Tuesday April 26, 2016 at 1:58pm
Canada Heights is a calendar favourite each and every year. The circuit is built on the rolling hills of Swanley, Kent, and embodies all sorts of obstacles from wave sections to doubles, hairpin turns to sweepers, you name it, the track has it. This weekend the incredible circuit hosted the second round of the Maxxis ACU British Motocross Championship supported by Pro Clean where Wilvo Virus Performance KTM’s Shaun Simpson and Apico Husqvarna’s Steven Clarke topped the box in their respective classes for the first time this season.
The track this year was a lot firmer than it has been in previous years, which may have meant it was more suited to the red plate holder Monster Energy DRT Kawasaki’s Tommy Searle than the sand-master and defending MX1 champion Wilvo Virus Performance KTM’s Shaun Simpson.
At the start of race one all eyes were on the championship leaders Searle and Simpson as they lined up next to each other. Searle had first pick at the gate after setting a lap time 1.4 seconds faster than Simpson in qualifying as Buildbase Honda’s Kristian Whatley, MVR-D Fuel 10K Husqvarna’s Tanel Leok and Hitachi Revo Husqvarna’s Jake Nicholls made up the top five.
When the gates dropped it was Searle who got off to a dream start when he led the way into turn one but it quickly turned into a nightmare when he went wide, clipped the fence and went down. Riders piled up while Whatley capitalized and took the early lead ahead of Leok.
Meanwhile the number 1 of Shaun Simpson wasn’t so quick off the line but was already in a position to scrub past the Estonian Express, Leok, and the former MX1 champion, Whatley, for the lead by the end of lap two. While ‘Simmo’ gapped it, Whatley was left to deal with Leok and his Buildbase Honda teammate Graeme Irwin who were both being hounded by Phoenix Tools Honda’s Gert Krestinov and the rookie Dyer & Butler KTM’s Steven Lenoir.
Halfway into the race Lenoir passed Krestinov for fifth and set his sights on Irwin who was just getting into the groove of things. Irwin was all over Leok like a rash for third and had an impressive selection of creative lines. As the duo, Leok and Irwin battled; they both closed in on Whatley and declared war.
In a three-way battle for second, with two laps to go, the trio took no prisoners in effort for the position which was eventually claimed by Leok who railed a rut unbelievably sweet, basically bar-drag material, around the outside of Whatley. Irwin also managed to nudge his teammate back by using the advantage of lapped traffic.
Simpson took his first race win of the season ahead of Leok, Irwin, Whatley and Lenoir.
Battered and bruised from his first turn spill, Monster Energy DRT Kawasaki’s Tommy Searle bounced back in race two with a legitimate holeshot but was passed immediately by Hitachi Revo Husqvarna’s Jake Nicholls. Searle wasn’t having any of that and got Nicholls back before the end of lap one.
Dyer and Butler KTM’s Steven Lenoir also got off to a good start, third ahead of Whatley who ploughed over the berm at the bottom of the staircase and crashed. Meanwhile the race one winner, Shaun Simpson wasn’t in fantastic shape on the opening lap but by the end of lap three he had already dragged past Lenoir for third.
Nicholls is proving to be a final race wonder child, since he also rode epic in the second race at the season opener in Lyng. After having mechanical issues in race one, the East Anglian was firing on all cylinders in race two and made life difficult for Simpson. It was no easy feat, but Simpson managed to get the job done and took second with only a handful of laps to go.
Tommy Searle cruised home for his third race win of the season while Simpson took a narrow second ahead of Nicholls. Lenoir and Irwin were unchallenged in their efforts, which saw them round out the top five.
Two solid races saw Wilvo Virus Performance KTM’s Shaun Simpson top the box for the first time this season. He also claimed the red plate with assistance from Monster Energy DRT Kawasaki’s Tommy Searle who had a biggie in the first race and only finished ninth.
After a mind-blowing race win in the final moto, Searle miraculously landed on the box in second with Buildbase Honda’s Graeme Irwin claiming the third bottle of bubbles.
It was like lining up for round one all over again with Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Max Anstie and Conrad Mewse, the two riders that led the championship heading into Canada Heights, unable to race due to contract commitments with their off-shore sponsors.
