Beautiful sunny weather and a large crowd of over 7000 saw the twelfth running of the Supermoto of Nations bring teams from all over the globe to compete for the Francesco Zerbi trophy. In a sport where individuals shine this is a rare opportunity for riders to work as a team. The current holders and strongest Supermoto nation, France wanted to retain the trophy on home soil at the impressive Circuit Carole, situated just three kilometres from Charles de Gaulle airport.
Starting in eleven of the twelve events Team GB have a long and proud history in the event, good results have often been overshadowed by bad luck but three podiums, third in 2006 and 2007 and second in 2011 show that we are a competitive nation in this sport. The team for this year was captained by current British number 1 and multiple title winner Chris Hodgson, he was joined after a couple of years’ absence by ex-GP winner and highest ever British finisher in Supermoto World Championships, Matt Winstanley. The third rider was young Teessider Davey Todd who now splits his racing time between pure road racing and Supermoto. All three riders have raced wheel to wheel this year in the British Championship, often with only 1000’ths of a second between them and were hoping to gain a strong result.
After timed qualifying on Saturday morning there was very little difference in the three riders, it was obvious the French & German teams would be difficult to beat, the factory bikes looking 6 or 7mph faster down the long back straight when compared to the basically stock bikes of the British Team. However, bar some handling problems for Hodgson which resulted in a hasty front end rebuild all three riders where happy with their set up. Timed qualifying places the riders on the grid for the three qualifying races and the results of the qualifying races determine the starting position for Sundays races where each rider goes out twice alternating team mates over the three races.
In qualifying race 1 Hodgson got a great start and emerged out of the third of three dirt sections in 2nd
place, over the next 12 laps he battled gamely but it was depressing for the large number of GB supporters who had made the journey to see him time and again get passed down the straight by faster bikes, however Hodgson is nothing if not a fighter and with some desperate late braking he managed to cling on to a fine individual sixth place. World Champion Thomas Chareyre taking a comfortable win by 12 seconds from Italian Edgardo Borella on the factory SWM with top German Moto-crosser Marcus Volz third.
Second out was Davey Todd in Q2 race, again a fantastic start by the youngster saw him right in the mix at the sharp end of the race initially holding second, he was soon in a great battle with Italian Diego Monticelli on the factory TM with Todd using all his road racing nous to draft the faster bikes down the straight. Lapping nearly two seconds quicker than in qualifying Todd put on a terrific show to bring his bike home in a fantastic fourth place behind French winner Laurent Fath, German Markus Class and Monticelli. On the virtual qualifying board, Britain was in fourth place.
For race three veteran Matt Winstanley was again off to a great start and for the first three laps held 4th
place until he was passed by the Austrian Hitzenberger on a very rapid Yamaha. Up at the front the huge crowd was entertained by a great battle between French Honda ace Sylvain Bidart and German factory SWM rider Marc Reiner Schmidt. The French Honda was seriously fast down the straight but Schmidt was fantastic through the dirt and with two laps to go in a last gasp braking move Bidart crashed into the German sending him into the safety gravel and taking a tumble for his sins. Winstanley almost caught the two up but they recovered quickly enough. The German winning ahead of Italy’s Sammartin, Hitzenberger and Bidart. Winstanley was a fine fifth, which meant on aggregate scoring they would start on the front row in fourth place for Sundays main races.
Sunday dawned to another glorious day and the crowd was even bigger with many opting to just come for Sundays racing, the French are huge “Supermotard” fans and formed the main bulk of the crowd but there were many nations represented around the circuit with National flags draped over the crash barriers. The biggest contingent of British fans ever seen at a “Nations” turned up to shout on their team many sporting the very smart team hoodies. For Sunday’s three races each rider rode twice with two riders per race placing the first 16 qualified nations on the grid, qualifying fourth Team GB was allocated grid position 4 and 20 and the team manager decided which rider should go on which spot and for race 1 Hodgson was allocated 4 and Todd 20.
As the lights went out Hodgson got a great start and was second through the first dirt sections however on the long straight he was again out-gunned even after some changes to the bikes gearing and was third after lap one, another bike ped past down the straight but he battled hard to remain in fourth, Todd also got a flier and made up 8 places in the first 4 laps to hold an excellent 10th
place. With two laps to go the split start started to tell and Hodgson got passed by French number two rider Laurent Fath and Italian factory SWM rider Borella to come home in sixth, Todd just couldn’t catch the Brazilian Fonseca and had to settle for 10th
however Team GB ended in virtual fourth having been in third for most of the race a fine start to the day.
For race two Winstanley was placed on grid four with Todd again on row 5 the wisdom being that Todd was the more aggressive passer and Winstanley would match the rhythm of the riders round him. From the start, all seemed to be going to plan until disaster struck and Winstanley crashed heavily on the entry into the third dirt section. He finally remounted but winded and in dead last position set off after the rapidly disappearing pack. Meanwhile Todd stuck to his task admirably and battled his way to 9th
place all the names ahead of him were Grand Prix regulars and the youngster banged bars with top factory riders in an effort to recover the teams position. Winstanley managed to get up to 17th
but in a race packed with two of the three best riders from every country it is a tough task to make up the ground lost. Markus Class won for Germany ahead of the two French Honda riders Sylvain Bidart and Laurent Fath. Although a blow for Team GB it was not a disaster as the team drop the worst score from the six, they remained in fourth overall but the gap to third had widened significantly.
Race three saw Hodgson and Winstanley on track together and again Winstanley took row 1 with Hodgson coming through from the fifth row. After three fantastic starts in the qualifying races the start hoodoo struck again. Winstanley got boxed in at the very tight turn 1 and was shunted from behind, the ripple affect went through the bunched pack and Hodgson got knocked off his bike going over the top of the handlebars. Although the Cumbrian quickly remounted any chance of the lightning start needed to stay at the front of the pack had been lost. Winstanley recovered on the first lap and came through in sixth but inexorably was being reeled in by the faster riders coming through and lost a place every couple of laps, the veteran Brit looked shattered and was obviously still affected by the race two crash. Hodgson had got up to 23rd
on lap 1 and slowly chased down the field but as Winstanley found earlier it is no easy task to pass unless you have a lightning fast bike. Winstanley clung on to 10th
and Hodgson finished 18th
. At the front Thomas Chareyre totally dominated the race had he had done through the entire meeting to take an easy win from his compatriot Sylvain Bidart. Edgardo Borella capped off a fine individual event with third after his fellow Factory SWM rider Schmidt had suffered an engine failure.
To the delight of the mainly partisan home crowd the French team retained the trophy for another year, in truth they were head and shoulders above every other nation and in Thomas Chareyre they have probably the finest Supermoto rider of all time, more of a machine than a man. Germany finished second with Italy third Austria had a fine meeting to finish fourth with team GB fifth. In retrospect fourth would have been the best they could have achieved as no bad luck befell the leading teams however the gap would have been much closer also in hindsight qualifying fourth was worse than fifth as the inside start position on the well-spaced grid was a real handicap. However when the riders were on it especially in the qualifying sessions they howed hey could hold their own with the best in the world.
Team GB would like to acknowledge the generous support they received from companies and individuals without which it would have been impossible to compete. Race report by Jaki Bradley – Pictures by Sports Events Live