CAS Honda’s Billy Mackenzie concluded a tough French Grand Prix yesterday at Ernée with a fifth place finish in the second moto for round eight of the FIM World MX1 Championship.
In Saturday’s qualifying race, which was held in dry conditions, Billy got a good start to complete lap one in third position. The 25-year-old CAS Honda pilot maintained good speed throughout the 20-minute plus two-lap moto, but lost a few places in the final stages to earn himself sixth on the gate for yesterday’s Grand Prix races, while teammate Bryan Mackenzie finished in 18th position.
Following heavy overnight rainfall, and a huge downpour after morning warm-up, the track was wet and slippery ahead of Sunday’s Grand Prix. Billy, who is still suffering from a thumb injury which has prevented him from riding during the week recently, got a good start into fourth position and forced his way through to second behind Max Nagl. However a mistake on one of the tighter sections of the circuit cost the Scottish rider dearly, as he went down only to remount his CRF450R in 19th place at the end of lap one.
Teammate Bryan also got a good start to the race, when he was hit by another rider and remounted into 26th position. Bryan pitted to change goggles, as he was unable to see in the conditions, while Billy worked his way through to 15th place. Billy held this position until the final stages, when a last corner crash pushed him back to 18th position at the chequered flag with Bryan crossing the finish line in 21st place.
In race two Billy shot off the line into third position, before snatching second place behind eventual winner, Nagl. On lap four of the 35-minute plus two-lap moto Ken de Dycker made a pass, pushing Billy back to third position, although the leading trio had broken away from the chasing pack.
Billy benefited from De Dycker’s retirement on lap eight and held a strong second place until lap 12, when a charging Antonio Cairoli managed to find a way past the CAS Honda ace. In the closing stages a small mistake cost Billy some time, and the freight train of riders behind managed to catch the Scottish racer, who dropped back to fifth on lap 17. Billy tried to respond, and fended off a gaggle of racers behind him, setting his fastest lap of the race on the very final lap to hold onto fifth position at the chequered flag.
Bryan gated well in the second moto, but as he tried to battle his way through the pack he crashed on the opening lap, and remounted in 25th place. The 24-year-old CAS Honda rider managed to battle his way to a points scoring finish in 18th position at the chequered flag.
Billy Mackenzie #211: Race one: 18th Race two: 5th
“It’s been a bit of a frustrating day for us. All weekend I’ve been taking pain relief, and my thumb is feeling a bit better. I got a good jump in the first race into third, but I struggled in the conditions because the track was so different to practice and I haven’t ridden that much recently. I got back through to 15th but crashed right on the last corner, which cost me a few places. In the second race we started good and the track was in a better condition, so I managed to stay there quite a long time. Ken came past, but retired a few laps later, so I just kept pushing forward. In the later stages I was suffering a bit with the thumb injury and a lack of bike time, so I just pushed as hard as I could to hold onto as many positions as possible. I set my fastest lap of the race in the last lap, which was enough to hold off the group behind me. I need more time on the bike to get fit, but at the moment we’re not sure what the situation will be with my thumb, which will be reviewed this week.”
Bryan Mackenzie #121: Race one: 21st Race two: 18th
“I got a good start to the first race into maybe 12th position, and then I was t-boned by Aranda, who slammed straight into me. That left me right at the back and by the end of the first lap I’d run out of laminates in the conditions. I had to pit for new goggles, so I was dead last when I rejoined the race. It was difficult to make any progress or pass, as the hard ground under the soft stuff was really slippery, and when I got close to anyone the visibility was really poor. In the second race I got out of the gate, but to be honest I need a bit more practice with the starts. The first lap is always very manic at Grand Prix level, so I tried to cut through the pack a bit more, got a bit overexcited and cross-rutted, then I crashed. Again I had to fight my way back through, and my speed wasn’t bad, so we managed to get into the points. I’d like to thank the team for all of their hard work recently, as the bike is definitely feeling good.”
Neil Prince: CAS Honda Team Manager
“Billy has found it quite tough this weekend due to a lack of bike fitness and the changing conditions. The first heat for him was difficult as the track was in quite a different condition from practice. He got a good start to the first race, but made a mistake and crashed on the first lap. He never found any rhythm and this didn’t improve throughout the race. In the second race Billy got a good start and was holding second before Ken came by. He rode a lot better, and was lying second until the closing stages, but the lack of bike time showed in the last few laps, as even though he was setting his fastest laps of the race, he dropped back to fifth. Billy needs bike time to improve this. Bryan needs to improve his starts, as his lap times in the races are reasonable, but he just isn’t getting away with the pack to help him get the results he is capable of. “