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Rockstar KTM returns to top five at Canada Heights

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On the opposite end of the country from Rockstar KTM’s home base lies Canada Heights, arguably one of the best motocross tracks in the south-east of the country. This year, the location did not disappoint either, with bright sunshine and balmy temperatures forcing the Sidcup club to water the track to manage dust levels.

The full complement of riders present, the Rockstar KTM team soon found itself knee-deep in qualifying sessions. Setting the pace in the MX2 class was Bryan Mackenzie, who finished the super-pole session in third, while team-mate Shane Carless ended twelfth. Rookie Mark Perfect found himself having to learn the track on the fly, ending the session in thirty-eighth. In the MX1 class, Pete Mitchell found himself struggling to put in a fast time, finishing in thirty-sixth, while in the MXY2 class, schoolboy riders Ben Howell and Jay Lamb finished their qualifying session in fifteenth and twenty-third respectively.

For Mackenzie, the first race got off to a blinding start. Third in the first lap, he found himself in the lead a lap later. By the halfway point, Mackenzie was under attack, and a small but costly mistake forced him back first to fourth, then sixth. The second race was a virtual mirror image of the first. Consistently in third for the majority of the race, Mackenzie found himself slipping back to fifth after a rock lodged in the rear sprocket. With the final MX2 race cut short by a red flag, it didn’t leave Mackenzie much time to improve on his position in fifth, ending the day in fifth overall.

Carless put in an excellent effort in his first race. Starting in eighth, he found himself in sixth soon after. Strong competition in the closing laps forced him back to where he started, to eighth. The second race started with a crash that left Carless in the back of the pack. Meteoric progress propelled him back into the top twenty halfway in, but progress was checked by time running out, leaving him in seventeenth at the end of the race. With the final race shorter than usual, Carless found himself in thirteenth at the red flag after another race through the pack, ending the day in tenth overall.

Although Perfect found himself crowded out on the start, he made quick progress in the early stages of his first race. Entering the top thirty halfway in, he held his own against Bradley Pocock and John Meara, ending the race in twenty-ninth. The second race again found Perfect putting in a solid effort against more seasoned class veterans, ending the race also in twenty-ninth. The final race ended on a slightly worse note, with Perfect unable to make much progress before the red flag and ending the final race outside the top thirty.

For Mitchell, the blistering pace set at the front of the MX1 class meant a lot of hard work. Getting off to a mid-pack start in his first race, he dropped back before picking up the pace again, ending the race one position down in twenty-fourth. The second race found Mitchell struggling to get into a rhythm, finally settling in several positions down and going across the finish line in twenty-eighth. The final race ended for Mitchell before it really started. Physical contact in the first corner broke several spokes, which in turn threatened to collapse the front wheel and left Mitchell to push the bike back to the paddock without a single lap completed.

The first MXY2 race was marred by several red flags, the final of which ended the race just over the halfway mark. For Ben Howell, this meant progress cut short after an excellent run in fourth; for Jay Lamb, a chance lost to return to the top twenty after a crash.

For Howell, the second race got off to a much better start. In third around the first corner, he took ruthless advantage of a rival’s mistake to move into second and then put pressure on the leader, James Harrison. Arm-pump proved to be Howell’s undoing though, forcing him to slow down and concede several hard-earned positions to end the race in seventh for a fifth overall on the day.

Lamb on the other hand found himself mid-pack, holding his own. Shortly after moving up to sixteenth, Lamb developed mechanical problems and was forced to return to the paddock with only a minute remaining on the clock, ending outside the points on the day.

Team principal Darren Wilson was very pleased with the day’s events, stating: “Today turned out absolutely fantastic for us. The team is starting to gel with the bike now, and everything seems to be coming good after our disappointing day at Fat Cat, where everything was new to everyone, the riders, the mechanics, and the bikes. So we’re more upbeat than we were at Fat Cat, and we’re looking forward to the Scottish championships next weekend.

“Bryan was the star of the team this weekend, he led the first race until about five laps to the end when he made a small mistake and got a little bit of arm-pump and his final race was going to be the best race of the day before it was cut short. Shane rode real good this weekend, he just needs some better starts and a wee bit of luck. He’s a top six man and we’ll get him into the top six soon enough. Young Mark is going through the baptism of fire, straight from the schoolboys into the MX2 class. It’s disheartening for him, but he just needs to keep at it and it’ll come good for him. Pete had a decent first race, but here we are right now looking at his bike and he’s broken four spokes, so that was the end of his day.

“We have big hopes for Ben Howell. He’s riding a standard bike with a pipe on, but we’re building him a full race engine next week for the second round. He’s going to be the one to watch in the MXY2 class. Young Jay had a bit of bad luck, he’s only fourteen and he’s stepped up into some unknown territory. He should still be riding an 85cc bike, but he’s just too big for it. So it’s new tracks for him again too, and him inside the top ten would be good.”

Bryan Mackenzie, #121: “Today was a massive improvement over the first round, which is what we’re after. The day started really well, the track was really good, I liked the changes they made and how they worked the soil this morning. I was third in qualifying, which is one of the better qualifying sessions I’ve ever had, which set me up for the day. First race I led the first half of the race, but I guess I’m not accustomed to being in the front, so halfway in I got a bit of arm pump and dropped back to sixth by the end. The second race was a little better with a little less arm pump; I was running in third for the majority of the race but then dropped back to fifth. In the last race I actually worked my way forward, which was nice. I was coming on strong, was looking at third at the end but the race was cut short and I was credited with fifth. By my maths, I am fifth overall, and I’m pleased with that.”

Shane Carless, #68: “Today in qualifying I managed to get into the super-pole. I was tenth going in, came out in twelfth after I made a mistake. In the first race I had a good start, pulled through to eighth, which was a good ride. In the second race I had a good start, but crashed in the third corner. I pulled through to thirteenth. In the last race of the day I managed to pull off a tenth, so it wasn’t a bad day considering last weekend.”

Mark Perfect, #125: “Today wasn’t too bad; it’s definitely an improvement on Fat Cat, a building block, I guess. Hopefully the speed will come and I’ll be able to hang in with the guys, so it can only get better. Some parts of the track felt real nice and it cut up real bad, but it was still good in the last race.”

Pete Mitchell, #911: “Today was terrible. It started off bad in qualifying, it’s just not been my last couple of weeks to be honest. It’s definitely not discouraged me, I’m fuelled up for it. I know what I need to do. I look forward to this next week, and get the motor in and move forward to the next round, and do the damage there, really. The track was alright, the weather’s been nice!”

Ben Howell, #5: “My day was average; to come out of Canada Heights with a top five I was happy with because it’s my worst track and I always struggle around there. I got a fourth and a seventh which I’m happy with; I should have had a second in the second race though. I just suffered from some bad arm pump, which caused me to drop back. I’ve been training really hard and I’m fit enough to go the distance, I think it was just nerves, being that this was the first round, and it just caused me to tighten up. To come away with a fifth overall is definitely a strong result and we have something to work from now.”

Jay Lamb, #511: “Well, today’s not been so good, I wasn’t used to the hard pack after riding sand for so long. I started pulling through in the last race, but then my bike had problems; we’ll get it fixed and regroup for the next time.”

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