Although only three of the nine rounds in the 2017 AMCA British Motocross Championship have been so far completed, the early title standings in MX1 currently make very pleasant reading for the FUS/FRO/CPS Husqvarna team. Currently on top is defending MX1 Champion Luke Burton, already a big 89 points clear of his teammate James Dodd in 2nd. At Lower Drayton on Sunday, Burton produced another near-wheel perfect performance to bag three more moto wins and thus top the podium. Whilst Burton stretched his advantage in the standings, two of his main title rivals, Gary Gibson and Shane Carless were both hit by mechanical issues not only losing ground in the race for honours but also denying them a podium place. So with Gibson and Carless out of the reckonings and missing out, it was Dodd and a delighted Richard Cannings who took home the remaining silverware instead.
Over in MX2, defending Champion Josh Waterman has regained his place at the top of the table after taking a strong runner-up slot at Lower Drayton behind winner Ray Rowson. Completing the podium was Lewis King who also sits 3rd in the early MX2 table. After a round two nightmare, Brad Turner was back to his very best to bag maximum points and also regain his series lead in the very competitive 2T class. Completing the Lower Drayton action, the trio of James Russell, Simon Lane and Terry House again dominated proceedings in the Vets, with Russell now enjoying a 22 point advantage at the top of the AMCA Championship standings.
After having two, dry, hard-pack circuits to open the 2017 AMCA series powered by Datatag and supported by Dunlop, the Lower Drayton surface with its mixture of soil and high percentage wood chip provided a whole different challenge. Despite that change in race grip, the opening MX1 moto was though to produce a very familiar result! Taking the win was Luke Burton who after grabbing the holeshot and leading was then passed by rival Gary Gibson. After two further laps, Burton was back in control and there he stayed, on his way to another win as Shane Carless moved through to snatch 2nd from Gibson, Dodd, John May and Luke Meredith. Deciding to jump aboard his 2T 250cc Yamaha instead of the 450F Honda, Adam Harris started strongly with a 7th place, joined inside that top ten by his fellow 2T pilot Ben Saunders.
Moto two and one of the top MX1 pilots was in trouble as the frame broke on Shane Carless Honda machine when he was holding 5th place. At the front, Burton led from start to finish ahead of Gibson whilst Richard Cannings took 3rd despite persistent pressure from Dodd. After failing to score at round two when injuring his knee in practice, this was to be a very welcome result for Cannings. Having another great ride, Saunders got home in 6th just behind Meredith with Paul Neale, Andrew Smart and John May who had gated right down in 17th also in the mix.
Whilst Burton produced another motocross masterclass to take moto three with a gate to flag victory, crucially one of his main rivals was failing to score. Four laps in, Gibson’s Kawasaki ground to a halt so it was Cannings taking an impressive 2nd from Dodd and May. Although the track was now at its most demanding, the action was still equally as fierce with Ashley Thomas just edging out Sean Wainwright in a great tussle for 5th whilst Saunders stormed past Smart in the closing stages to bag 7th. That result also earned Saunders a superb 5th overall on the day. After suffering that broken frame in moto two, Carless was kindly offered the use of an AMS IDS KTM for this last clash. Despite being on that rather unfamiliar mount, the Welshman gated strongly in 5th but had to eventually settle for 12th.
In a restarted opening MX2 clash after Jonathan Roderick-Jones had suffered a nasty crash, Ray Rowson showed no ill effects from the shoulder injury sustained during round two at Nympsfield as he blasted into control, setting a very hot pace. Despite being an expected non-starter at Lower Drayton, Rowson really turned on the style in moto one, taking a very comfortable win as he led home series leader Luke Dean, Josh Waterman, the fast starting Bradley Tranter, Lewis King and Cory McShane. Proving that he was indeed up for the challenge to make up lost ground in the Championship standings, Rowson again stormed to a gate to flag victory in the second clash of the day from King, Waterman, Tranter, Jack Cox, James Wainwright and Luke Mellows. Starting the meeting as MX2 series leader, Yamaha mounted Dean did not enjoy the best of fortunes in this moto. Starting in 6th, Luke Dropped back to 14th after crashing before recovering to earn 8th. Unfortunately this moto was to be slightly marred when one of Dean’s teammates, Ryan Morris suffered a horrific crash off one of the fast Lowe Drayton jumps when holding 6th. Ryan suffering a shattered heel in the incident, here’s hoping for a speedy recovery!
