The opening round of the 2023 Michelin MX Nationals, powered by Milwaukee, marked the 10th year of the prestigious series and was at the new Oakhanger venue near Bordon in Hampshire. The circuit culminated in months of discussion and negotiations with the landowners. It incorporated a mountain of paperwork, and that’s all before the track was designed and built. In addition, the original date had to be rescheduled after being dealt a delightful hand of typical British weather from mother nature.
When the gate finally dropped on round one, what a track it was! Reminiscent of the legendary circuits in Holland, Oakhanger was a welcomed addition to the series and British Motocross. Saturday featured great days of racing and two blocks for all classes. We even saw the sun poke through on occassion. But mother nature dealt her second blow on the venue. Continual overnight rain created very different riding conditions for the Sunday race schedule. Resulting in a delayed start and only one block of racing for all classes except the pro class.
Conrad Mewse, on his Crendon Fastrack Honda, was fastest in qualifying and dominated both Leatt Pro MX1 races with what looked like considerable ease for a maximum score. While in the Apico Pro MX2s, Verde Sports KTM’s Bailey Johnston scored his first national race win in race one. He continued his winning streak in race two to give him his first national overall.
Last year’s champion, Harri Kullas, got the holeshot at the start of the first combined Pro race from Conrad Mewse, Gavin Stevenson, Jamie Carpenter, Josh Gilbert and Martin Barr.
As the two leaders came around to complete the second lap, Mewse had passed Kullas out of view over the back of the course to take the lead. Mewse stretched out more and more of a lead as Kullas slowed as smoke poured out of the back of his Yamaha, a missing oil filler plug the culprit.
The smaller MX2 bikes struggled in the wet sand, and this became apparent when Johnston, the first of the MX2s, gated thirteenth. He held his own against the MX1s and finished in tenth place on the track, but he was the first MX2 rider home. Callum Mitchell started the race in nine nineteenth place and took full advantage of others crashing out to make his way forward to twelfth but second MX2. Jamie Wainwright was third MX2 home, with Jake Millward fourth.
The track became even more challenging throughout the day. Mewse got the holeshot from Kullas, Gilbert, Barr, John, Adamson, Carpenter, and Charlie Putnam in the second pro race. Apart from Adamson passing Barr at the halfway point, the running order of the top five stayed the same as they became spaced out till the checked flag. As Putnam slipped down to twelfth place, Grimshaw put on a charge and snatched sixth place from Carpenter.
Once again, Johnston got a strong start in the MX2 side of the race and was only beaten into the first turn by Sam Nunn, but that all changed on the opening lap, and Johnson was first back round. Charlie Cole took the MX2 lead from Johnston on lap three but promptly fell back to twentieth place. Johnston finished his race in ninth on the track but was the first MX2 rider home.
Mitchell was in eighth, with a lap to go but was passed by Stevenson and Johnston but was still the second MX2 rider. Millward didn’t get the start he wanted but went from twenty-first to eleventh place and third MX2.
Mewse took the Leatt Pro MX1 overall win from Kullas and Gilbert, while in the Apico Pro MX2s, Johnston had his first national overall win from Mitchell and Millward.
It was very close at the top of the RFX Expert MX1s, with a single point separating the winner Declan Whittle from James Dodd. Whittle had two wins and a fourth after crashing on the fourth lap of the second race, while Dodd didn’t finish out of the top three in his class and even won race two. Jayden Ashwell was third overall.
Ben Mustoe won all three of the RFX Expert MX2 side of the combined expert races and was the overall class winner, while Uldis Friebergs with two-second places and a fourth was second. Jimmy Margetson was third.
In the Motoverde Amateur MX1 class, Lewis Taylor won all three races as Luke Mellows chased him over the finish line every time. John Kirk took the last step on the podium, with Brad Thornhill just missing out.
In the relativity dry of Saturday, Luca Pegg notched up two class wins in the Motoverde Amateur MX2 side of the combined amateur MX1 and MX2 race. But, come Sunday’s wetter conditions, he made a bad start and, with another crash, could only get to eighteenth place by the end of the race. Luckily that was just enough to give him the class overall win by just one point from Alex Buchanan. Raife Broadley finished just a single point behind him, as three points separated the top three.
You don’t have to win a race to win an overall, as Tallon Aspden proved in the Worx Sports Insurance Clubman MX1s with his three-second place. Race two winner Ryan King was second overall, with race one winner Billy Saunders third.
Matt Tolley (426 Motorsports KTM) won the Spiral Clubman MX2s from Matthew Pocock and Aaron Framingham third.
Three big holeshots and three big race wins for Billy Askew in the combined Fly Racing Youth MXY2 and MXY125 class. Bayliss, Utting and Jak Taylor were separated by just three points for second and third overall.
It was three from three for Reece Jones in the 125cc side of the race, with Jake Walker second and Westley McGavin third.
There was no stopping Josh Vail in the Syntol Big Wheel 85s as he took all three race wins. Jamie Keith finished the weekend with two third places and second, placing him second overall, with Charlie Richmond third. Fancied winner Haydon Statt had a disaster of a first race where he finished out of the points, but a second and third meant he ended the day fourth overall.
Joel Winstanley-Dawson with two wins, and a second won the Syntol Small Wheel 85s from Marty Spires and Lucas Lee. Words by Dick Law