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What the top men said after Culham

Hitachi ASA KTM

The Hitachi ASA KTM UK team could not have asked for a more exciting start to their British campaign as the weather delayed series finally fired into action at Culham on Easter Sunday. With three rounds of the MXGP World Championship under the team’s belts, it was time for Graeme Irwin to defend his MX1 title on the KTM 450 SX-F and for Conrad Mewse to demonstrate his talent to the MX2 British championship regulars for his first domestic series in many seasons. Michael Ellis also made his first appearance for the team on the #10 KTM 250 SX-F in MX2.
With persistent rainfall looking like it could condemn the revised Culham Motopark season opener to the same damp fate as Lyng three weeks previous, the Maxxis ACU British Motocross Championship organisers prioritised Sunday’s planned events; much to the relief of the eager riders and the vast, dedicated crowd that turned out to support them.
Come race day, the weather held back and the technical sandy track overlooking the River Thames began to dry out. However, this meant the competitors were faced with a different and more challenging surface each time they took to the starting gates, resulting in some close and at times unpredictable racing.
Irwin started the day off by narrowly beating Elliot Banks-Browne to the pole position; by a little over a tenth of a second! Jake Nicholls placed third, just half a second behind the leader.
Race 1
The close-matched pace from qualifying was carried into the first 450 class moto. Kristian Watley took an early lead and with Brad Anderson close behind, they pulled a small gap from the rest of the pack early on. Graeme had to work his way up to the leaders after losing places during the race start, and by lap four the Northern Irishman managed to bridge the gap and put in a pass on Anderson to take the lead. Jake Nicholls battled hard behind, staying hot on the #1 bikes tail, pushing Graeme all the way to the chequered flag after 25 minutes +2 laps.
Race 2
Elliot Banks-Browne took to the front early on whilst Irwin and his KTM 450 SX-F battled fiercely with the pack behind. Passing each other a number of times, Irwin and Russia’s Evgeny Bobryshev pushed each other through the pack to catch the leader, Banks-Browne in the closing stages of the race. Using a completely different line, Bobryshev managed to put in a pass to take the lead on the penultimate lap. The #1 red plate of Irwin took the chequered flag in third, giving him the overall win of the day with a 1-3.
Graeme Irwin #1 said: “The goal for today was to go home with the red plate and we achieved it, but it wasn’t the easiest of days. The first race I didn’t have the best of starts, stayed steady and got into the lead through a little gap. There was a lack of blue flags, and I knew Jake (Nicholls) was right there, so I just trying to manage that. At the end it did come close, so fair play to him.”
“The second one I struggled to find a flow to be honest. Bobby (Evgeny Bobryshev) come by me, I sat behind him for a lap and I could see a couple of spots and managed to get a pass back, but straight away he was back; down on that bottom bit he had a really good line, it was a lot quicker and he just passed me as I was stopped. I got onto the back and felt I could feel I could match his speed. We got caught up with Monticelli – which slowed our pace down a bit – Bobby got by and I didn’t, so that’s my fault. I got close to Elliot by the end there, but not quite enough. Fair play to Bobby and Jake, they both rode great today.”
Following a strong start on the World stage, #426 Conrad Mewse carried that momentum into his debut in Britain with his new team. The tone was set during the morning’s qualifying session, with just 5 seconds separating the top ten, Mewse still managed to pull a 2.5 second advantage over second place Joshua Gilbert.
Race 1
Confident with the set-up on his KTM 250 SX-F, Mewse selected one gate in from the left for the first moto. Known for his strong starts, he did not disappoint, charging into the first left hander amongst the top riders. It didn’t take long for the young Brit to pick out the best lines and make his way past Gilbert and race leader Pocock.
With clear track ahead, the #426 controlled the pace and continued to top the timing screens before crossing the finish line with almost 30 seconds of clear track behind him!
Race 2
The second moto was much more challenging for Conrad after being pushed back to mid pack on the way into turn one. Head down and riding hard, the 18-year-old spent the first four laps experimenting with the lines as he battled back through the pack. It was only a matter of time before the Shepton mallet rider would take the lead and once then it was another fine display of consistent pace, pulling a gap on Gilbert and Knight; again taking the win by 30 seconds!
Conrad Mewse #426 said: “We’ve started the season off great, even in the world championship where we are lying in fifth at the moment. So, I came into here with my head held high, I was really happy with where I was at; my riding has s been really good lately and I felt really good on the track all weekend. My bike was working perfectly, my team have done a great job.
“Overall it was a perfect weekend for me. We won every session we went out on the track on, but you know these boys kept me on my toes today, and that’s what I need. It’s been a solid day and hopefully I can keep this momentum and take it into the next GP in Italy.”
Hitachi ASA KTM UK team manager, Lee Tolan, said: “What a start to the season! We couldn’t ask for anything more. There’s still a long season left to go, and anything can happen, but there’s nothing like two overalls to make you feel like things are definitely going in the right directions. Full credit to Graeme and Conrad. Michael Ellis showed good speed but was unlucky with a DNF but definitely has got potential.”
The team returns to action in Italy on April 8 for the MXGP of Trentino.
Irwin, Banks-Browne, Nicholls and Bobryshev blast off at Culham.
Irwin, Banks-Browne, Nicholls and Bobryshev blast off at Culham.

