Twelve months after bagging the AMCA MX2 British Championship title, Luke Burton(Rikki Priest Frasier Husqvarna UK) can now also add the MX1 crown to his portfolio.
In a tense finale to the 2016 series powered by Datatag and supported by Dunlop, the race for this year’s MX1 glory went right down to the last moto of the contest. With just 17 points separating Burton and his closest rival Gary Gibson, it meant that Gibson would have to take the race win and hope that Burton finished lower than 5th for the Irish lad to snatch a dramatic series victory. Although Gibson grabbed the holeshot, a fall on the opening lap relegated him to last place so it was game over as Burton then made sure by being first past the chequered flag, an unfortunate end to what had been a superb season-long battle. With the MX2 title already secured by Josh Waterman, the remaining business to be sorted was the 2T and Vets glory. Requiring just another 57 points to earn the 2T crown, Ben Saunders took the win in moto one and comfortably got the job done. Over in the Vets, defending Champion Simon Lane took the verdict right down to the wire but finished 21 points in arrears of the new King, Matt Gordon.
So on a fine September morning, the scene was set for this vital finale at Long Lane in Shropshire, the event hosted by the Newport MXC. First up was the MX1 class and the head to head between Burton and Gibson, but forgetting to read the script it was instead Luke Meredith who was to grab the initial holeshot! Vitally though, on the opening lap Gibson was to find a way through with Burton down in 6th. By lap four, Burton had already recovered back up to 2nd and that’s the way it remained all the way to the chequered flag. After his flying start, Meredith got home in a solid 3rd ahead of Shane Carless, Adam Harris having another stunning ride on the 2T 250cc Yamaha and Ryan Crowder. Initially holding 4th, unfortunately defending MX1 Champion Luke Dean crashed out on lap two, injuring his knee, ankle and hand, resulting in a premature end to his meeting. So after this hot moto one, in the race for the title it was now Burton on 940 points and Gibson on 929 whilst James Dodd’s chances of taking the series bronze medal improved as he got home in 7th whilst rival Richard Cannings had to come from last place after crashing to earn 23rd.
Moto two and Gibson again held an early lead but this time Burton was on it and took control on lap two before racing onto victory. In another tough, entertaining encounter, Dodd, Meredith, Andrew Smart, John May, Cannings, Harris, Carless and Clinton Barrs completed the top ten. Just outside that group was wildcard rider Lee Payne, the 2012 AMCA Champion. Now plying his trade as a speedway rider for Redcar and Belle Vue, Payne showed that he certainly also still knows how to ride a motocross bike! In the title battle, Burton had now restored his 17 point advantage. Having never finished lower than 5th place in any of the previous 18 moto’s, Luke knew that a repeat performance in the last race of the season would be enough to secure him the title.
When that gate dropped for the 2016 finale, Gibson again grabbed the holeshot only to then dramatically crash on lap one and thus relegate himself to last! Moving into pole position, Burton now had a perfect opportunity to seal the deal. And in his own inevitably smooth, controlled style that’s just what he did. Leading all the way to the flag, the MX1 crown was in the bag as Gibson still gave it his all and climb back up to 6th behind Carless, Cannings, Smart and Ed Briscoe. Despite his obvious disappointment and frustration, Gibson was still the first rider to congratulate the new Champion, true sportsmanship! With Meredith down in 7th, Dodd 8th and Harris colliding with Cannings and being forced out on lap two, it meant the last MX1 podium of the season was completed by Carless, having his most profitable result in what has been an injury ravaged campaign.
During the previous round at Brookthorpe, Josh Waterman secured the MX2 title and what a crucial result that was to be! The reason, well Waterman was a non-starter at Long Lane after his partner Chantelle had gave birth to the couple’s first child just hours before Sunday’s event! So the main focus on Sunday was all about the remaining medal positions with Lewis King, Jansen Day and Luke Mellows the main protagonists. In MX2 moto one, Mellows grabbed the holeshot before Ray Rowson moved through from an initial 6th spot to take control of proceedings after just two laps. From here onwards, Rowson stormed to victory as Mellows took 2nd from Day, King, Bradley Tranter, Lewis Meadows, Charlie Hamlet and Paul Neale. For most of the contest, James Wainwright had been right in the mix and holding 3rd spot before a rear-wheel puncture and fall dropped him right down to 28th place.
