Competing against 13 other national teams over a total of six races, team GB faced one of the roughest tracks they had ever competed on in the European Motorcycle Union (UEM) hosted event. It was a team event and riders were divided into three separate groups for qualification races on Saturday. Three groups would then compete in separate heats on Sunday with the worst results from each country dropped. The country with the lowest total points score would win.
The Saturday qualifications started well with 2012 British QX Champion Holmes passing his way from third to first in the opening lap. Showing blistering pace, Holmes set the fastest lap before suffering from a flat tyre on lap four. Having already given himself a 10 second cushion, Holmes took it steady to finish in first place. With Mitchell finishing fourth and Winrow eighth, team GB finished second in qualifying, just behind France.
Holmes and Mitchell took part in race one with Holmes on the front row as he settled into fifth from the start. Mitchell got a decent start from the second row and was looking comfortable on the rough track as he picked off riders, making his way up to 7th. Meanwhile, Holmes had set the fastest lap and was now in second place. Trying to make his way past Roman Couprie, Holmes hit a berm and went over the handlebars of his quad. Losing about 30 seconds, he rejoined the race in fourth but was able to retake a place to finish third. Mitchell remained in seventh commenting; “It took a while to get into a rhythm out there due to the lack of racing this year but my fitness is good and I soon picked it up and passed quite a few to get to seventh.”
Winrow was the oldest rider in the competition but with 12 British QX titles behind him, also one of the most respected and admired. It was his turn to race with Mitchell (the third oldest in the competition) in race two. From the front row, Mitchell didn’t get the best start, making hard work for himself by having to battle his way back into the top ten. But things were even worse for Winrow as he suffered clutch problems and eventually was unable to continue the race. Mitchell went on to take eighth.
It was now down to the final race and a great turn of fortune for Winrow as he superbly took second from the start was comfortably matching the pace of XXX in the lead. Unsure exactly what the track was like, Winrow kept a steady pace and worked well with Holmes, allowing him past to ensure team GB could score their best positions. Holmes had not had the best of starts but showed his skills that got him second place in this year’s European Championship to go on and take fifth place. Winrow proved that despite his years, he was as competitive as anyone from beginning to end of the 39 minute race finishing seventh. The result put team GB in second place, just ahead of Belgium in third and behind France in first place.
“We rode really well as a team with consistent results. I was disappointed to crash and not win the first race but I’ll learn from my mistakes, it was great to be part of team GB” commented Holmes. Winrow was also disappointed with his DNF but reflected; “All our hard work has paid off. We mucked in as a team and I’m really pleased with our result today.”
Standing on the podium, team GB held up their former teammate Mark Watson’s shirt. It was an emotional moment as both quad and sidecar teams remembered Mark for the incredible talent and friend that he was to many in both sports.
Team GB manager Martin Fletcher commented after the event;
“I was really impressed with all three riders both in the pits and on the track. We went there thinking at best a podium was possible and as I expected, they all did a tremendous job. I have to say at 38 years old, Paul Winrow surprised many people with his incredible pace in the final race. A big thanks to all the team and pit crew who helped to make this the fantastic success it was.”
Words by Alistair Plant
Photos courtesy of Martin Fletcher, ATV Report & Quadleaks