As it crosses the Irish Sea for the only double-header of the series at The SSE Arena, Belfast on Friday the 26th and Saturday the 27th of January, the captivating 2018 Power Maxed Arenacross Tour reaches its halfway point.
It couldn’t be closer in the Pro championship, with just seven points separating the top six riders and the leading protagonists, namely Cedric Soubeyras (FRO Systems; Suzuki) and Charles Lefrancois (Buildbase Honda) tying on points, with 52 points apiece. Of the top 10; the leading five riders hail from France but there is a hard-charging Portuguese rider, in the form of Shocktech Kawasaki’s Hugo Basaula, snapping at their rear wheels.
British hopeful Jack Brunell(Team Green Holeshot Kawasaki) is next up. In seventh overall, he is 19 points adrift of the championship leader but, with 23 Pro points up for grabs at each round and four still to go, the gutsy Londoner can’t be discounted. He has controversial Aussie SX hotshot Dan Reardon (JK I-Fly Yamaha) just behind him with a tally of 27 points, who is on an equal footing with the former ‘bad-boy’ of AX Welshman Ash Greedy (Team FRO Systems). Rounding out the top ten is Russian MXGP star Evgeny Bobyrshev (RFX Suzuki) who, it has to be said, has struggled with the technically-challenging and tight AX tracks. However, as would be expected from a rider of his stature, he has dug deep and put his all into getting to grips with the AX format; in 10th overall, he is only 26 points shy of the leader.
Over in the Pro Lites group, and looking forward to his home round, is Jason Meara. A tiler by day and racer by night, he had something of a baptism of fire last year when he rocked up to the opening round of AX at Manchester. He simply signed on and rode his bike with no crew, and no-one to mentor him. His settings weren’t the best but there was no doubting his commitment; “it was a bit sketchy, but I still finished fourth, so it can’t have been that bad …” Fast forward to 2018 and Meara is part of the professional JK I-Fly Yamaha team steered by former Top-40 motocrosser Dickie Dye. He has the on-form Joe Clayton ahead of him in the championship stakes on 118 points but is a mere 14 points behind with four rounds to go. The 21-year-old from Loughbrickland reckons he’ll rule the roost at his home round and said; “I’m heading to AX at Belfast this year with one focus, and that’s to win the Pro Lites class. With JK I-Fly Yamaha Team behind me, a new bike that I absolutely love, Aussie Supercross ace Dan Reardon as a team-mate, and my friends and family cheering me on, things are looking good.”
In the youth ranks, the home-round interest will be boosted by the inclusion of a couple of new-to-AX local lads, who will line up for the two Belfast rounds. Meara’s nine-year-old brother Jack has a wildcard ride in the youngest category, the Youth 65cc whilst, over in the Supermini class, 14-year-old Jack Belton will take to the AX circuit in honour of his uncle Jeff Wright, his racing mentor and a former motocross racer. His uncle has been diagnosed with a progressive form of the Motor Neurone condition and Jack wanted; “to do something big to say thanks to my uncle Jeff.” That big thing is Arenacross.
Tickets for the fourth and fifth round of the 2018 Power Maxed Arenacross Tour are available from www.ssearenabelfast.com. For those unable to make it to the event, the evening’s programme will be available to view via a live feed from the website www.arenacrossuk.com