Apico 2-Stroke Festival, Saturday 31st
August and Sunday 1st
September 2019, Sellindge, Kent
British two-stroke championships in four different classes were decided in the sun-kissed Apico 2-Stroke Festival at Sellindge in Kent on Sunday – but there were five winners!
The event saw veteran GP riders, motocross and enduro stars of today, a MotoGP racer plus clubmen and kids who all love two-strokes thrashed round the hard-packed track in Kent.
James Cottrell won the 125 British championship two-stroke title, Bradley Wheeler the 250, and George Gough the Evo. But the Super Evo class was jointly won by Billy Mackenzie and Mark Eastwood, who made a gentleman’s agreement to share the spoils in one of the most unusual decisions in racing.
Billy Mac dominated the first round of the series, winning all five motos on his Honda CR500. But just weeks before the second and final round, he broke his back and underwent surgery. Eastwood didn’t race the opening round, but won all five Super Evo races in the second round – so both men ended up level on point and with five wins each.
Mackenzie brought his CR500 to the event, saying he could probably risk riding a single moto to score enough points go clinch the title even if old rival Eastwood won all five. “The bike’s in the back of the van ready to go,” said former British MX1 champ and HRC factory rider Mackenzie. “I reckon I have got one moto in me!” But instead of risking further injury, both men sportingly decided they’d split the title of Eastwood won all his motos – which is exactly what he did.
The SuperEvo and Evo classes were mixed together on the day, and Eastwood ran at the sharp end of the pack in every moto, putting his CR250 against the faster 500s as George Gough, Brian Wheeler and Lewis Trickett all scrapped for the win.
There was drama right through the day in the Evo and SuperEvo class as former pro rider Trickett, out on a borrowed CR500, had awful luck. He ran away with the opener, then his bike wouldn’t start for race two. The pack had done half a lap before he got it going and he put on a stunning charge until the bike broke. Third time out he led then retired with a rear puncture and a destroyed rear wheel. Day two started with him missing practice as he struggled to fit a borrowed rear wheel, but he made amends by winning both motos. With three wins and two DNFs from five starts, he ended the weekend ninth overall.
The real action though was for the championship, contested right down to the wire between Kawasaki’s George Gough and former GP rider Brian Wheeler. As Trickett won the opener from Wheeler and Gough but went out of moto two, the veteran riders scrapped for the lead. On the last lap, Wheeler dived inside of Gough and the pair clashed. Wheeler took the win but Gough was not pleased. In the final moto once Trickett had gone out on day one, Wheeler and Gough again battled but then Wheeler’s Honda CR500 stalled and wouldn’t start for a half a lap. He got going for sixth, but it seemed terminal. On day two he went out on his old Kawasaki KX500 and said: “It’s so low compared to the Honda. But I’ll give it everything I can.” Gough got the better of Wheeler on day two, following Trickett home in both motos to clinch the title by jut seven points from Wheeler who was second overall. Matt Coles took third from former GP rider Jon Barfoot, having a rare race on his CR250.
The action was fast and hotly contested in the British championship 250 category where ASA KTM’s Mel Pocock led after day one, riding a 2018 KTM 250SX owned by the team and usually ridden by Jack Brunell. Having his first ride on a two-stroke since he quit schoolboy racing many years ago, Pocock soon got to grips with the bike and took victory in the first two motos. But in the final clash of the day, he fell and had to pull through the pack while factory endure rider Nathan Watson – mounted on a 150 KTM which has an obvious power disadvantage – cleared off to take the win. Pocock came back through to claim third at the finish and end the day top points scorer of the first day, leading Watson by six points, with a moto win paying 45. Watson had only managed fourth in the opener, won by Pocock from fast-starting Steve Bixby and World Enduro champ Billy Bolt having his first ever motocross race.
