With nervous tension high and adrenalin pumping hard, when the gate dropped to signal the start of the 2017 AMCA British Championship, the moment of truth had finally arrived! Now would be the time when a rider discovered if their Winter programme of training and bike preparation was really reaching the standard required.
After three very fast and furious blocks of racing, particularly pleased with the answers now emerging would be Luke Burton (MX1), Ray Rowson (MX2), Brad Turner (2T) and Simon Lane (Vets) as they all got their respective campaigns off to a winning start.
Venue for the opening round of the series powered by Datatag and supported by Dunlop was Minchinhampton in Gloucestershire, a track hosting its first ever race meeting. Christening the new terrain would be a high quality MX1 field and it was Ryan Crowder grabbing the holeshot as both Arran Poolman and Adam Harris tasted the soil. By the end of lap one, reigning MX1 Champion Burton, John May and James Dodd had all found a way past Crowder. Lap four and Dodd was not only up into 2nd but also closing very hard on his FUS Husqvarna teammate Burton. Lining up a pass, Dodd though then slipped off and was forced to settle for a runners-up position ahead of Gary Gibson, Richard Cannings, May, Shane Carless and early leader Crowder. Electing not to defend his 2T crown, Ben Saunders instead lined-up in MX1 and started by blasting his 250cc AJP Husky from 30th up to a very respectable 12th, there’s certainly plenty more to come from this particular pilot!
Despite gating in 8th, Burton took just six laps to move through and pass Carless for the moto two win with Dodd, Gibson, Cannings and May again inside the top six. It was then MX1 debutant Paul Neale who grabbed the final holeshot of the day before being relegated on the opening circuit by Carless. This was to then develop into a great moto as Gibson having his best ride of the meeting scorched to the front in determined style. Four laps in and Burton had menacingly moved up into 2nd but in challenging for the lead overshot a fast, banked corner, going over the berm and off the track! Quickly regaining his composure and somehow staying on-board he was back on the gas and by lap seven in control of the moto and yet another victory. So on the first podium of 2017 it was Burton, Carless and Dodd. Afterwards despite sounding decidedly unwell, Burton was delighted with his round one success,” Although this was a new track for everyone, I really liked the layout and was looking forward to racing on it. So I was gutted to then wake up on Sunday morning feeling unwell. I didn’t get the best of starts on the day but had the speed to work my way to the front. Big thank-you to all the FUS team and SPS, suspension was mint.”
After falling on turn one of the opening MX2 contest and restarting a distant last, Luke Dean must have been very relieved to see the moto later red flagged the thus give him another chance! In the rerun, it was again defending Champion Josh Waterman leading the charge despite suffering with an ankle injury that’s kept him off the bike for the last few weeks. With Ray Rowson moving up from an early 7th to slot into 2nd, that’s the way it stayed. In a super, big tussle for 3rd, Jansen Day got the verdict just ahead of his TMC Kawasaki teammate Lewis King, Bradley Tranter, Dean and Clinton Barrs.
As Jack Gardner claimed the MX2 moto two holeshot, first race winner Waterman was down in 11th but on a right charge. That move up the leaderboard was then to be halted though in the early stages after colliding with James Wainwright on the exit of a turn, thus dropping back down to 14th. At the front Rowson passed leader Dean on lap six to take the win. In the closing stages, the hard charging Day also managed to find a way past Dean as Wainwright, King, Waterman, producing a storming comeback, Gardner, Jack Cox, Luke Mellows and Barrs completed the top ten.
In a class that was to produce some outstanding action, MX2 finished with an absolute classic contest. After holeshot King Gardner had been overhauled, Dean and Waterman indulged in a great scrap, passing and repassing for several laps. Eventually taking the win though was Waterman as Rowson after gating 12th produced a super strong ride to move up and also then pass Dean with just two laps remaining. With the very consistent Day, Wainwright, King, Cox and Tranter again the mix, the first overall verdict in what promises to be an exciting MX2 season went to Rowson. Afterwards the former ACU ace commented, “I was happy with how it went. I was looking for a top five finish in this class today as it’s stacked with so many capable race winners. I struggled with my starts and rode too tight but I am looking forward to racing on more new tracks throughout the season.”
With Ben Saunders having departed to MX1, there’s going to be a new AMCA 2T Champion in 2017 and moto one at Minchinhampton certainly started the campaign in style. After Matthew Nash had grabbed the holeshot only to be passed by Tony Griffiths, it was then Brad Turner who became the pace-setter. In the early stages of this very competitive clash, Turner was under tremendous pressure with Griffiths, Shaun Buchan, Bradley Doyle and Sam Smith right on his tail. Gradually though Turner stretched that throttle wire before racing onto a comfortable win with Smith the runner-up.
In a rerun 2T moto two, Jack Waterman led the long charge to turn one on both occasions before the super Turner took control for the win. Once again, Smith who had competed in MX1 during 2016 was to be a very gallant runner-up behind the Turner with Jason Kendrick, Jordan Saunders, Griffiths and Doyle in the mix. Making it a perfect maximum start to his title campaign, Turner then galloped to victory in the last 2T clash of the day from Kendrick, Benniston and Griffiths. After starting the day with a brace of runners-up slots, Sam Smith chances of a podium were dashed by a disastrous moto three in which he was classified with a lowly 33rd place finish. In this moto last year’s 125cc 2T Champion Rory Jones had a great ride, storming from 29th up to 11th. Bagging the podium places though it was Turner, Kenderick and Doyle. After making the move across from MX1 into 2T, Turner said, “I struggled a little with my starts as I haven’t had much race practice since badly breaking my wrist last June. Once in the lead I tried to concentrate hard and put in some fast laps, keeping focussed and not making mistakes. The track was really dry despite it being only April but Lawson and the Dursley MXC did a great job. Many thanks also to my team, IDS Transport AMS KTM for all their help.”
Finishing as runner-up in the 2016 Vets title race, Simon Lane must have been pleased with his flying start to the first clash of 2017. On the gas, Simon was quick away until James Russell decided to upset proceedings. The former AMCA Champion making a welcome comeback to top level racing passed Lane on lap 2 and with Terry House rapidly recovering from an indifferent start to slot into 3rd, the battle for honours was on. After initially gating 7th, House then moved through in style to take the win with Russell, Lane, Martin Atherton, Richard Chinn and Stephen Elford the next best.
Moto two and House gated down in 19th as Russell and Lane again set the pace at the front. Although House did remarkably well to get back into 3rd, the front two had long gone and that’s the way it stayed. In the final Vets clash, it was to be Lane bagging a start to finish victory from House, Russell, Gary Jones, Atherton and Elford. With points added up, remarkably Russell, Lane and House were all locked together on 164 for the overall, the verdict going to Lane courtesy of his last moto win. The winning JSR Honda ace later said, “It went well today with the track really fast in the morning before getting rough which I prefer. The bike this year is so much faster and we have a fantastic team in which everyone is helpful and positive. Considering the weather, the track rode well, great job again by Lawson Benjamin.”
With Joshua Scott and Joshua Herbert taking the Non-qualifiers overall verdicts the round one action was complete. It’s a busy start though for the AMCA Championship chasers and there’s certainly no time to either celebrate, commiserate or amend your preparation. They are back in action again this weekend, Sunday, April 16th when they travel to Nympsfield for round two!
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The results of the event are below.