After the spectacular setting of Pietramurata, the off road show moved to the Motocross Capital of Portugal for the weekend, to one of the riders’ favourite circuits on the calendar. The outskirts of Agueda were set to provide plenty of drama as its red dirt got drenched in rain in the week preceding the race, placing the GP at risk. Nonetheless, the sun returned to enjoy the action and plenty of work was put in to avoid the proceedings turning into a mud fight.
Conrad Mewse headed into Round 5 defending a top five position in the championship, while Graeme Irwin aimed to replicate his performance from the British championship on a world scale. But the best-laid plans often go awry and the flowing Portuguese track laid all sorts of traps to halt their progress on Sunday afternoon.
The rough course spelled misfortune for the #426 rider in the first race of the day, Mewse suffering a setback soon after the start as he got dropped to the back of the pack and had to battle his way through his rivals. The British rider climbed as high as 19th position at the halfway point of the race before the surface got the best of him and led to a DNF in the final few minutes of the race.
The quest for points continued three hours later but the second moto did not bring much luck to the young rider’s corner, Mewse not getting a chance to break into the top twenty on his KTM 250 SX-F and defending 21st position for the second half of the race. At the end of a very difficult weekend, he leaves Agueda empty-handed and drops two places in the Championship classification, taking over seventh spot.
The Red Bull Factory KTM of Jorge Prado got the holeshot in both races and made the two victories in Portugal almost look easy. The Spaniard is now only 14 points behind his teammate and reigning world champion Pauls Jonass in the title battle.
After a difficult qualifying in 21st position and battling flu throughout the weekend, Irwin started off the first premier class race of the day knocking on the doors of the top ten. The British champion rounded the first corner in 11th place before he got caught on the back foot in the melee of the first lap and lost ground towards the back of the top twenty. The #55 KTM had to abandon the race with ten minutes still on the clock.
On an increasingly challenging track, slightly better fortunes awaited in the second moto and Irwin made a fast start into 16th position. After struggling to find his rhythm in the early part of the race, the British rider had to eventually give up on the final points on offer and settle for 23rd place. After a tricky afternoon in Agueda, Irwin heads to Russia in 24th position in the championship. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Herlings boosted his lead in the title battle with two categorical wins over his teammate in Round 5.
Graeme Irwin said: “I was confident ahead of this round, but on Friday before the race I was feeling a little rough and on Saturday I was full-blown ill. I won’t go into too much detail, but I felt completely drained for the rest of the weekend and you need to be fully-fit to wrestle the KTM 450 SX-F against the best riders in the world and on a track like this. We are due some luck in GPs, but we will go to Canada Heights this weekend to keep the red plate on the bike.”
Next weekend brings another opportunity to make amends, Irwin and Mewse defending their red plates in Round 3 of the British Motocross Championship taking place at Canada Heights.
Photos by Ray Archer