There’s no doubt that the biggest smile of the day following the home round of the IMBA European Championship at Lower Drayton on Sunday was portrayed by a very proud FUS Marsh MX Husqvarna team boss Mike Keenan who witnessed seeing all three of his riders claim a podium place. In the opening round of the IMBA MX1 series, Welshman Shane Carless was in great form, posting a strong 2/1/2 scorecard for top slot whilst James Dodd took a super 2nd place after putting in a typically all-action and determined display. Completing the FUS joy, over in MX2 Luke Burton reeled off a quality 2/1/1 to take the overall verdict ahead of fellow Brits Ray Rowson and Lewis King who was suffering from the effects of some sleepless nights due to a heavy cold.
Although the immaculate FUS lads were the headline makers, there was also plenty of other great performances from the other Brits on duty at Lower Drayton. In MX1, Josh Waterman was 4th overall and only denied a podium place due to a heavy moto two crash, IMBA regular Andrew Smart bagged a fine 6th whilst Gary Gibson after also crashing hard in moto one then turned on the style to go 2/1 and 8th overall. Also wearing the GB shirts with pride, Sean Wainwright(10th), Jordan Saunders on the 2T KTM(12th) and Kieran McAvoy(16th) completed the MX1 squad whilst Jack Gardner(6th) and Ricky Roberts(13th) raced in MX2 and all performed with high acclaim at Lower Drayton, getting home in all three moto’s and scoring plenty of IMBA points in the process!
In MX1 timed qualification it was to be fast Ryan Crowder on the Apico Hazport Husky who recorded the quickest lap. From the off the Lancashire based rider then transferred that speed into grabbing the moto one holeshot. However Crowder’s joy was to be very short lived as he crashed hard on the opening lap, battered and bruised Ryan decided to then call a halt to his day’s racing. Also biting the dust in moto one was the unlucky Gary Gibson, suffering a big off and banging his head in the process, thus starting the 2018 IMBA quest with a very much unwanted DNF! Upfront though there was no such problems for the immaculate Waterman on the IDS KTM as he took the win with a controlled ride from Carless, Dodd, Belgian Jonas Salaets and Smart. Starting this Euro clash in style, Wainwright bagged a super 6th with Saunders blasting the orange 2T projectile to 12th as McAvoy got home in 17th.
Moto two and the Brits were riding high as Carless quickly took control from Waterman and Gibson but on lap four it was all change! Waterman suffered a heavy crash and after then getting his bike hooked up in trackside marking lost valuable time and places! Despite feeling the effects of that off, Josh remounted in 21st place, eventually finishing 19th as the smooth Carless took a big win from Gibson, Salaets, Dodd, Danish ace Nicolaj Damsgaard and Smart.
So far this season, LDR TMC Kawasaki ace Gibson has certainly not reaped the rewards his determined efforts have deserved! However his last moto performance suggests that maybe the good times could be on their way back! With the Northern Irish pilot in control and leading all the way to score a nice win, Carless took 2nd, enough for a deserved overall verdict. Despite suffering from stomach cramps, Waterman got home in 3rd whilst Dodd ensured a hard earned podium place by taking 4th .With the Brits dominating at the front, Smart(8th), Wainwright(12th), Saunders(13th) and McAvoy(15th) all dug deep to finish the moto and the day with more impressive rides.
During the opening IMBA MX2 round of 2018 held in France, Brits Ray Rowson (Geartec KTM), Luke Burton(FUS Marsh MX Husqvarna) and Lewis King(LDR TMC Kawasaki) took all three podium places. However at Lower Drayton in the early stages of moto one, the dynamic trio were forced to become the chasers as a very fast Belgian in Glenn Bielen led the way. Quickly though normal service was to be resumed as Bielen crashed and dropped to 5th. Initially King then became the new pace-setter before being passed by both Rowson and Burton on one single circuit. From here onwards Rowson marched onto victory from Burton, King and impressive fast Italian Filippo Ballin who had passed Jack Gardner on the final lap. Making his IMBA debut, Ricky Roberts worked very hard on the little 2T 125cc TM to earn 13th.
What a battle there was to be at the start of IMBA MX2 race two as Burton and Rowson went at it right from the off, passing and repassing with total conviction! For defending IMBA Champion Rowson though it all went wrong when he stalled his KTM in a corner and dropped down to 4th behind Burton, King and Gardner. Undeterred though Rowson fought back and came charging back through into 2nd but this time there was no catching Burton as the fast FUS Marsh MX ace had really turned up the gas and thus clear off for a big win. As King took 3rd from Gardner, Ballin and Bielen were the next best and certainly the pick of what was a disappointing European contingent.
Attempting to make amends for that race two stall, Rowson was very quick out of the blocks in the final IMBA MX2 clash only to fall and drop back to 4th. From here onwards it was the super Burton leading all the way as Bielen took 2nd from Rowson and Ballin. Drained of energy, King had to dig extra deep in this one to earn a gallant 5th after earlier slipping off on the dry, slick surface. With Gardner also falling early on and having to settle for 9th, Roberts again kept the TM buzzing to get home in 14th. This was the second consecutive IMBA MX2 round that the Brits have filled all three podium places and such is the quality of Burton, Rowson and King that it’s very hard to see who apart from the occasional wildcard can stop the Brits marching to eventual IMBA glory!
Sunday’s racing also included an Experts Unlimited class won by James Smith after Luke Mellows, the victor in the opening two clashes decided to sit out the final moto. The main support action though was provided by the penultimate round of the AMCA Sidecar Championship and there was simply no doubting the winning crew. In all three clashes, Paul Pelling/Chris Pannell comfortably led from start to finish and thus bag maximum points. In moto one as Sam Osbaldiston/Nathan Cooper held onto an equally safe 2nd spot, there was to be a super scrap for 3rd as Ross Bowers/Rob Eastman and Tony Grahame/Harley Lloyd locked horns. Eventually Bowers just got the verdict as James Whitt/Matt Williams took 5th and Alan Peever/Tony Phillips in 6th.
With Pelling clearing off into the distance in race two, Bowers and Grahame were again going for it, this time disputing 2nd. As per moto one, Bowers got the verdict but now all eyes were on a hard-charging ride by Osbaldiston. Last on lap one, the talented Sidecar ace came storming back to earn a super 4th with David Stead/ Darren Bishop the next best.
Despite using all that excessive energy in moto two, Osbaldiston produce a controlled ride in the last Sidecar battle to take 2nd behind the flying Pelling. Although Grahame got home in 3rd, the final step on the podium instead was to be claimed by Bowers. Once again, Whitt and Stead were also right in the mix. Words and pics by Mike Wood.