It’s the tail end of May, and the Maxxis British Motocross Championship headed inland to Northampton this weekend for Round 4 of this year’s fight. With fine weather across the UK in the run up to Sunday, the fixture promised to be the hottest ticket in Milton Malsor since the Scouts Annual Car Boot Sale. The Moto team descended on the venue like an asthmatic eagle, arriving by Van, car and even bicycle as Editor Ben had donned his cycle clips and pedalled to the venue (from Northampton Station that is, not London!). Here’s our fun and honest synopsis of what went on at Milton Park.
1. It Aint Half Hot Mum. Two weeks before the fixture, the whole of the track had been underwater and might have been more suitable for a jet –ski championship, but with traditional British unpredictability, the weather switched from monsoon in Manchester to Spanish sunshine almost overnight. In scenes that were more Freestone than Milton, we saw riders being hosed down in the pits, scantily clad promo girls without goose pimples and fans with dangerously bad sunburn. There was even cold Stella in the hospitality tent – Get in!
2. Tracking the Changes. With advance publicity about the improvements to the track, we had high expectations of the ACU’s own racing facility. And to be fair the dirt had been substantially improved with tonnes of woodchip and somewhat ironically, heavy watering! But you still felt that the designers had tried to squeeze too much into the relatively small space, making the racing a supercross style jump fest. Now don’t get us wrong, SX is fantastic and the track was challenging, but being cut into a completely flat field and with none of SX’s trademark grandstands or even basic banking, the audience viewing was difficult. Stood on the side of the track it was almost impossible to follow the course of the race – you just saw dozens of riders bouncing up and down for twenty minutes at a time.
3. The Stakes are High. As mentioned, this is a track that the ACU own, so you would think it would be the best run, which it was and a well thought out on the circuit, which is debatable. OK so the parking was ample and well organised, the pits well laid out and exciting and the PA hit all parts of the circuit (This is what motocross is about!) So in those respect – gold stars all round, then you looked at the track which was lined every 10ft by stupidly dangerous white posts. Not just little ones though, full 5 inch diameter four foot high fence posts, ready to inflict pain and anguish on any rider who misjudged a corner or heaven forbid a landing. A few hundred bendy plastic posts which are used in the USA would have been perfect – NO TO WHITE POSTS.
4. In a Rut. The result of the improved surface and frequent watering and baking sun through the day make the surface of the track extremely variable. One corner it was rock hard and polishing to blue groove, the next it was powder dry soft deep berms, and then enormous 3ft deep bike swallowing ruts that would allow the fast guys to drag their bars in the corners.
5. Bitter Sweet Symphony. In a day that bought a fantastic return to form for their top guy, the news was confirmed that 2013 will be the last for the amazingly prolific PAR Honda team – full story on the Moto website. But aside from this, Kristian Whatley had a great day in the Northampton sunshine, going 6 / 5 / 3 for an overall 5th and a much needed boost to both championship points and confidence. The last race was a classic as KW227 worked his way a steadily through the field, picking off his colleagues expertly before stalking wildcard rider number 9 on the Fro Yamaha to snatch a third place3 finish.
6. Life in the Old Dog Yet. OK for those that have been living under a rock, the No 9 bike was none other than veteran British Championship Contender / British Champion / GP legend and beater of Stefan Everts/ Oh so nearly World Champion and all round good guy Josh Coppins. Josh had flown in for a bit a light relief from the Australian Championship and gone straight in to racing here! And it was a pleasure to watch his controlled and effortless style as he blasted the track with the speed of a rider half his age. He clocked 5 / 4 / 4 finishes for an overall third on the podium. When riders at the top of their game are struggling to get on the box, it showed that Coppins was and still is a different class. Actual Legend.
7. Tough at the Top. Up to this weekend, the MX1 championship was being firmly dominated by the HM Plant KTM of Kevin Strijbos. The Belgian has been devastating for the first part of the year and it looked very much that he was going to walk the title. But the trouble with being at the top is that there is only one way to go, and May 27 saw the wheels fall off the KS22 train. Strijbos was off colour all weekend, struggling hard for his 9 / 3 finishes before being ‘not classified’ in the final race. The bobble lost him the red plate and handed the top slot to a certain Latvian. In MX2, Pocock was also having an uncharacteristically disappointing day, clocking first an OK 3rd, then a shocking 19th and finally a 12th in the Super final. Like Strijbos, the drop in form lost Mel the red plate and handed the advantage to KTM. Steve Dixon was philosophical about the result, but its doubtful Mel felt the same about dropping 19 points from the top.
8. Banks Bonus. As predicted in our Preview, Elliott Banks Brown was due an overall victory, and the Red Bull rider did it in fine style, confidently winning both the first motos and smashing in as the first MX2 bike in the final race (although recording 6th place for his efforts). EBB now has hold of the Red plate and will not want it to move from the front of his Factory KTM for the rest of the season. In a typically understated way, Elliott made little of his achievement, despite having won half of the races he has entered in the 2012 championship. Elsewhere Neville Bradshaw continued his charge, landing on the second step of the podium to maintain his third championship, and Aubin recorded a brace of second places, bring his A game as requested!
9. Karro Clean up. Just like EBB, Matiss Karro was on a different level in Milton, scoring three straight and dominating wins. Nobody had anything for the Latvian Sideshow Bob as he drifted the 350 KTM round the tight circuit like it was made of silk. The Latvian army were loving it too, tooting horns and waving flags manically as the wins stacked up, and the championship lead was snatched away from Strijbos to adorn the 91 bike in Northern Ireland in a month. Mattis will hold on to the plate like a tramp to his last can of Tennants Super on a Saturday night – the second half of the championship just got very interesting.
10. Super Final – the jury is out. OK we were sceptical about the mixed race even before Sunday. The top twenty riders from MX1 and MX2 took to the line in their qualifying order, and had to race a final moto that was 50% longer than the other races on the day. Running a 30 minute plus 2 race at the end of the day was a tough challenge – to do it in the 80 degree heat was even harder. EBB was the fastest MX2 rider but came away with 15 points as riders scored points to where they crossed the line – Aubin retired from the race after a crash, but thanks to his 2 / 2 and the lower scoring of the MX2 bikes, managed to get third overall and onto the podium. If we were Bryan Mackenzie with a 7/5/8 (3rd MX2) we would have been spitting woodchips…Feedback from riders has been mixed some loved it and felt it help to open up the championship but some hated it and really didn’t see the point.
So there we are then. Milton Park produced one of the most dramatic rounds of the 2012 season and the cat is fully in amongst the pigeons. Two new championship leaders emerged and the fight for the title is on – see you at the Desert.
Words Julian Challis
Images by Ray Chuss