Coming in to the fourth and final round of the IMBA Ladies European Championship the British girls had one final chance to move team GB further up the table.
With the top female racers in the UK led by newly crowned BWMA Westermans International British Womens Motocross Champion Chelsea Gowland aboard her Redline Westermans Honda, hopes were high of a great finish to the season for all the team. Without IMBA Team rider Leonni Tighe it was down to newcomers Taylor Scott, Hubway Hire Honda, Marni Saunders, Kayleigh Durston and Jaymee Garrood Hard Racing Husqvarna to support the efforts of the rest of Gowlands team mates Charlotte Hall Realising Dreams Honda and Catherine King Midwest Husqvarna. It was going to take a big effort with 37 riders on the gate, the biggest line up in a womens round for a long time
Team GB manager Vicky Marriott put on a cracking performance at the pre-race presentation to raise the team spirits and bond them together, She promised a win and she wouldn’t be disappointed.
The weather was glorious for the racing with sunny skies and a well prepared track. Free practice put Gowland at the top of the leader board with the rest of the team taking time to settle in, but when it came to qualifying, Gowland still got the better of series leader Belgium Brenda Wagemans to take her 3rd pole position out of 4. Charlotte Hall was next best with 13th, Marni Saunders 15th, Catherine King 19th one place ahead of Taylor Scott and Kayleigh Durston, with Jaymee Garrood in a creditable 24th.
Race 1 and the battle we had hoped for took shape, Belgium series leader Wagermans took the holeshot with Gowland close behind but it was young Brit Jaymee Garrood that put in a blistering start in fourth place around the first corner, Garrood battled bravely at an intense pace for the first few laps until the pressure and pace forced her into a small mistake, dropping her down to 25th at the finish but a gutsy performance non the less. Meanwhile Gowland and Wagermans were having a titanic battle at the front. Gowland putting Wagermans under pressure all the way, Wagermans carved her way through the back markers better than Gowland managing to gap her by 5 seconds, but once Gowland got through she reeled Wagermans in lap by lap until two laps from the end she put a pass on for the lead off line but quickly slid out on the slick surface dropping her back, a blow but she managed to remount and save 2nd place. The mid pack was stacked, mostly with the British girls. Settling down into a familiar top 10 spot was Charlotte Hall keeping her hopes of climbing up the table alive. She gated 13th and pushed through to eventually take 9th. Close behind was Catherine King in 13th place coming out best in the home battle with Marni Saunders. Sneaking into the top 20 was Taylor Scott edging home in 19th with Kayleigh Durston two places behind in 21st.
Race 2 and the tension was high with Gowland determined to get the better of Wagermans. As the gate dropped, again Wagermans got the holeshot with Gowland on her tail, but the super quick starting of Garrood dropped her into an impressive 3rd place, followed by Hall in 5th place. Unfortunately Gowland made a small mistake on the second corner slipping out and dropping her way down the field, the anticipated battle was over but, that didn’t stop Gowland pushing hard through the pack to take an impressive 6th place from almost dead last and despite stalling towards the end. In the meantime the Brit girls were commanding the top ten. For a while Garrood was battling away in the top 10 until another small mistake dropped her down to finish 22nd, Charlotte Hall who ran in 4th place for most of the race before a crash damaged her radiator, but she still managed to bring it home in 10th. Again the Brits were racing out their skin in the mid pack with Marni Saunders coming home in a solid 13th ahead of Catherine King and Kayleigh Durston finally finding her way into the top 20 with 18th.
By now the girls were on a high with all of them putting in the best racing of their season against the best of Europe, their team spirit and commitment was impressive. All of them were determined to make the last race the best, all believing they could now do it. This time Wagermans didn’t get the holeshot, gating 6th but crucially, one place behind Brit Chelsea Gowland, Within half a lap Gowland had took the lead and managed to put a 3 second gap on Wagermans, Gowland was now in control and she was doing what she has all year in the British Championship, winning races. This time it was Gowlands turn to carve through the back markers cleanly and with three laps to go the gap had grown to 10 seconds and it was Gowlands race, the one lap board was shown and Gowland showing great maturity rode a faultless but majestic lap to bring home her 2nd IMBA race win of the season, finishing on the biggest high, giving her 2nd overall for the day and 2nd in the IMBA Championship, the best performance of any British Girl. If that drama wasn’t enough, Charlotte Hall now on her spare bike was going for another top 10 finish to help her improve in the overalls, but cruel fait robbed her as she got a rear puncture in only the second lap, she bravely continued to score points but could only bring it home in 29th. Meanwhile the rest of the team were following Chelsea’s lead and bravely battled to improve on all their previous positions, Cathering King was impressive bagging her best position of 12th place two ahead of a determined and consistent Marni Saunders, Kayleigh Durston reached her target of another top 20 position finishing 19th, two ahead of Jaymee Garrood in 21st and one ahead of Taylor Scott all of these nose to tail in a titanic mid pack battle, with very little between them.
This has been the biggest IMBA Season for the British girls and their most successful. The BWMA have been able to give 11 British girls invaluable IMBA European racing experience and this has helped develop their confidence and speed. For 2019 we can look forward to a realistic chance of winning the IMBA title for the first time and with the improvements all the girls have made a realistic chance of doing the double and winning for team GB.
Report by Howard Marriott and images by Mike Wood
The results of the event are below.