The Maxxis ACU British Motocross Championship supported by Pro Clean fires into action this Sunday with the opening round of the country’s premier race series taking place at FatCat Motoparc near Doncaster.
The deep sand of FatCat is an intimidating test of technique, speed and fitness and no-one likes the soft stuff more than Shaun Simpson (RFX KTM powered by PAR Homes) who was eighth overall at the opening MXGP of the year in Argentina last weekend.
The 30-year-old Scot – who hasn’t raced the series for the last two years – was MX1 champion in 2014 and the following year retained his title with a perfect eight-from-eight overall wins before missing out on his hat-trick by just two points in 2016.
That year the title was won by Tommy Searle (BOS Kawasaki) who didn’t defend his crown in 2017. He returned in 2018 and, despite missing the opening round and clearly not fully fit on his comeback from injury, ended the year a close third.
Searle finished seventh in Argentina – tied on points with Simpson – and it’s expected that, barring injuries and mechanical problems, the pair will have a season-long scrap for the 2019 championship.
With reigning champion Evgeny Bobryshev not contesting this year’s series, 2017 champion Graeme Irwin switching to road racing and Jake Nicholls (Buildbase Honda) – who set the pace for most of 2018 – still recovering from a broken leg, Simpson and Searle are definitely the main men but that’s not to say they’re the only riders worth watching.
Double MX2 champion Elliott Banks-Browne (Geartec Husqvarna) will be pushing for a podium on Sunday and Estonia’s Gert Krestinov (Phoenix Tools Apico Kawasaki) is a proven winner in sand. Ryan Houghton (RHR Yamaha) must feel that he’s overdue a top-three finish after failing to get on the box all last season and Harri Kullas (Cab Screens Deos Group Racing Honda) has started the year in fighting form.
Other riders who should go well include Mel Pocock (ASA United KTM) who’s adapting quickly to the switch to a 450, Josh Spinks (MSR Redline Yamaha) who’s also gone up this season and Lewis Tombs (Buildbase Honda) who is yet another rider to ditch his 250 in favour of an MX1 machine in 2019.
The field in MX2 is well and truly stacked with four GP riders who all finished in the top 15 in Argentina.
Defending champion Conrad Mewse (Hitachi KTM fuelled by Milwaukee) starts as favourite after finishing 11th overall at Neuquen but it’s by no means a done deal and he can expect strong opposition from his team-mate Bas Vaessen.
New Zealand’s Dylan Walsh (REVO Husqvarna UK) won his first-ever Maxxis moto when he took a wildcard ride at last year’s season-ending round at Lyng and along with his Swedish team-mate Alvin Ostlund should also be a contender at FatCat.
The GP quartet won’t be the only front-runners on Sunday. Josh Gilbert (Buildbase Honda) finished second last year and has started this season in great form, as has veteran Irishman Martin Barr (Crescent Yamaha).
Carlton Husband (Phoenix Tools Apico Kawasaki) is another rider to watch out for along with Liam Knight (Verde Substance KTM), Alexander Brown (Apico Putoline KTM), Jay Hague (Chamber Husqvarna), Lewis Hall (Team Green Kawasaki) and Micky Eccles (Pope KTM).
The programme also features the opening round of the new MX2 Youth championship that showcases the country’s hottest young talent. It’s too early to call a winner but Joel Rizzi (RFX KTM powered by PAR Homes), Ike Carter (GL12 Husqvarna) and Kacey Hird (Team Green Kawasaki) are expected to be among the front runners.
On-the-gate admission is £20 for adults and £5 for under 15s with no charge for children aged five and under. Family tickets are available at a cost of £45.