After endless hours spent training on race fitness and then in the workshop in an attempt to try and get the very best performance from your bike, it was now time to put all of that blood, sweat and tears to the test as riders contested the opening round of the 2016 AMCA British Motocross Championship powered by Datatag and supported by Dunlop.

Yes, a title cannot be won just on your round one efforts but a poor showing could and probably will seriously hamper your chances! So, making sure that they are not playing catch-up right from the off, Luke Burton(MX1) and Josh Waterman(MX2) got off to the perfect start by blasting to brilliant maximum scores at Lower Drayton Farm, Dunston in Staffordshire on Sunday. Other winners in what was a very busy day of action were Ben Saunders(2T), Matt Gordon(Veterans) and James Hanscomb(Youth 85cc/150cc). This result for Hanscomb meant that he was also crowned the Champion after a short three round early season series, doing it in style by winning all nine moto’s along the way!

In a star studded MX1 line-up, it was defending Champion Luke Dean who posted the fastest qualifying time although one notable absentee from the new challenge was Shane Carless who had suffered a nasty injury whilst out practising midweek at Apex, get well soon Shane! So with nerves jangling and tension rising, it was time to go racing and when the gate dropped Gary Gibson, making his AMCA Championship debut grabbed the holeshot whilst Luke Meredith who was already feeling decidedly unwell due to a sickness bug got in trouble on turn one and now had it all to do! In the early exchanges, a super tussle developed for the leadership as Gibson was coming under intense pressure from Luke Burton. Four laps in and the super smooth Burton surged to the front and there he remained to win the contest over 11 seconds clear of Gibson with Dean 3rd and Ryan Crowder 4th after stylishly moving up to pass Curtis Blamey just two laps from home. Indeed young Blamey, another AMCA Championship debutant certainly had to work very hard to maintain 5th spot in the closing stages, coming under very heavy pressure from Richard Cannings, John May and two-stroke mounted Adam Harris.

After his strong start to the campaign, Gibson was in trouble during the early stages of the second clash, finding himself down in last place when having to take serious evasive action to avoid a fallen Matt Ridgway. Whilst Gibson started the long climb back up the leaderboard, at the front Burton was in ruthless form by bagging a simply massive win, 23 seconds clear of Crowder, Dean, Blamey, Meredith and Cannings. After being restricted to a 22nd place finish in moto one following a fall, James Dodd took 7th this time around, one pace ahead of the hard charging Gibson as Jack Cox and May completed the top ten.

The final MX1 moto of the day saw the immaculate Burton take the win from Gibson. With the front two well clear, May had his best ride of the day to get home in 3rd despite the close company of two very impressive young riders in Blamey and Crowder. Also bagging their best results of round one and with the track at its very roughest were Dodd in 6th, Brad Turner 7th and Ryan Morris 10th whilst Cox and Cannings also picked up more valuable round one points. For reigning Champion Dean though this last clash was not quite so memorable, crashing on lap one shortly after having passed May for 2nd, Luke was right down in 31st spot before working overtime to get back for a very hard earned 12th including an incredible last lap when he passed no less than five of his fellow riders! Afterwards a delighted overall winner Burton said “We knew this year was going to be very tough in MX1 so we have been working hard on bike suspension and motor set-up. After making a slight mistake in qualification by using a sand tyre, for the rest of the day the bike was superb. This was the first time I have rode this track but it was just how I like it, very rough, technical, and good for racing. Many thanks to all my team, sponsors, family and friends.”

After having to go through the Area Qualifiers to thus book his place on the start line for the 2016 AMCA MX2 title chase, Adam Wells then showed that he certainly meant business by proceeding to post the fastest time during early morning practice and thus earn the number one gate choice. When the action started though it was to be Bradley Tranter who grabbed the moto one holeshot only to then fall before the completion of the opening lap. With Tranter back down in 24th, Jack Gardner took control of proceedings but was coming under intense pressure from Wells and Josh Waterman. Lap two and Waterman was up into 2nd before storming through into pole position on lap four and there he remained. Proving indeed that he means business in 2016, Waterman took the win over 16 seconds clear of Gardiner with Lewis King, Wells, James Wainwright, Paul Neale, Zac Stealey and Jansen Day right in the mix. After colliding and crashing just yards from the start gate, Luke Mellows had to settle for 11th in this opener.