In race one, Verde Sports KTM’s Jake Millward got off to a blistering start and led Aprico Husqvarna’s Bryan MacKenzie and SJP Moto Husqvarna’s Rob Davidson around turn one. Buildbase Honda’s Martin Barr also got off to a good start but was passed by Apico Husqvarna’s Steven Clarke right off the bat.
MacKenzie dropped the hammer on the downhill staircase and out-braked Millward for the lead, which was a place and manoeuvre that proved popular as Barr did the same thing to Clarke to reclaim fourth. After taking fourth, Barr got hard on the gas and made light work of Robson, who eventually dropped back to sixth.
As Barr chipped away at Millward, who was running second at the time, he soon found himself switching from attack to defence as Clarke had hooked a gear and was up for the challenge once again. Clarke made the pass stick with a sick move, scrubbing the tabletop heading into the waves and keeping the bike low.
The next victim on Clarkey’s hit list was Millward. He got the job done in no time and went after the leader, MacKenzie. Meanwhile Barr found a way around Millward for third, but the action that had everyone’s undivided attention was the battle for the lead between the teammates MacKenzie and Clarke.
With 8 minutes left on the clock, Clarke stole the lead and started to inch away leaving MacKenzie to deal with Barr who whipped out his rut railing skills with three laps to go and took over second.
Back in fourth, Millward was feeling the heat from Hitachi Revo Husqvarna’s James Dunn but didn’t crack and managed to hold on till the flag.
Race two was all about the lightning fast Husqvarna’s as Steven Clarke claimed his first holeshot of the year ahead of his teammate Bryan MacKenzie. Wilvo Virus Performance KTM’s Adam Sterry, who was making his 2016 Maxxis British Motocross Championship debut after he missed the first round due to a broken wrist, was third around turn one before being dropped back to fourth by fellow returnee Monster Energy DRT Kawasaki’s Mel Pocock.
Behind the two that were in the process of blowing off the cobwebs, Pocock and Sterry, was Martin Barr and James Dunn, two riders that were on a clear mission this weekend. Both Barr and Dunn were hungry for championship points that had potential to reward them with the red plate, and they passed Sterry in the first few laps.
Barr was looking awesome out on the caramel coloured soil of Canada Heights as he picked off Pocock for third and chomped down the gap that MacKenzie had pulled in second. Eventually Barr took the spot from Bry-Mac with a super sweet move around the outside, while Dunn patiently waited for the prime time to pounce on Pocock and did so with 5 mins to go.
At the checkers it was a smooth sailing race for Clarkey who had a perfect weekend with two race wins and the overall. A shame the same can’t be said for Barr who put in an epic ride and caught Clarke for what should have been an epic penultimate lap show-down, but crashed. MacKenzie then inherited second but was dropped back to third by Dunn on the final lap. Barr recovered for fourth while Pocock rounded out the top five.
511, Steven Clarke, painted Canada Heights white with two race wins for the overall and the championship lead, a huge accomplishment after failing to finish the first race of the year when his bike packed up. His Apico Husqvarna teammate Bryan MacKenzie bounced back from a forgettable first round with a pair of third place finishes for second while Buildbase Honda’s Martin Barr tied with him on points to round off the podium.
DRT MGP Steel’s Brett Pocock pulled a wicked holey and led the opening lap before being passed by the top qualifier, RFX KTM’s Henry Williams when he railed right around the outside of him. Pocock instantly lost concentration and lost a spot to Apico Husqvarna’s Alexander Brown who went on to battle Williams all the way to the finish.
After an inspiring ride, Brown managed to win the first race of the day by a fraction over Williams while P & H Motorcycles’ Michael Ellis, Carl Nunn KTM’s George Grigg-Pettitt and Holeshot Motocross’ James Carpenter dropped Pocock back to seventh and made up the top five.
In race two it was the Brown and Ellis show as the duo charged hard for the lead. For the majority of the race Ellis led but was passed by Brown with a handful of laps to go. Brown, who had won three from three races leading in, would have been the one you’d put your chips on, but Ellis didn’t back down and impressively took the lead with two laps to go and held on for his first win of the season. Meanwhile Carpenter got RMJ Academy - Husqvarna UK’s Dexter Douglas for third as George Grigg-Pettitt came from miles back to round out the top five.
Apico Husqvarna’s Alexander Brown topped the box once again while P & H Motorcycles’ Michael Ellis had a fantastic day for second ahead of RFX KTM’s Henry Williams in third.