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Who will master Hawkstone?

It’s kind of hard to believe but historic Hawkstone Park hosts the Revo British Motocross this weekend the first time since before Covid stopped play. It was 2019 when the premier British series last went to the sandy circuit in Shropshire, the venue for so many historic GPs over the decades.

Back in July 2019 Shaun Simpson took a double win from Tommy Searle and Harri Kullas. Also in the results but not riding full-time any more were fourth placed Jake Nicholls, plus Jake Shipton, Jamie Law, Brad Anderson, Lewis Tombs and Nev Bradshaw. With Shaun Simpson badly banged up from his crash at the last round at Blaxhall, we’ll definitely have a new look to the front runners this year.

It’s all been about Harri Kullas, and those two Honda upstarts Conrad Mewse and his team-mate Josh Gilbert. Kullas had the red plate from the very first moto of the season in the mudfest at Oakhanger, and to be honest it was starting to look pretty ominous for his rivals. Kullas often starts the reason relatively slowly then just gets stronger. Of course, he knows that so he focused on hitting the start of the year as hard and possible and he did just that.

Only thing was the Honda duo were on the podium with him a every single round. And to be honest, Kullas has not been able to repeat that dominance at all since then. Of course he’s a fast starter and can ride any track well, we know that. But he’s had problems getting fully dialled in to the all-new 2023 Yamaha, which has not been helped by a shortage of parts to fit the bike. At the last round at Blaxhall he said the YZF is now sorted and he said his season kind-of started then.

Well, if that’s the truth then realistically he’s third best at the moment. He was third at Blaxhall with two distant thirds behind the Honda men. Then at the new Monster Mountain MX National he had two holeshots and was third both times again. Granted, he lost second to Conrad Mewse on the last lap when backmarkers got in the way, but that was after Mewse had come through the pack.

Kullas is good in the sand and although he had bike problems at the Hawktsone international at the start of the year, he will be fast. Fast enough to beat the Hondas? He’s been beaten by both Honda riders at the last three championship events – Monster Mountain, Blaxhall and and Foxhill. And also in the last moto at Lyng in the round before that. So being beaten by both Honda riders in the last six championship motos in a row has got to hurt. Can he come through this? Yes, of course he can. He’s a professional and very, very fast.  

Despite all that, Kullas is still second in the series, just seven points behind Mewse who finally wrenched the red plate from him at the last Revo round at Blaxhall. And to be honest, 

Mewse was in incredible form at Blaxhall, which was round four of the series.

Mewse did the clean sweep by setting the fastest time in qualifying, winning both motos, setting the fastest lap and taking the red plate as championship leader. Mewse was chased home both times by Honda team-mate Gilbert who took second overall and they had a few close battles during the day. Sometimes maybe a bit too close for team mates, but that makes great racing. It was role reversal from the previous round at Foxhill where Gilbert clearly had the upper hand over his team-mate.

Until that point,  23-year-old Mewse was still without a race win in the premier UK series. And he admitted he hadn’t been in top form at the last round at Foxhill. So he went testing abroad, and arrived at the track with new motivation and confidence. And he was simply brilliant.

Move forward to Monster Mountain for the MX Nationals and Mewse dominated the first moto from Gilbert, then had a bad start and fought through to second behind Gilbert in race two. You might think that shows Mewse had the upper hand in pace, but in that second moto the pair were virtually identical on lap times. Yes, you could say Mewse was in traffic, or you could say Gilbert was on his own at the front and managing his lead. Either way, both Honda riders have awesome pace at the moment. And with Gilbert still only third in the series, 11 points behind Mewse, it’s a good chance for him to make up as much ground as he can.

The two have spent the past two weeks doing all they can to get ready. Mewse spent seven days testing in the sand of Holland and Belgium and went to a Scottish championship in the sand of Doune. Gilbert who we all know is just so fast on hard pack, spent 12 days on the continent pounding out the laps on sand tracks. They are both fully prepared and it’s going to be a crucial weekend for both of them.

