British MX2 champion Conrad Mewse salvaged a second-place finish after a terrible start in the main event of the penultimate round of the new-look UK Arenacross championship at the sold-out Genting Arena in Birmingham. The Crendon Fastrack Honda rider now trails the series leader Tommy Searle by just two points as the team heads to the final at Wembley in two weeks.
It was also a tough night for Mewse’s team-mate Josh Gilbert who was lucky to survive a spectacular crash in the final. He remounted and grittily raced to the end, salvaging a tenth place to further extend the squad’s lead in the Team Championship.
Mewse, who is riding in his first Arenacross series as an adult, admitted he never really felt comfortable on the technical circuit but still put in two solid rides to claim a pair of runner-up places behind Searle in his heats. Searle had jumped under yellow flag conditions in qualifying so was penalised and went to the first start gate with last pick. Mewse couldn’t quite capitalise on his own gate pick and tailed his title rival to the flag both times.
Then in the final, both riders got bunched up and were right into the back going into the first corner. But showing amazing speed and determination, Mewse picked his way past all the other riders in the field but had no answer when Searle outmanoeuvred him to take the lead and the race win.
Mewse said: “I didn’t feel the most confident and I was a bit tense from the start. I usually get better as the night goes on. But everyone is doing the same rhythm sections – and it’s all down to the start.
“In the final, Tommy rode a great race and I didn’t have anything for him. I tried to stick with him but he was riding well. It was another fantastic event though, the dirt was incredible and every round has been different which kept me on my toes. The track is very technical and a there’s a lot of judgment needed – it’s not just wide open. It’ so different to what we’re used to and every weekend, I’m getting more and more comfortable doing things, The jumps, the rhythms and the whoops are no joke here.
“So it was a great night of racing. Overall, I’ve had solid results every weekend – either first or second in every main event.”
Gilbert, riding full of confidence from the start of the day following his win at last week’s round in Aberdeen, was in the same heats as the two title rivals. He didn’t get a great start in the first but followed his team-mate over the line for third place. And he took a fourth place in the second heat to ensure of his place in the final.
He gunned the Crendon Fastrack Honda CRF450R to a great start, but then got bunched up in the first hairpin bend and ended the first lap in seventh before picking up a place second time round. Then disaster struck and he was thrown over the bars in one of the rhythm sections.
He was lucky to avoid injury or damage the bike severely, but eventually remounted and kept going to the finish to take tenth place.
Gilbert said: “I love the track and quickly got all the rhythm sections and triples dialled in practice. It was all about just trying to get out of the gate cleanly.
“Last week I had a rubbish start, then came through to take the win. This week I had a holeshot, made a mistake and went backwards and ended up upside down! I’m not hurt which is the main thing. So let’s rest and get ready to go again next round.”
His ride, along with Mewse’s runner-up, ensured the Crendon Fastrack Honda extended the lead in the Team Championship.
Team manager, triple world 500 champion Dave Thorpe said: “When Tommy Searle had his misdemeanour in qualifying, we should have been ready to capitalise on it, but our advantage disappeared the moment he managed to get an inside gate pick in the second heat. He must have thought Christmas had come early!
“Conrad did his best to stay with him but didn’t have the same intensity mid-race this time. But he’s only two points behind going into the final round and we all know anything can happen. Conrad has surprised a lot of people and beaten Tommy fair and square in Arenacross this year so it’s all to play for at Wembley.
“As for Josh, he was riding hard and we’re all just relieved he walked away from such a big crash. It’s so easy to get hurt doing such intense racing like this.”
The rider/ manager of the Tru7 Honda Racing Academy team, Jake Nicholls, fought through the pain barrier of a big spill in Aberdeen last week and was running fourth in his heat until he was bulldozed out of the way by another rider. Nicholls’s leg got stuck in the back of his rival’s bike but luckily was unhurt. He had to face the head-to-head rounds to make it to the main event and was in amazing form, winning all three of his races.
But in the final he went down in the second corner. He remounted but the injuries and extra races of the night took their toll yet he managed to make it to the finish eighth.
He said: “I’m pretty sore after my crash last week but it was OK apart from the whoops where I really felt it. I lack strength and the whoops are tough. I came off in the second turn in the main and that was it. I got back on but was on my own and it was tough to focus as I was in so much pain.”