five wins from hard-chasing Ben Pratt in second and Ezra Blackwell in third. Jaygo Beasty, now back on form after a couple of injury-blighted years, rode consistently throughout the weekend, leaving him just two points off the podium. Daniel Wood and Charlie Piddock completed the top six. At the end of the season Apico Racing will select one lucky rider for a £5000 2020 sponsorship package, so there’s everything for these young guys to play for, and plenty of time to impress in the final two rounds. The SW85 class produced fun and entertaining races, watched by a considerable crowd on both Saturday and Sunday. Round 1 podium finishers were Kyron Carron in the top spot, Ryan Waggot in second and Charlie Hucklebridge third. But, not far behind were Seth Hughes, Hannah Smye and Harry Challis.
The 65cc race pack didn’t let up for a single second. Archy Atkinson and Austin Beasty – younger brothers to Sam and Jaygo in the BW85s – impressed all with their race skills which took them to the top two steps of the podium, with Marley Ray Tupper in third. Baum as mentioned above, finished fourth and Lawson Peedle fifth.
Leaving the best ‘til last … the little uber-fast Autos kept the racing scarily-quick and fresh. This is a class that paves the way for future stars of the sport to showcase their considerable skills. Tyler Rogers and Charlie Crampton shared race wins with Rogers finishing just five points ahead of Crampton after five tough handlebar-bashing races. Henry Lewis stuck to the task in hand and finished a respectable third, with the aforementioned Sonny Bixby running a solid race to take fourth overall, in front of Sam Verbeeten (with dad Dan, a former top racer, cheering from the sidelines), William Brown did himself proud to round out the top six.
The Apico 2-Stroke Festival now heads to Ironworks in Middlesborough on August 3rd and 4th.
Keep your eyes on the website for entry details for round two; www.2strokefestival.com
Full results can be found at https://speedhive.mylaps.com/Events/1665294
Images: Andrew Waghorne