Buildbase Honda

Buildbase Honda’s Jake Nicholls got his 2018 Maxxis ACU British Motocross Championship campaign off to a storming start with a fighting third overall in MX1 at a rough and rutted Culham Moto Park on Sunday.

In MX2 new Kiwi signing Josiah Natzke showed incredible fortitude to bounce back from his huge crash at the European 250cc opener in Spain last weekend to run near the front in both motos and end the day a solid seventh.

And there was further positive news for team boss Dave Thorpe with Josh Gilbert – who races for his satellite Honda Adventure Centre team – taking a pair of runner-up finishes in MX2 for a career-best second overall.

Starting the day with third in qualification, just half-a-second off pole, Jake gated inside the top 10 in the opening 25-minute plus two lap moto and then strung together a series of passes to carve his way up to second despite an ongoing mechanical problem.

In race two a small mistake while pushing for second place which would have given him the overall victory dropped him down the order but he fought back for fourth at the flag.

“It’s been a pretty good day all round but a tough one,” said Jake. “We had a problem with the clutch in the first race – a rock got jammed underneath the arm so it was slipping after 10 minutes because it was under pressure without me even using it and it burned out.

“To be honest I was riding around just to get a finish because I was thinking the bike was going to break and then I ended up catching the two riders in front which was a surprise as I was just nursing it home.

“Race two was going all right and then I made a bad choice of lines, got cross-rutted and tipped over which I think cost me the win. My fitness is good and I think because I like my bike and I’m enjoying riding it I’m not using half the energy. I’m much more relaxed. I know I can win this!”

Josiah was still feeling the effects of a huge crash seven days earlier and after starting his opening race near the front suffered arm-pump which caused him to slip down the order to 10th. The 19-year-old then holeshot moto two and led for three laps before, clearly in considerable discomfort, fading back to fifth.

“In the first moto I got bad arm-pump and that really messed me up – I got a good start so that was disappointing – but in the second moto I holeshot,” he said. “My back was very uncomfortable but I did what I could to score as many points as possible.

“It’s a long season so I just did what I could with what I had. I haven’t ridden all week and I’ve been pretty stiff – it sort of settled down but now that I’ve pushed it a bit I’m quite sore.”

Josh led the first race and then settled into a solid second which he held to the flag and the 20-year-old proved this was no fluke with another runner-up finish second time out.

“That’s a career-best by miles,” said Josh. “I’ve had a good off-season and I’m feeling strong but to come out and have two seconds has surprised me. I need to keep this consistency going for the rest of the season.”

Dave, a three-time world 500cc champion, was delighted with the way all three riders performed.

“It’s been a really good day for Jake,” he said. “He’ll be disappointed that he didn’t win but that’s racing and a small mistake in the second moto cost him dearly. I’m also really pleased for Josiah – after last week for him to come back and go 10-5 was brilliant – and Josh was just amazing today.”