Indeed it was not going quite to plan for the FUS Husqvarna team who were also the meeting sponsors as Mellows crashed again off the start of MX2 moto two, almost collecting Waterman in the process! Mellows teammate Gardner was also in trouble in this clash, falling twice on consecutive laps and in the same corner to thus find himself stranded in a distant last place. This contest was to be a spectacular affair as Luke Blanchard led for five laps before the very talented rising star Wainwright took control. Closing though after his early scare was a very menacing Waterman. Coming through from 11th spot, Josh on his rapid KTM surged to the front just two laps from home to take another super win with Wainwright a brilliant 2nd ahead of Wells, King, early leader Blanchard, Stealey and Lewis Meadows.

Although Jack Timms on his AMCA Championship debut made a great initial jump in the final MX2 clash, Waterman quickly took control. From here onwards, it was Josh all the way as Mellows gained some consolation for an otherwise frustrating day by passing King for 2nd on the last lap with again Wells, Wainwright, Stealey, Blanchard and Meadows bagging the big points. Afterwards on the podium, the biggest smile of the day justifiably belonged to 3rd placed Wells on the comeback trail and looking strong after having his last couple of seasons totally ruined by injury nightmares. Naturally winner Waterman was rightfully also delighted, saying “With the concrete start pad it shuffled the racing alot and made it quite unpredictable. I was well pleased with my fitness and riding today and the bike was awesome. Thanks to my sponsors. Also well done to Mike Penn and the organising club for a great track. Looking forward now to round 2”  

What a great sight it was to see a full line-up of two-stroke machines on the Lower Drayton start-gate. The opening round though of the AMCA Championship quickly developed into a serious head to head battle for honours between Ben Saunders on a 150cc KTM and James Lane on the 250cc orange mount. On conclusion of three highly competitive clashes it was Saunders taking the all-important overall win with also a 2-1 count in his favour on moto victories. Lane’s one success came in race two when he reeled Saunders in before snatching the lead with just the final turn remaining, breathtaking stuff! Jamie Powell an expected contender started the meeting strongly before disappearing on lap five on the second contest. So taking 3rd overall was the very consistent Tony Griffiths from Matthew Bath and Elliot Stones. Bravery award of the day in this class goes to Jack Waterman who suffered a massive crash in timed qualifying. Battered and very bruised, Jack still decided to compete and in an attempt to put some vital points on the board he managed to bag 9th overall, a great effort! Also deserving a mention in the 2T class is 15 year-old Rory Jones, earning 12th overall despite being forced to make a last minute switch to a 2015 KTM after his 2016 model developed gearbox problems.

Not to be outdone, the AMCA Veterans Championship class also produced some classic action with Matt Gordon, Simon Lane and finally Terry House all taking turns to lead moto one. Indeed House timed his challenge to perfection by passing both of his rivals in the last lap. In moto two Gordon was fastest away and in control for the opening couple of circuits before Lane found a way through. In the final three laps tough Yorkshireman Danny Blakeley on his trusty 250cc two-stroke Yamaha and Martin Atherton also passed Gordon as Gary Jones and Terry House completed the top six. In the last clash and with House a non-starter, Gordon and Lane hotly disputed the lead up until lap six. However Lane the defending Champion had been suffering all day with a migraine headache and feeling a little unwell was to eventually drop down to 4th. So taking the win and the overall was Gordon as Blakeley got home in 2nd, Atherton 3rd, Jones 5th and Sean Smith 6th.

Sunday’s event also included the final round of the AMCA Youth 85cc/150cc title race. Wrapping the crown up in style, James Hanscomb again won all three moto’s to boast a perfect unbeaten series score. In the previous two rounds, Lloyd Duggan-Thomas had been Hanscomb’s closest challenger. However Duggan-Thomas started Sunday’s event with a DNF so it was Finn Corbijn and Matthew Lloyd who instead took the remaining Lower Drayton podium places. Well done to all the Youth riders who have contested this series and Team FUS for sponsoring this particular meeting .


 Mike Wood

The results of the event are below.