Buildbase Honda’s Tommy Searle secured the MX Nationals MX1 title with a pair of rock-solid rides at the final round of the series at a super-tough FatCat Motoparc on Sunday and in doing so becomes the only Pro British MX1 champion of 2020.
Competing in the MX2 class for the team, Steven Clarke lost out on a tie-break for third overall on the day but his scores were easily good enough to cement his second-placed position in the final championship standings.
Tommy started the day with fourth in qualification before recording a hard-fought third in the opening 25-minute plus two lap moto on his CRF450R after taking advantage of a last-corner stall by Jake Millward.
With the deep-sand circuit cutting up rough, Tommy took no chances in race two safe in the knowledge that a second-placed finish would give him the coveted crown by a commanding 38 points.
“It’s good for Honda after all the effort they’ve put in this year – it’s not been easy for anyone,” said Tommy. “It’s the only thing to win this year and I’ve won it so that’s all I could do.
“Obviously, I’d have liked to have won [the overall] today but Brent Van Doninck rode well and I didn’t ride too good in the first race. I had good pace in the second race but I didn’t get a very good start.
“It’s equivalent to the British title because every rider was in it apart from Shaun Simpson and he’s injured anyway. We had a strong championship this year and I’ve been consistent and haven’t finished out of the top-three in any of the races so I’m happy and I’m happy for the team and for my mechanic Willie.
“The MX Nationals have put on a brilliant series and everyone knows it’s the only championship in Britain this year and I’ve won it!”
Tommy’s MX1 team-mate Jake Nicholls was still suffering from a thumb injury sustained last time out at Cusses Gorse which has kept him off the bike but he pushed hard all day. Qualifying ninth, he followed Tommy across the line in the opening moto but struggled to sixth in race two as his lack of saddletime began to show.
“It’s been so gnarly today and I can’t really say that I’ve enjoyed it all that much to be honest,” said Jake. “The first race was rough and the second race was much, much rougher – there was no difference to the second race at Lierop. It was a bombsite!
“The thumb injury only really held me back when I started to tire 10 minutes into the second race. I had no rhythm and no flow because I’d only ridden the bike once in three weeks because of my thumb.
“In the first race I found my flow and felt all right but lost my rhythm towards the end and felt a little bit tired with three laps to go. In race two I was pretty quick at the start and was thinking ‘I can go here’ but that lasted three laps before my thumb started hurting – I had no flow and that was enough to cook me.”
Heading into FatCat holding down second in MX2 on his CRF250R, it was always going to be a huge ask for Steven to overtake series leader Josh Gilbert and although he reduced the deficit by eight points with his 4-6 finishes it wasn’t enough to take the title.
“I’m in one piece so I can’t complain but it was a difficult day,” said Steven. “I was one of the first 250s around the opening turn in the first race but I struggled with arm-pump almost immediately. It was okay – I managed to keep it on two wheels and pushed through the arm-pump to finish fourth.
“We made some suspension changes between races which worked well and in the second moto I got a good start and was right next to Josh Gilbert but I got taken out in the second or third turn so I had to come from dead last.
“The track was brutal but I managed to get up to sixth 250 which I was pretty happy with for fourth overall on the day and second in the championship. I’m happy with that – obviously, I’d have liked to have won it but Josh rode a solid season.”
Buildbase Honda boss Dave Thorpe praised the performance of everyone involved with the team after a very challenging season that was seriously disrupted by COVID-19.
“If you’d told me we’d get first in MX1 and second in MX2 at the start of the season I’d have been happy with that,” said Dave. “Tommy deserves to be champion and the team has been amazing. Willie, Rob and Ryan can’t be faulted – the bikes have been brilliant, they’ve never let us down – and Mark Eastwood has done a fantastic job with the suspension.
“We’ve worked hard and done our best and I’d just like to thank everyone who’s been involved with the team. It’s been a testing time but everybody has been magnificent.
“The conditions today were great considering the rain we’ve had. The MX Nationals and FatCat Motoparc teams have done a fantastic job with the track which was first class but tough for the riders. It was probably a track they didn’t want to see when they haven’t had regular racing so it was a hard day all round.
“Tommy and Jake dug deep in the first race. My own opinion is that they didn’t ride as well as they normally do and they both got a little bit lucky when Jake Millward stalled his bike on the last corner but we’ll take that.
“In the second race Tommy rode exceptionally well and Jake was right up there at the beginning but, as expected, his thumb started to play up in the second half of the race. You couldn’t fault their effort – today and all year.
“Steven was a little bit out of sorts in the first race but got lucky with Josh Gilbert breaking down. He had a chance in the second race but he got tapped in turn two and came around dead last but he rode his heart out and used every bit of energy he had left.
“The MX Nationals have proved it was possible to run a series, even without spectators. They’ve dug in, they’ve followed the rules and have done an amazing job.”