Geartec Husqvarna

A short-handed Geartec Husqvarna team headed home from the first round of the Maxxis British Motocross Championship’s at Culham safe in the knowledge that they have the speed to compete for the MX1 title but some good luck along the way wouldn’t go amiss.

Second place in Qualifying for Elliott Banks-Browne meant a good gate pick for the main races, but team mate Luke Norris went no further than this session. Norris had been feeling unwell all week, and had his energy sapped in a few laps so it was felt best by the team to pull him from the races to save his energy for next week’s MX Nationals and the remainder of the British Championships.

Banks-Browne went into race one as the lone rider for the Geartec Husqvarna team but after the sighting lap his machine began to splutter. With time running out the decision was made to go for the race, where a good start was made and within three laps he made his way from 7th up to 4th, but the bike was slowing and more misfortune was to come when his back brake gave way.  Still soldiering on for valid championship points, with no brake and a slowing machine, the bike eventually gave up the ghost with 20 seconds left on the countdown clock.  Being a lap down on his main rivals Elliott still managed to salvage 3 valuable championship points in 18th position.

On a new machine for Race 2, Elliott powered from the traps to gain the holeshot and pull clear at the head of the field.  With 5 minutes to go and a 9 second lead over second, bad luck struck again when the hydraulics on the clutch were lost and Elliott’s lead was soon eaten up by eventual race winner Evgeny Bobryshev leaving Banks-Browne to nurse his bike home for a 2nd place finish and 7thoverall.

Paul Mason – Team Manager
“It was a bad day and a good day for us. It was one of those where we had an issue with one of the engines in the first race, so we sent Elliott out on the spare bike for race 2.  He could of won race 2 if the clutch hadn’t of played up, but we had lots of speed and we showed out colours, so as much as we are disappointed we know we have what it takes to be at the front of the field.”

Elliott Banks-Browne
“It was a shame how the day panned out with the engine problem in the first race.  It was no fault of the team it was just one of those things.  I got the holeshot in moto 2 and I felt I was riding well and keeping a good pace riding within myself.  Then I lost the hydraulics in the clutch and I just had to take care of the bike and finish, so a second was good considering.  It was a disappointing day on the one hand, but all in all we had the speed, I have the fitness, so we know we should be up there for the next one.

Apico Husqvarna

Easter Sunday saw the Maxxis ACU British Motocross Championship supported by Pro Clean get underway after the cancellation of the opening round at Lyng. After a week of bad weather there were doubts about Culham but with the track sealed and in good condition the season started for the Apico Husqvarna team at the hillside track next to the River Thames. With no rain expected during the day the track was able to dry out and improve.

The morning started with the MX1 qualifying session and both Matt Burrows and Stuart Edmonds struggled to get a clear lap on the track and would finish the session down in 20th and 22nd places respectively.

Following the lunch break it was time for the opening race of the season and when the gate dropped both Stuart and Matt made good starts from their positions and Stuart ended the opening lap inside the top 10 and Matt a few places behind. Unfortunately a heavy crash on the third lap would see Matt pull out of the race and rest for the second moto. For Stuart the race was going well and he was in 9th for the opening laps until a string of crashes on the third lap dropped him down the order and he battled to get back to 22nd and just miss out on the points.

After the disappointment of the opening race both riders were looking for better results in the second race. Stuart once again made a strong start and was just outside the top 10 early on and worked hard all race to secure 11th place and 15thoverall on the day. For Matt it was a tough race recovering from outside the top 20 on the first lap to get into the points and take 18th place and 24th overall on the day.

Stuart Edmonds – 15th Overall – today has been an emotional day, coming into today I hadn’t done many races on the bike and in the first moto I spent more time on the ground than racing my bike. I came into the races a bit too aggressive today and was chasing the set up as well. We get the set up better for the second race and I felt more comfortable and finished 11th and I know that I can get into the top 10 and be mixing up there, so I have a few things to work on before the next round and I want to say a big thanks for Apico Factory Racing and all my personal sponsors for helping me out. 

Matt Burrows – 24th Overall – today was a tough day and hasn’t ended how I wanted it too. I felt good in qualifying but struggled to get a clear run and then in the first race I had a heavy crash early on and that meant I was very sore for the second race and it was just a survival race to get some points. 