In the second heat Watson followed Pocock over the line, with Brad Wheeler third from factory Husky man Bolt out on a borrowed stock bike. Wheeler held on for a fine second place in the last moto behind winner Watson, with Pocock blasting by Bolt for third. Steve Bixby was fifth and Matt Burrows, who ran near the front in every moto, sixth. Watson had really got the bike and the track nailed on the second day and was in unbeatable form. He won both motos to take the overall for the weekend, while Pocock battled through from less than ideal starts to take second overall.
But it was Brad Wheeler, son of Brian, who kept his head to win the championship. With neither Watson, Pocock or fast-starting Apico Husky man Matt Burrows contesting the earlier round, it was down to a clash between Wheeler and Steve Bixby for the title. Bixby ran towards the front of the field several times, battling Pocock and Watson. But when it counted Wheeler made sure of the title and a second place in the final moto of the weekend hammered home he was British 250 two-stroke champion.
In the British championship 125 class, former GP rider James Cottrell was in a league of his own as he cleared off to five unchallenged wins – just as he had done at the opening round. He is the only rider to be undefeated in the British championship class and have a perfect two-stroke season. TM’s Chuck Davies ended the weekend second overall with two seconds, two thirds and a fourth place finish. Davies spent much of the weekend chasing Cottrell and scrapping with Jordan Divall. Divall took third overall, and came close to catching Cottrell several times. Divall was just one point behind Davies.
Fourth overall was MotoGP star Bradley Smith, making his return to the dirt for the first time in a decade. He former KTM factory MotoGP rider and current Aprilia MotoGP racer and tester was shockingly fast all weekend, and got better as his confidence grew. As a former youth motocross prodigy before turning to road racing, Smith had spent just six days earlier racing at over 150mph in the British MotoGP road race championship at Silverstone. At Sellindge, he was third in the opener then a strong second in moto two, hounding down Davies to take the place right near the end of the moto. But in the third moto he went down on lap one and carved through the field from last to take fifth place and third overall on the first day. But his dreams of a podium in the British 125 championship were dashed by poor starts on day two when he had fourth then third place finishes. He ended fourth overall, and a creditable eighth in the series. Davies took runner-up in the championship while Sonny Smyth ended the series third overall, after finishing fifth at the Sellindge finale.
The 125 Rookie class was run alongside the British championship class and last year’s Apico Festival 85cc winner Jack Grayshon was credited with wins in all his five motos, as he had done at the opening round. Grayshon chased Cottrell hard and led the overall race at times. Grayshon had two seconds and third in the overall race in day one then, then a fifth – thanks to coming through the pack from a spill – and a second in the final moot. He was clearly the winner of the rookies, with Harrison Forde second with five second places then Harvey Fagg tgird. Of course Grayshon won the title from Fagg and Ben White, who didn’t race at the weekend.
The 85 big-wheel class was won by Raife Broadley but only after he raced hard and fast with Ollie Colmer. Broadley passed leader Colmer in the opener but the positions were reversed in race two. In the final moto of day one, Colmer went down and banged his head. He retired from the meeting, but still took 11th overall. Broadley won all the other motos, to take the overall win. But as he missed the first round, he ended the series fifth overall. Liam Bennett took second overall on the weekend, from Archie Fremel and Daniel Wood. Wood took the championship from Charlie Piddock and Lauren Cox.
In the small-wheelers, Kyron Carron won the SW85s with three moto wins and two seconds. It means he also walked off with the championship. Second overall on the weekend was Haydon Harris, the only rider to defeat Carron, while Louis Perrun Brown was third overall from Alfie Watson and Jack Davis. Consistent riding at the opening round saw Hannah Smye hold on for second in the championship from Harris, who only rode the second event.
In the 65s it was Alfie Osborne who dominated, winning four of the five motos backed up by a third. He beat Archy Atkinson and Marley Ray Tupper. But Atkinson was crowned champion from Tupper and Lawson Peedle who finished ninth at the weekend. The autos were run alongside the 65s where Ryan Clift battled with Chase Panter, Tyler Rogers and Stanley Tupper. Clift won three of the motos from Panter, the only rider to beat him all weekend. Rogers took third overall which gave him the championship from Clift and Panter.
Words: Adam Duckworth Images: Andrew Waghorne