Thanks to some natural watering alongside organised dampening of the surface, the Lower Drayton track was in great shape as the Stafford MXC hosted the home round of the 2023 IMBA European Ladies motocross Championship on Sunday. Team Great Britain fielded a 14 strong line-up for the challenge ahead and what a super performance they were to produce. Wildcard entry Grace Richards was to be the top GB Lady with a fantastic podium spot in 3rd. Also bagging big top ten overall placings were Marni Saunders (5th), Kathryn Booth (8th), Leah Rees-Evans (9th) and Caitlin Newman (10th).
Showing just how competitive this class really is at the front end, less than a 100th of a second separated fast Dutch females Amber Simmons and IMBA series leader Britt Van der Werff in early morning qualifying. Their times recorded being equal to that of top AMCA Open class Championship rider Will Hughes! Of the Brits, Richards and Booth were right up there also but for BWMA series leader Marni Saunders, timed qualifying did not go to plan following a painful crash!
However, despite that off, the determined Saunders was on the start line for moto one as Simmons made a simply jet-propelled start on her tasty looking 250F GasGas. Early on Simmons looked in total control, maintaining a safe distance between herself and Van der Werff whilst another Dutch girl, Kaylee Van Dam held 3rd. Van Dam though was coming under intense pressure from Richards with Booth, a former World Championship rider and 2019 British Champion, also waiting to pounce. Eventually Van Dam was able to see off the double GB attack and find some breathing space whilst on lap seven Van der Werff managed to move into top slot after cleverly hunting down her compatriot. So, in an entertaining opener, Dutch Ladies filled the top three positions with Van der Werff taking the win from Simmons, Van Dam, Richards, Booth, Cynthia Swets, Anais Nowakowski, Saunders, Hannah Jones and Newman. Three GB girls started the race on 85cc bikes and despite having a serious disadvantage in the horsepower stakes as they fought with the big 250F machines, they all gave a superb account of themselves. Leah Rees-Evans was 11th, Checoby Rainey 12th and Erin Howes 18th.
Despite not getting the best of initial starts, Simmons took just a couple of laps to overcome Van der Werff and Richards who had gloriously grabbed the moto two holeshot. Revelling in the soft, loamy Lower Drayton conditions, Simmons was in the mood and on fire in this one, stretching her advantage at the front. In a spread top five, Van der Werff in 2nd, Richards 3rd, Van Dam 4th and Booth 5th all looked very comfortable. The main battle though was a rip-roaring tussle for 6th which featured Swets and Saunders. Eventually Marni got the better of her Dutch rival whilst there was to be a very late drama at the front. After looking a certain winner, Simmons made a big mistake on the far side of the circuit and on the final lap, thus frustratingly handing victory to Van der Werff. With a very composed ride, GB wildcard Ladies Richards and Booth maintained their respective 3rd and 5th places all the way to the flag as Saunders, Newman and Rees-Evans also got home inside the top ten.
On course for a top five overall finish, Booth unfortunately crashed out early in moto three when holding 2nd as Richards, Saunders, Amber McGregor and Howes started strongly. Van der Werff, on course for a maximum points score led this one for five laps before Simmons came storming through. This time Simmons made no mistake and remained in control before racing onto the win from Van der Werff and Richards. That 3rd place for Grace meant that she had also confirmed her deserved place on the podium, what a result! The determined Saunders had her best ride of the day in this one, get homing in 5th whilst there was to be some very notable comeback performances by the GB Ladies. Rees-Evans went from 13th up to 8th, Rainey 19th up to 10th and Newman from last back to 13th.
As well as the already mentioned top ten overall finishes for some of the GB Ladies, the whole team all competed with fantastic determination and pride. In the final reckonings, young Rainey was 12th, McGregor 13th, Hannah Jones 14th, Autumn Jenkinson 15th, India Hodgkinson 17th, Howes 18th, Sophie Jones 19th, Daisy Blackwell 20th and Izzi Wright 22nd. At the IMBA, it was to be an especially proud moment for the Jones family with sisters Hannah and Sophie both representing their Country. Well done to all the girls at Lower Drayton on their fine performances.
Words and Images by Mike Wood
The results of the event are below.