Sean Burrows – Team Manager – Today hasn’t been the greatest day for either Matt or Stuart. In the first race they both had a crashes and bad luck. Then in the second race Stuart rode solid for 11th and showed that he can easily be inside the top 10 and Matt recovered from the crash in race one to get some points. Now we look forward to getting to the second round and progressing. 

Revo Husqvarna

After the highs of Spain last weekend, REVO Husqvarna UK faced a big test of character at Culham Moto Park in Oxfordshire on Sunday for the first round of the Maxxis ACU British Motocross Championship.

Mel Pocock showed he was on the pace with third in qualification and 18-year-old Dylan Woodcock posted sixth fastest time but on just his second fast lap Martin Barr went over the handlebars on his FC 250 and injured his leg and thumb.

In the opening race Mel came back from a fall to take third, super-tough Martin gritted it out to salvage valuable points in seventh and Dylan claimed the final point up for grabs with 20th.

When the gate dropped on race two Mel didn’t get the best drive but it was worse for Martin who went down in the second turn and after being taken down again on the opening lap he withdrew.

Mel made a string of passes for fourth to secure third overall in MX2 but Dylan was forced to pull out after a handful of laps with a technical problem.

 Mark Yates (Team Principal)

“Coming off the back of two excellent EMX250 race wins in Spain we were on a bit of a high but we all appreciate that every weekend can’t be like that and Martin getting injured in qualifying is a blow.

“We were debating whether he should have gone out in the first race but he wanted to try and toughed it out for a brave seventh but two crashes in the second moto were too much even for him.

“We’ll have to see what the doctor says but the main thing is he’s ready for the second Euro round in Portugal so he may need to take next weekend off.

“Mel’s still riding a bit tense even after the confidence booster in Spain and after third in the first race he struggled a little in the second but he managed to maintain fourth for third overall.

“Dylan’s struggled today and unfortunately in the second race he had a throttle position sensor issue which caused his bike to cut out but I was very pleased with his speed in qualifying so he’s moving in the right direction.

“We’ve certainly suffered mixed fortunes this weekend but the team has worked faultlessly.”

Mel Pocock – 3rd (3-4)

“The first round of the British championship is always the most hectic. I know there was a lot of stick about the track but I’m really glad they ran it – it was super-technical and so good for racing.

“The first race I had a good start but unfortunately slipped off and dropped back to about sixth but pushed back to third which was a solid, strong ride in the deep ruts.

“In the second I didn’t have an amazing start and rode tense if I’m honest. I didn’t ride to the best of my ability for about 10 to 15 minutes and only really loosened up in the last part of the race but I’ll take third overall.”

Martin Barr – 12th (7-DNF)

“In quali I got one lap in and then hit a big, soft hole flat-out – it was like hitting a brick wall – which stopped me dead and I went over the bars. I caught my leg on the way over and bent my thumb.

“I wasn’t sure whether I was going to go out for the first race or not but you have to dig deep and give it a go and I rode a steady race to bring it home in seventh.

“I got a pretty bad start in race two and went down in the second corner. I was coming back through the pack when a guy cross-rutted and just completely t-boned me.

“It’s been a disaster of a day but it’s a long season so I’ll go home, get healed up and live to fight another day.”

 Dylan Woodcock – 25th (20-DNF)

“It’s been a tough day but I can’t be disheartened with sixth in qualifying. That’s brilliant for me and I didn’t feel like I was really pushing – I was just hitting my marks and getting the power down.

“In the first race I got cut off on the start and had a bit of a nightmare and in race two I had an electrical problem on the sighting lap. We got it going again but throughout the race it was an issue but it was no-one’s fault.”

Rob Hooper Yamaha

The Easter Weekend was a busy affair for the Rob Hooper Racing Yamaha UK Motocross team, who took part in the Mike Browne Memorial on Good Friday before embarking on their 2018 Maxxis British Motocross Championships crusade on Easter Sunday.

With conditions heavy going on the Friday, and with Kristian Whatley’s practice machine still stuck in France team boss Rob Hooper took the decision to stand him down from the first meeting where Ryan Houghton was the lone RHR racer coming home with an excellent third in the Pro Class Huck Cup competition.