Of course, that might seem we’re writing off their rivals. And at Hawkstone they will have renewed competition from GasGas rider Ivo Monticelli. The Italian was rapid at the Oakhanger opener and pushed Kullas. But he crashed and broke his arm at the start of race two.  But now he’s back, maybe a bit ring rusty though. He was quick in his return at Monster Mountain but not close enough to bother the podium men. Bow he’s had another week to get back to speed and has had a good time riding in Scotland with his team-mate John Adamson. And speaking of Adamson, last year at Hawkstone in the MX Nationals he crashed big time while trying a mega double. Jon is fast and fearless. He can get good starts and can go very fast, no question. It’s about time we saw him pushing for wins again, and Hawkstone is a good track for him.

Hawkstone will also mark a return from Tommy Searle. He crashed a few days before the last round at Blaxhall and hurt the ribs he damaged at the start of the year. So he sat that round out. Now he’s back at Hawkstone and we all know how good he can be round there if he’s 100% fit. Or even if he isn’t as he has such incredible talent on a bike.

Tommy was signed up as a wildcard to ride the World Supercross opener in Birmingham alongside his team-mate Dylan Walsh, until of course they both got injured. This week the team decided Tommy now won’t do the supercross but progress with the outdoors. And with the Birmingham opener being on the night before the British round at Schoolhouse, it looks  like a sensible decision.  

As for Walsh, here’s a little scoop for you. After breaking a leg in AMA supercross, he’s back on a bike but won’t ride Hawkstone as he’s not 100% fit. He’s actually in New Zealand at the moment. But when he returns, he’ll be on a KX450 in MX1. They’re a bit easier to ride fast, and it means Mel Pocock can stay on the MX2 bike for the team. And of course Billy Askew who is doing great things in the youth MXY2 class. Next year he’ll be moving up to MX2 and doing some European races too.

So going back to MX1, Evgeny Bobryshev is getting faster and more comfortable all the time, and climbing the championship ladder. We all know how quick he is, and he’s just getting back into the groove after his enforced ban from racing due to sanctions against Russian athletes. And also getting faster every week and moving up the championship table is South African Tristan Purdon on the Gabriel KTM.

Sadly, the even will be without Martin Barr who, like Simpson, crashed in practice at Blaxhall. While Simpson spent four days in hospital, Barr actually raced at Blaxhall and finished sixth. Then he went to hospital where the extent of his injuries were uncovered. He’s not raced since but is now back on a bike. He’s not fit enough to race this weekend but will be back soon.

And also a non starter is Jay Hague who has not had a great season on the Kawasaki. He crashed at the Scottish championship last weekend and was smashed into the ground by his bike. He broke his femur, has undergone surgery and is doing as well as can be expected.

With the top three men holding a commanding lead in the series, the battle for fourth place is actually red hot.  Currently fourth by a single point is Ashton Dickinson. Coming back from injuries, he is showing great determination and has gone GP racing in recent weeks to get back up to speed. His slim one point lead is from another tough northerner, Brad Todd.

In those momentous, crash-riddled opening practice laps at Blaxhall, Todd was the first to go down hard. Like Barr, he also battled through the day despite feeling battered. And afterwards he got checked out at hospital and had a list of injuries. He’s back for Hawkstone and with ten points covering six riders for fourth place, he’ll be going hard as he can. And with up-and-coming riders like Liam Knight, Tom Grimshaw and James Carpenter right behind them, there will be battles right through the points.

In the MX2 class, leading the pack is GP rider Isak Gifting who again took a double win at Blaxhall. It’s plain to see how talented and quick he is. But behind him is British teenager Bobby Bruce who gets incredible starts and has immense speed. He’s 41 points adrift, but has had some decent GP rides last week and is targeting a first win.

He’s just a couple of points ahead of former MX2 champ Elliott Banks-Browne, now a part time racer but one who is just so fast. Like at Foxhill when he took his first win in the series for a decade. There’s also Taylor Hammal and Charlie Cole, now a GP rider for the Dixon Kawasaki team. It’s going to be an awesome weekend of racing, and the main classes are also joined by youths on 65s, 85s and 125 and 250F in MXY2. With no live streaming, you’ve got to be there! And check out MotoHead magazine, website and social media for updates, of course.