In an action packed three races, the fight for the Chamberlain trophy was played out in dramatic form today at the St Jean D’Angely circuit. The fortunes of all the teams bounced up and down more often than the forks on Tommy Searle’s 450 Kawasaki, and as ever, it wasn’t until the final MX1 / MX3 race that the crushingly inevitable result became evident.
Race one (MX1 & MX2) saw Australia’s Chad Reed lead from holeshot to chequers, with the second spot going to an astoundingly confident and quick Ken Roczen who had fought his way past Ryan Dungey to get second place. Tommy Searle’s first international outing on a 450 could hardly have gone better with a great forth place ahead of fellow MX1 rookie Tyla Rattray. For all Baggett’s dominance yesterday in qualifying, a poor start and lack lustre first race saw the USA floundering for points thanks to his uninspiring 17th place. Cairoli’s appalling luck at the Nations continued, with the Italian having to abandon his KTM at the top of the first hill after a hard crash snapped the handlebar mounts.
For Team GB however, things were much rosier, with Dean Wilson backing up Tommy with good ninth place, one ahead of home favourite Musquin, but the two Brit team scores were enough to put us in first place going into Moto 2, despite the heavy rain half way through the race. Suddenly a win became a distinct possibility and the legions of British fans started to dream.
Moto 2 saw the MX2 boys back out again, joined by the MX3 class. This one was a total crowd pleaser as Gautier Paulin yet again showed his MXoN prowess, whipping the home fans into a frenzy of chainsaws and air horns as he pressed his way to the front of the pack. Villopoto had to work hard to fight his way to an eventual third, having to get round Ken Roczen in the process. Ken was not giving it up easily, taking RV back once before be let him go. Neither of them could catch Jeffrey Herlings in second, the young KTM pilot putting in the ride of his life ahead of such a deep field. Metcalfe kept Australia’s hope alive with a seventh place despite Matt Moss DNS on the card. Musquin got 11th which was good but not outstanding.
As for Britain, the euphoria did not last long – Brad Anderson eventually scored a fourteenth place, falling back a little after a get off at the end of the start straight. Dean Wilson fell twice too, his wrist injury no doubt getting worse each time. In the space of one moto, Team GB had slipped from first to fifth. The US were having similar problems, with Baggett again buried in the pack, his final place not exactly helped by slipping off and getting his bike jammed under some plastic fencing. He only got free by forcing the Kawasaki and himself under the fence and restarting a bit further up the course.
The French fans could smell blood and victory.
The final moto sealed the deal for the title, and despite the hopes of the home fans it was not to be. Bobryshev got out in front to start with but Villopoto was not far away, nor was Dungey. Pourcel was storming at the front of the pack, but an early bail off on the whoops at the top of the circuit saw his challenge fail and with it the crowd could sense that the hope of a win had gone. Paulin kept himself towards the front end, but it was Searle who was on the charge, getting past Paulin, Reed, Bobryshev and Guaneri to get to his fourth place behind Rattray. This achievement was all the more astounding given that Tommy took a rock to the face on the first lap and rode the rest of the 30 minute moto with a possible broken nose and blood dripping down his face. Sadly for the British hopes, Andersons score was not looking good enough to make up on the teams ahead of us, and with Dean’s 27th place in race 2 in the bin, his fifteenth points went straight to the score card.
When Ryan Villopoto eventually rolled the finish line double with his fist in the air, you could sense that there was a huge sigh of relief from the US team that they had not lost the title, let alone lost it to the French on home soil. Musquin, Paulin and Pourcel got the runner up spot, but no matter how hard fought, it must have been a bitter pill when they were so close. In contrast, Chad Reed’s Australian team were over the moon – with Matt Moss failing to even start his second moto, a podium seemed a distant dream. As Chad Reed observed in the press conference ‘It’s a lot better than being back in the motor home!’
As for Great Britain, the team put in a good fight and Tommy Searle was simply exceptional, but we managed the ‘always the bridesmaid, never the bride’ status yet again, missing the podium by a slender two points. This is a habit it would be really good to break….
The 2011 Nations proved that it is event that is a huge amount about luck and virtually every team had a rollercoaster ride throughout the weekend. The unavoidable truth is however that the American’s always seem to have just slightly more luck than everybody else!