All roads then led to Oxfordshire and the fantastic Culham circuit for round one of the British Championships on Easter Sunday.  Team Boss Hooper wouldn’t be drawn into any predictions for the meeting saying “I am confident in our boys and Robbie and Ryan having been working very hard, but with Kristian we come into this meeting in the realm of the unknown with him having such an up and down winter and not having raced for nearly a year.  I know he feels uncertain himself, but one thing I am certain of is his talent so we shall have to see”.

There wasn’t a huge wait to see how Whatley would perform as a time the 8th fastest in qualifying showed he still had the speed to be towards the front end of the pack.  Whatley’s MX1 team mate Houghton qualified in 13th, which he wasn’t best pleased with but as we all know the races are where it counts.

The gate dropped on the opening MX1 race of the season and both Whatley and Houghton were both right there in the mix, but what shocked everyone was that by the end of the first lap Kristian had moved his way into the lead and looking smooth and in control while he was there.  The inevitable race rustiness caught up with him and he eventually dropped back to 5th, one position ahead of Ryan who had a comfortable and great race in 6th.

The RHR MX1 duo weren’t quite so sharp from the traps in Moto two but by the third lap they were filling 7th and 8th place where they remained for the duration of the race with Kristian in 7th and Ryan in 8th, giving them 5th and 6th overall respectively.

Hooper was understandably delighted with the start his MX1 riders made to the season saying “I am very pleased with the boys, they both showed good speed and stamina, and they have both set themselves up points wise for the rest of the season.  The great thing is we know there is a lot more to come from the both of them.  Kristian amazed me really, with such a chequered past 12 months to come away with 5th is remarkable, the lad is pure talent. This weekend has shown me how much potential Ryan has too, he rode so well on Good Friday for his third and he has such a positive and determined outlook, it really is refreshing”.

Whatley had plenty to smile about and said “I had a good day yesterday, qualifying didn’t go that well for me, I didn’t really like the set up I had, so we changed the settings in my forks, I came away with 8th which I was ok with but the track was not so good.  In the first race I managed to get a good start and I was third round the first turn. Within a quarter of a lap I jumped into the lead, and led it for three laps, and I was loving it. I was loving life to be fair and back to where I want to be. It was nice leading for that three laps but it I was trying to keep calm and not get hot headed as I knew I wasn’t going to win the race, so I concentrated on keeping my rhythm and I drifted back. I kept telling myself I am not going to win this, just ride your own race, and I ended up in 5th.   I should have been 4th but I made a mistake and Bobryshev got me with a lap to go, which I wasn’t too happy about, but 5th was good enough for me.  

The second race I made an OK jump but I got hit and pushed, but I made a few good turns on the first lap, but I had a few problems with the bike cutting out due to a water problem, which was a bit scary and dangerous over the jumps but amazingly I kept it going for the first three laps and it cleared, but that cost me a bit of time and those three laps are important, but I came through from I think 15th at the start to 7th. All in all I wanted two top sixes, but 5th overall is good result for my first round and a good start to my championship.”

Houghton came away from Culham wanting more saying “6th overall at round one is a start. I didn’t feel amazing all day long, but I’ll keep on working with my team and trainer and I’ll be up at the sharp end in no time”

In the MX2 class it was a tough day at the office for young Robbie Dowson who fell in his first lap of timed practice which cost him his best chance of a good lap, and with fate throwing every problem his way he ended up with the 39th gate pick.

A mid pack start in race one was good damage limitation and he set about improving his position and by lap 7 he was up to 17th spot and recording good lap times, but a fall proved costly and he fell way back to 27th.  A charge for the remainder of the race got him back up to 21st place, just one spot outside of the championship points.   Another start in the thick of the pack in race 2 followed by some quick passes saw him up to 18th from 24th after two laps but another mistake set him back to 25th and he gradually moved his way to 22nd by the end of the race.

Hooper was philosophical about Robbie’s day saying “It was just one of those days for Robbie when the harder you try the more goes wrong, but credit to the lad he never gave up and he had some really good lap times so we know his potential is there”.

