After five rounds and 14 tough motos, the 2018 IMBA MX1 European Championship was set to produce one of the closest finishes for several years as the three riders at the top of the standings were separated by just 15 points! Those three riders were all representing AMCA Team Great Britain as Josh Waterman (IDS KTM) topped the table on 716 points from the FUS Marsh MX Husqvarna duo of Shane Carless and James Dodd who were on 707 and 701 points respectively. Completing the superb GB dominance there was also an AMCA rider in 4th as Gary Gibson (LDR TMC Kawasaki) waited to pounce should any of his GB teammates slip up!
Venue for Sunday’s final round was Beggingen in Switzerland, a very fast, wide circuit which offered riders a real chance to stretch the throttle wire to the limit and enjoy the full power of those booming 450F motors. However the sweeping, flowing nature of the venue also meant that it was very difficult to pass, thus leaving competitors frantically searching for the formula to generate that little bit of extra horsepower and grip to thus put one over their rivals!
So on a very overcast day which continually threatened to turn wet, a very nervous GB camp were ready for action and the battle for the title but first it was the mandatory timed qualifying to decide what would prove to be the vital start-gate pick! Also throwing a little bit of extra spice into Sunday’s proceedings, the line-up included two very fast wild-card riders who had enjoyed some GP action, Cyrill Scheiwiller of the home nation and Luca Bruggmann from Leichenstein. Indeed Scheiwiller quickly showed his class by posting the fastest lap with Bruggmann 3rd, Gibson 4th, Waterman 5th, Dodd 8th and Carless 9th.
At just after 1pm it was then time for the talking to stop and the all-important race action to start and thankfully all four Brits safely negotiated the short run to turn one and through the tricky chicane, the IMBA title battle was well and truly on! Controlling the contest all the way it was Bruggmann from Scheiwiller whilst IMBA leader Waterman had made a very strong start to moto one, holding 3rd and looking very composed. Early on Gibson was in 6th with Dodd 9th and Carless having to work hard down in 13th and desperate to catch his fellow Brits. Quickly the FUS lads got their Husqvarna’s to hook up and start moving up the leader board as Waterman was still looking very comfortable. However on lap 9, Josh then suffered a brief heart stopping moment, overshooting a banked turn and going off the track, in the process picking up tracking marking tape which duly wrapped itself around his rear brake disc! Thankfully that tape quickly untangled itself although whilst remounting and regaining forward momentum, Josh had lost a couple of places to German Lukas Platt and Gibson. In the closing stages Gibson was on a right charge and inserting heavy pressure on Platt but had to settle for 4th. At the flag, crucially Waterman was next rider home in 5th with fellow Brits Carless and Dodd in tow.
Moto two and Waterman made an absolute dream start to lead the pack before being pushed back to 3rd by Scheiwiller and Bruggmann who had initially gated in 8th. For several laps Waterman then had to repel some serious pressure from Gibson before earning himself some breathing space in the closing stages. In the final few circuits, Gibson then came under attack himself from Carless and Dodd who had enjoyed a serious FUS race long scrap. So after two fast moto’s, Waterman still led the title chase on 811 points with Carless 795 and Dodd 785 keeping their own Championship dreams very much alive!
So going into the last moto of the campaign, Waterman knew that providing he either finished ahead of or very closely behind his British teammates with them firmly in his sights, he would be picking up sufficient points to take home that coveted IMBA crown. Whilst Josh was careful to avoid any potential turn one carnage, Gibson made an absolute flyer and thus control proceedings from the front with Dodd in 2nd. Although the Brits were soon passed by home favourite Scheiwiller, Kawasaki ace Gibson quickly responded to retake the lead. Scheiwiller though was desperate to delight his home supporters and after dropping down to 4th then surged back for the win with Platt getting past Gibson for 2nd. With Dodd taking 5th and Carless 7th, Waterman rode a clever, composed and tactical race to get home in 8th, enough to earn the 2018 IMBA European MX1 Championship title. On crossing the finishing line, Josh was embraced by his delighted but emotional family.
Also waiting the congratulate the IDS KTM star was his title rival and friend James Dodd, a very sporting and genuine gesture. Obviously also rather emotional the new Champion Waterman said, “I qualified 5th which was good enough to get the right gate pick. In moto one I made a silly mistake when in 3rd, losing the front end in a corner but still managed to get home in 5th. After getting the holeshot in moto two despite then being passed I was happy to hook onto the front duo and get home in a strong 3rd. In the final race I just wanted to have a steady ride and I knew that 8th place was ok to win the title. It seemed that the last moto went on forever and it was also frustrating holding myself back, staying composed and not getting involved in any unnecessary battles. I knew that I had to remain sensible and that’s just what I did. I want to say a massive thank-you to all my sponsors for their help and of course also my family for their fantastic support.”
The final Championship table therefore made very pleasant reading for the AMCA. So it’s many congratulations to the title winner Josh Waterman with Shane Carless 2nd, James Dodd 3rd and Gary Gibson in 4th and making it a GB whitewash! Well done to all the team on a truly memorable season, you certainly made your Country, Federation, Families and Supporters very proud!
IMBA MX1 European Championship (Final round)
Moto one(top ten) 1 Luca Bruggmann(Leichenstein) 2 Cyrill Schelwiller(Switzerland) 3 Lukas Platt(Germany) 4 Gary Gibson(GB) 5 Josh Waterman(GB) 6 Shane Carless(GB) 7 James Dodd(GB) 8 Jeremy Joris(Belgium) 9 Pit Rickert(Germany) 10 Adrian Schelwiller(Switzerland).
Moto two 1 C Schelwiller 2 Bruggmann 3 Waterman 4 Gibson 5 Carless 6 Dodd 7 Platt 8 Rickert 9 Stefan Ruegger (Switzerland) 10 Tony Morand(Switzerland).
Moto three 1 C Schelwiller 2 Platt 3 Gibson 4 Bruggmann 5 Dodd 6 Rickert 7 Carless 8 Waterman 9 Joris 10 Levi Suter (Switzerland).
Overall 1 Scheiwiller 174 points 2 Bruggmann 161 3 Platt 145 4 Gibson 144 5 Waterman 134 6 Dodd 129 7 Carless 129 8 Rickert 119 9 Joris 107 10 A Schelwiller 97.
Final Championship points 1 Waterman 850 points 2 Carless 836 3 Dodd 830 4 Gibson 783 5 Nicolaj Damsgaard 598 6 Neils de Klein 550. Other British placing 14th Andrew Smart 340. Words and pics by Mike Wood