At the first attempt to run the second MX2 battle, several of the front runners hit the deck in a messy turn one collision, their blushes spared by a later red flag which halted proceedings. In the re-run, Cory McShane on the Mounter KTM led the opening five laps before being passed by Rowson. At the flag, McShane was still to take 2nd as Hamlet had another good ride to earn 3rd from Day, Meadows, Jack Gardner, Lee Truman and Brandon Benjamin. This moto though was to prove pivotal in the race for the final MX2 silver and bronze medal positions. King who had held 2nd place for much of the campaign was going well in 4th before painfully injuring his knee after jarring his leg in a Long Lane rut and thus dropping back down to 26th place. For Mellows, a crash halted his progress, snapping his knee brace and Husqvarna’s electric start in the process! Forced then to kick his machine back to life, Luke lost valuable time and was eventually classified as a non-starter.
Desperate to still keep his silver medal hopes alive, Lewis King bravely attempted to compete in the final MX2 clash but the agony was obvious and in immense pain he was forced out after just four laps. So despite an early fall which dropped him down from 3rd to 14th, it was instead Day who had still done enough to snatch the 2016 MX2 Championship runners-up slot away from King. In this final clash of 2016, Rowson took another win from Adam Wells, McShane, Tranter, Meadows, Neale and Truman. Earlier in the moto, Gardner had been going strongly in 4th before a front wheel puncture with just one lap remaining dropped him down to 11th. On the last podium of the season it was Rowson the winner from McShane and Meadows, the latter two riders recording their best results of the season.
Needing just 57 points to clinch the 2016 2T crown, the immaculate Ben Saunders got the job done in moto one at Long Lane by scorching to another smooth, big win. Also currently in fine form, Jamie Powell got home in 2nd from Luke Phillips, James Lane, Dylan Hodgkins and Richard Lloyd. Crucially in the race to finish 3rd in the series whilst Lloyd scored some big Championship points, his closest rival Elliot Stones recorded a DNF.
Throughout 2016, the 2T class as regularly produced full line-ups and an abundance of great action, typified by the second clash of the day at Long Lane. Whilst Saunders controlled at the front, Lane and Aston Illsley locked horns in a super tussle for 3rd whilst just a little further down the leaderboard, Sam Callow, Matthew Nash, Rory Jones and Hodgkins were really going for it in the battle for 9th. At the front the very experienced Powell took another 2nd as Lane was the next best after finally seeing off Illsley.
Having already won 14 out of the 18 moto’s completed, what better way to celebrate your title than with yet another race victory and that’s just what super Saunders proceeded to do! With Powell his closest challenger on the day disappearing after just one lap, this time around it was the series runner-up Lane who took 2nd from Jones, Dylan Spencer, Stones and Llloyd. In the overall it was Saunders, Lane and Lloyd on the podium with Lloyd also securing the Championship bronze medal. In the separately scored 2T 125cc class, Telford youngster Rory Jones in his debut AMCA Championship season took a well-deserved top slot.
The final AMCA Vets contest of 2016 was all about a two way battle for the title featuring Matt Gordon and defending Champion Simon Lane. Going into the event, Gordon led the way by 27 points and crucially he then further extended his advantage by blasting to victory in the opening race on Sunday. For five laps of the contest though, Lane had been in control before being forced to settle for 2nd ahead of Gary Jones, Danny Blakeley, Sean Smith, Garry J Williams, Darren Bennett, Brian Staples, Shaun Hayles and Stephen Marlow.
In moto two after Smith had crashed on the opening turn, Lane bounced back to bag a win although Gordon rode a steady, calculated race to sit in 2nd spot and thus edge ever closer to the title as Jones got the better of Blakeley following an entertaining race long tussle. So with one moto remaining, the gap at the top of the Championship standings was still 27 points in Gordon’s favour. And having never finished lower than 5th in any of the previous 18 moto’s completed, the Technical Solutions Suzuki rider certainly started as favourite.
Not to be outdone though, the outgoing Champion Simon Lane was still in a very determined mood as he blasted to a massive last race victory. Crucially though Gordon again sat in a safe 2nd to thus confirm the crown as Jones took 3rd in the moto from Blakeley, Williams and Staples. That result also secured the Championship bronze position for the durable Yorkshireman Blakeley whilst Staples having another solid season sealed the Vets Over 50 crown.
So with all the 2016 AMCA British Champions in the bag, the rumour mill as already started for next season, it’s sure to be another classic!
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The results of the event are below.