Dowson admitted himself he was trying too hard commenting “It was a tough weekend for me. A disaster in qualifying left me with last gate pick, so I was having to come through the pack which wasn’t the easiest. I made too many mistakes trying too hard to come through the field. There are a lot of positives to take away, but also a lot that can be learnt so that I can be better for the following rounds”

The team head to the opening rounds of the MX Nationals where all three Team members race together in the Fastest 40.

RFX Crescent Yamaha

This weekend saw the RFX Crescent Yamaha team take on round one of the British Championship. Due to poor weather conditions, the younger class had to be cancelled, meaning Joel Rizzi, Bobby Bruce and Ben Clark didn’t get the chance to ride. This was also the first official race of the 2018 Motocross season so the team were keen to get on track!

Jake Shipton put in a heroic effort, but due to a back injury earlier in the week was forced to pull out. Nathan Dixon started the season well, qualifying 11th and finishing 12th in race one with the 6th fastest lap time. Unfortunately another rider went down in the opening lap of race two, which Nathan got caught up in and had to withdraw due to a head injury. Henry Williams had a tough first race in MX2, but managed to turn it around for race two with a solid ride.

After a mixed start to the season, the team are looking forward to the next race on the 8th April for round one of the MX Nationals.

SJP Moto Husqvarna

Following the cancellation to the opening round of the Maxxis ACU British Motocross Championship supported by Pro Clean, Easter Sunday marked the start of the season for the SJP Moto Husqvarna team. The hillside track at Culham had been heavily hit with bad weather during the week which cast much doubt over the event, but with the track surface sealed and a clear weather forecast for Sunday the event went ahead.

When qualifying sessions started the track was in good condition and it was Jordan Eccles who was out first in the MX2 class and was able to set a good lap time early on that would see him finish the session in 10th fastest. In the MX1 class Rob Davidson got out early and was able to set a fast time at the beginning of the session and slot into 4th fastest and would end the session in 9th fastest.

After the lunch break it was time for the opening MX2 race of the day and when the gate dropped Jordan made a good jump. Unfortunately he missed a gear going down the straight and got boxed in at the first corner and had to come back from 20th at the end of the opening lap to get to 13th at the mid race point before slipping back to 15th at the finish.

The second MX2 race saw Jordan make a better start and was inside the top 10 from the beginning of the moto. As the race went on he moved up to 8thplace but made a small mistake and come home in 10th place, which gave him 10th overall in the day and 4th overall in the MX2 British Expert Class.

The first of the MX1 races saw Rob make another customary good start that saw him inside the top 5 of the opening laps and pushing to break away with the leading group. Unfortunately as the race moved towards the middle stage Rob started to suffer badly with arm pump and would slip down to 13th place at the finish.

After the disappointment of the opening race, Rob was hoping for a better result and with another top 10 start things were looking good, but much like the opening race Rob started to suffer with arm pump again and pain in his wrist which forced him to pull out of the race with no points. The zero points in the second race dropped Rob to 18th overall on the day.

Jordan Eccles – MX2 – 10th Overall – Today has been a good day and a strong start to the season to get the ball rolling. My results today are a career best in the Maxxis and it’s good to start on a positive and keep moving into round two. 

Rob Davidson – MX1 – 18th Overall – Today has been a tough one for me and not the start that I wanted to make in the Maxxis Championship. My riding is good but I’m struggling with a lot of arm pump at the moment. My pace was good in qualifying so I know I have the speed but I just struggled to hold on in the races. I’m going to go and get it checked out this week and see what can be done and then get ready for the next event. 

Leighton Haigh – Team Manager – We came here today hoping for a solid start in both classes and to be inside the top 10 as there is a lot of depth in each class. It started well with Jordan 10th fastest and Rob 9th in MX1. In the races Jordan did well to recover from missing a gear on the start of the first race and finished 15th and then got 10th in the second race for 10th overall. For Rob it has been a tough day as he has suffered with a lot of arm pump in both races and was only able to get 13th in the first race. He is going to get it checked out this week and hopefully we can make a plan and come back stronger and where we should be soon. 

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