Words and pics by Mike Wood.
Seven days after retaining his AMCA MX1 title, Luke Burton (FUS FRO CPS Husqvarna) was to again enjoy the very sweet taste of success! In Meijel, Holland, the Brit produced a simply superb performance to not only scorch to three moto wins but also add the IMBA MX1 Championship to his growing roll of honour. Bagging that crown meant that Burton was to be the first AMCA rider since Gary Evans way-back in 1990 to record European glory in the big-bike class, a very notable achievement! Making it a particularly memorable event for the Brits in the brutal Dutch sand, Andrew Smart (MX ANSA TRM Honda) also bagged a very well deserved 3rd overall on the day. Having endured a whole host of rather expensive misfortune during the 2017 IMBA campaign, this result was a very welcome boost for the determined Yorkshire rider. Not quite so fortunate though on Sunday was Ed Briscoe (Honda). On the verge of claiming a series bronze medal spot, Ed’s Honda engine broke on the final lap of the last moto to naturally leave him distraught!
Right from the off at Meijel, Team AMCA Great Britain were to prove that they were right on the pace in the sand as Smart, Burton and Briscoe posted the respective 3rd, 4th and 5th fastest qualifying times with remaining Brit Josh Scott (Kawasaki) in 17th place. But the main business was all about race results as Burton, a healthy 63 points clear at the top of the standings attempted to get the title business wrapped up as soon as possible.
And, when that gate dropped to signal the start of moto one, Burton was right on it, making an absolute dream start to thus lead the pack with Smart in a fantastic 2nd and Briscoe 8th. Putting those engine gremlins earlier in the season well and truly behind him, Smart certainly had his Honda firing nicely now and was right on the gas, constantly resisting the challenge of Burton’s main title rival, Belgian Frederic Weigert. Eventually both Weigert and Danish rider Nicolaj Damsgaard, the fastest pilot in timed qualifying overhauled the hard charging and quick starting Smart. However at the front, Burton was at his very best stretching his advantage to thus take the crucial opening race win from Weigert, Damsgaard, Smart, Jarno Verhorevoort and Briscoe with Scott finishing 17th.
So going into moto two at Meijel, Burton knew that a 2nd place finish would clinch him the IMBA title. When the gate dropped though he had a little work to do as Weigert led the chase from Smart. However in his own smooth, almost effortless style, Burton passed both lads before the completion of lap one. Putting the hammer down and stretching that throttle wire to the limit, Luke pulled well clear and thus sew up the Championship in style with a big win, nearly 15 seconds clear of Weigert. Also right on it, Briscoe moved through from 8th to bag a very strong 3rd overhauling fellow Brit Smart in 4th, Verhorevoort 5th and Menno van Meer 6th. Interestingly, this result also meant that just 10 points now separated Swiss lad Daniel Huser and his chaser the Brit Ed Briscoe in the race for the bronze medal, it was certainly all to play for!
In the last moto unfortunately Briscoe found himself baulked in the charge to turn one and down in 11th whilst rival Huser had got away cleanly and was up in 5th. Undeterred the hard charging Briscoe dug deep and started to climb the leaderboard whilst Huser was going in the reverse direction. By lap seven it was game on as Briscoe was now up to 5th and Huser down in 10th. Mathematically, Ed now had to pass 4th placed Verhorevoort and the series bronze would be his. Dramatically though it was to go all wrong on incredibly the final lap when the bottom end of Briscoe’s Honda self-destructed, punching a hole through the casing! Up front, the new Champion Burton gated 3rd before quickly taking control. This one though was not quite so straight forward as the FUS Husqvarna rider crashed, taking an excursion over the handlebars of his machine on lap five. Quickly on his feet, Luke got up to repass leader Weigert and also finish the season off in style with another moto win. With Verhorevoort 3rd, Smart again started strongly and got home 4th, enough to earn a richly deserved podium spot. Despite his frustrating mechanical misfortune, Ed Briscoe was accredited with 10th whilst Scott was 17th.
For differing reasons there was two delighted Team AMCA Great Britain riders celebrating at the Meijel awards ceremony. 2017 IMBA MX1 European Champion Burton said, “I rode really cautiously in qualifying as I wanted to make sure that the bike and I was ready for racing. When it started I was struggling to breathe properly due to alot of nervous energy and also found myself over-thinking at times. Despite those issues though I was so pleased to go 1-1 in the opening two motos and even pass and leave my closest rival Frederic Weigert. It feels absolutely amazing to win this title, the only regret being that due to costs my family were unable to come over and see it! However I am still very delighted and would like to thank Team FUS and all my sponsors for their fantastic support.” Meanwhile podium take Andrew Smart commented, “Really enjoyed the weekend. It’s about time we had some good luck after all the problems earlier in the IMBA campaign. This is a nice reward for the hard work we put in and I will certainly enjoy standing on that podium!”