Looking for that MX2 hat-trick, Rowson again led the way in moto three for the opening five laps. However on this occasion, Waterman was quickly on his tail and rapidly reeling him in, eventually coming through to take the win.
Producing another determined and polished performance, King held 3rd spot for the entire duration with Dean in 4th. So in the title standings it’s now Waterman back in charge on 472 points from Dean 453, King 424 and Rowson moving back up the standings after his Nympsfield problems on 389. Afterwards runner-up Waterman said, “Today was weirdly successful! Hope Rodererick-Jones is ok after his first race crash. After starting 10th in moto one I worked my way back to 3rd. In moto two I gated 10th again, got up to 5th then collided with another rider and had it all to do, again finishing 3rd. Last race had a nice battle with Ray before passing him with three laps to go. Got to be pleased as I now lead the Championship. Thanks to everyone that supports me in any way. It’s much appreciated.”
Going into Sunday’s event, Jason Kendrick was the 2T series leader but just like Brad Turner at round two, he was to endure a day he would rather forget! Forced out with mechanical gremlins in moto one and a last race crash meant he scored just 68 points for a 19th overall finish. In contrast, the fast Turner was back to his very best, starting with a comfortable gate to flag victory in moto one ahead of Sam Smith, Jordan Saunders, Bradley Doyle who had initially gated 10th, James Lane and Jack Waterman.
After that strong opening ride, Doyle had another good one in the second clash of the day, coming through from 7th to take 2nd behind gate to flag winner Turner. Despite slipping off twice, Smith quickly regained his composure to still bag 3rd from Lane and Kendrick. All of the usual suspects again featured strongly in the last very competitive 2T moto of the day at Lower Drayton. Completing his maximum points haul in style, it was another smooth win from Turner in moto three with Smith, Lane the 2016 2T runner-up enjoy his most profitable meeting of the campaign so far and Doyle right in the mix. In the Championship standings, Turner is now back in charge and 32 points clear of Smith as Kendrick has dropped down to 5th, a remarkable 92 points off top slot! The rightly delighted Turner on receiving his winner’s trophy said, “The track was pretty rough and technical. I felt good all day and got my starts dialled in on the concrete pad. Being in the lead on lap one of all three races certainly made it a whole lot easier! Many thanks to IDS Transport AMS KTM and the whole team for their support each week.”
Resisting almost constant pressure from Simon Lane, it was series leader James Russell who took the opening Vets win with Terry House in 3rd and the always consistent trio of Richard Chinn, Gary Jones and Martin Atherton in the mix. Looking to claw back some vital points, Lane led moto two just about all the way and looked a very likely winner. However throughout this clash, he had Russell for very close company and the Premier Bikes KTM was to time his strike to perfection! On the final lap of the contest, James went for the pass, made it stick and dramatically take the moto victory. Whilst Lane and Russell had disputed the win, all the time House had been closing in and right at the flag he was to be just a yard away from even snatching 2nd spot from Lane, a great finish to a super moto.
In what was to be virtually a repeat of that Vets battle, Lane again led the last moto only to be passed by Russell as House in the process reeled them both in. The difference though this time around was that House did get past Lane on the final lap to earn 2nd. Although the going was tough in this last moto, the Vets class entertained in style to wrap up proceedings with Jones, Sean Smith, Atherton, Darren Bennett, Brian Staples, John Heath and Paul Wieczorek completing the top ten. In the one group of outstanding business to be decided at Lower Drayton, Nicky Jones topped the Non-Qualifiers from Ricky Fenton and Mitchell Benjamin.
After this very hectic programme of three rounds during April, the AMCA Championship chasers now have a break of four weeks to regroup and try to find that extra bit of speed before they are asked to go into battle again! Words and pics by Mike Wood.