Storm Jorge did his best (and worst) to spoil the weekend with impressive storms blowing over the Hampshire circuit, wrecking some of the track infrastructure and leading to the cancellation of
Saturday’s qualifying races - replaced with a relatively short timed qualifying session, which
Sunday’s races saw HRC’s MXGP rookie Australian Mitch Evans begin his season well with a third place finish in race one; and he backed this up with a very solid seventh in race two - battling his way back from 15th on lap one after ‘spinning up’ on the start gate.
Meanwhile three-time World Champion Tim Gajser’s season struck some bad luck on lap one of the first race with an early ‘altercation’ crash putting him dead last on lap one. Tim made solid progress through the field, lap-by-lap picking off riders and climbing his way up to seventh position on the final lap, only to lose a place with a spectacular high-side - just meters from the
Race two was an altogether different affair. After a couple of early corner battles, Tim cruised his way into the lead and never looked back. His first race win of the season was an emphatic victory, handing him second overall and 38 points in his MXGP account.
In the MX2 class the it was team Honda 114 Motorsport’s new signing Australian, Nathan
Crawford who lead Honda’s CRF250 campaign with 14th overall - a result which belies his efforts following a big crash in race one.
Team Honda RedMoto Assomotor’s riders Stephan Rubini and Alvin Östlund had a frustrating start to the season, both with no-scores in race two and mid-pack results in race one.
The MX2 Honda teams are looking to improve quickly in a week’s time as the gate drops in the Dutch sand of Valkenswaard.
I’m happy with how this first round of the season went. Just I had a couple of crashes in the first moto, with one right at the beginning of the race which meant I started from dead last. I worked my way through the field to finish eighth, after the second crash right at the end dropping me one spot. In the second race I was hoping to get a good start and show my riding a bit better and that’s what happened. With the low sun and the ruts, the track was really quite tricky but I felt good and the moto felt comfortable. Second overall isn’t too bad after my first moto so now we move onto Valkenswaard for a new challenge.
It was a good weekend, excluding the start of that second moto. Everything else went really well. In the first moto I had a good start, avoiding some of the early race carnage and made my way into second for a little bit. Unfortunately, I struggled with my breathing a bit because of my chest infection and finished third. I felt a lot better in the second moto although I had to push throughout the race because of the bad start. I used a lot of energy to get around guys as fast as I could and I hit a bit of a wall with eight minutes to go. Overall it was a good weekend though, I’m happy with my MXGP debut and now I get ready for Valkenswaard next weekend.
Qualifying was a really challenge - especially for me coming from Australia. I’ve never race in
condition that cold, windy and rainy. It was definitely something that I hadn’t been through before, so it was quite a shock. We tried to prepare for it and did our best in the tough conditions.
In race one I got a mid-pack start, but made some good passes on lap one. I was hovering around 10th position and then had a big crash and after that I was just surviving and trying to get through the race. In race two it was an OK start, but not great - so I set about battling my way through and ended the race in 10th place. The second trace was definitely better for me and that gives me something to build on.”
The beginning of this season’s World Championship faced some very difficult conditions to add on top of all of the expectations and nerves that our riders were experiencing.
I think next weekend will bring a great sense of relief when we hopefully return to more normal racing conditions
In particular our new starters in MX2 - Nathan Crawford and Bailey Malkiewicz did well as they’ve not competed in the MX2 class previously, so I think they did really well under the circumstances and the reduced track time due to the weather. They had a lot to consume and a lot to learn in a very short space of time.
Nathan Crawford did exceptionally well to recover a big crash in race one and finish race two in 10th which is a very good result for his first weekend racing in the World Championships. His teammate Bailey is carrying some injuries, so hats-off to him for persevering with all that he was up against.
Stephan Runini and Alvin Östlund I’m sure will be happy forget this weekend and move onto the next GP. They just didn’t get a run of good fortune with starts, avoiding crashes and dealing with difficult traffic to try to make passes - so we’re looking to next weekend for this guys to really show what they’re made of.
In MXGP we had great success with Tim Gajser finishing second overall, which was fantastic and also a very good performance from Mitch Evans with his third place in race one and then his storming ride through the pack from almost last position on lap one to reach seventh at the finish.
Jeremy van Herobeek, Valentin Guillod and Benoit Paturel all had troublesome starts and incidents in the races that prevented them from getting a good run and good results. They’ll also be grateful of another chance to improve next weekend.
I’m pleased that we’re out of this weekend with no riders injured or catastrophes to worry about, so we’re all looking forward to next weekend to improve on our results.