Following a seven-week break, the Maxxis ACU British Motocross Championship supported by Pro Clean fires back into life on Sunday at Desertmartin in Northern Ireland.
The former GP track is one of the best in the world. Sand-based, it sweeps up, down, around and over a high ridge with steep climbs and descents and big jumps offering up plenty of lines.
Home hero Graeme Irwin (Hitachi ASA KTM UK) was a hugely popular winner last year on his way to his first Maxxis MX1 title but the man carrying the form into Desertmartin is series leader Jake Nicholls (Buildbase Honda). Nicholls has won the last four championship motos and although he missed this fixture last year through injury he was second there in 2016.
The Suffolk star has a 19-point lead over 2010 champion Evgeny Bobryshev (Lombard Express Suzuki with PAR Homes). The Russian is currently just outside the MXGP top 10 and should be Nicholls’ main threat on Sunday but you can’t under-estimate the benefit of home support and Irwin will be going all-out for a repeat performance of his 2017 result.
His debut season in MXGP isn’t going as smoothly as he would have liked but he had his best pair of scoring rides last weekend at Ottobiano. Currently third in the Maxxis and 33 points off the lead, no-one wants it more than Irwin as we saw last time out at Blaxhall when he raced with serious burns following a qualification crash.
Just two points further adrift in fourth, Elliott Banks-Browne (Geartec Husqvarna) was second overall at Blaxhall and has been notching up plenty of domestic wins this season.
Tied for fifth, Brad Anderson (Verde Substance KTM) and Ryan Houghton (RHR Yamaha) will both be pushing hard for their first Maxxis podiums of the season.
Evergreen Ando has been in dominant EMX300 form although there is a question mark over his fitness after he injured his knee at the MXGP of GB and Houghton seems to be getting faster every time he races.
Italian Ivo Monticelli (iFly JK Yamaha) is another rider you shouldn’t be surprised to see running up front along with Estonia’s Gert Krestinov (Phoenix Tools Apico Honda) who so far this season hasn’t had the results he’s capable of.
There was a home winner in MX2 last year as well with Martin Barr (REVO Husqvarna UK) taking the honours. He also won last time out at Blaxhall and is currently third in the EMX250 series so he’s carrying momentum into Desertmartin.
The man to beat, however, is Conrad Mewes (Hitachi ASA KTM UK) who has a 21-point lead and has won five out of the six motos run so far this year. His GP form may not currently quite match his domestic results but the signs are all there that he’s getting back up to speed in the world championship which is bad news for his Maxxis rivals.
The talent in MX2 this year is probably deeper than it’s been for years. Currently second in the series, Josh Gilbert (Buildbase Honda) only lost the overall at Blaxhall on a tie-break and the young Cornishman is having a breakthrough season. He’s also made his GP debut this year and in the two rounds he’s contested he’s scored points in three out of four motos.
A two-time Maxxis runner-up, Mel Pocock (REVO Husqvarna UK) holds third 11 points behind Gilbert. Currently second in the EMX250 series, he’ll be looking to improve on the third-placed finishes he achieved at the opening two rounds.
Liam Knight (Pope Racing KTM), who took a debut Maxxis moto win at Blaxhall, is one point behind Pocock and only seven ahead of Barr who’s counting the cost of a DNF at the opening round at Culham.
Sixth in the points table is Josh Spinks (M Smith KTM) who was second overall in EMX250 at Matterley Basin.
The organising Cookstown club will also host round four of the British Two-stroke Championship which is boiling down to a three-man battle between defending champion Mike Kras (GL12 Racing KTM), his team-mate James Dunn and Ash Wilde (RMJ Husqvarna UK).
Kras leads Wilde by 11 points but Dunn is the man to watch. After an off-song opening round he’s taken four wins from four starts and while he’ll need a big stroke of luck to claw back the Dutchman’s 19-point lead he’ll be looking to extend his win-streak to six.
Desertmartin is situated off Rectory Road south of Tobermore near Magherafelt. Postcode is BT45 5QW. Admission prices are £20 for adults and £5 for children aged five to 15 with a family ticket available at £45. Practice starts at 9am with the first race of the day at 10.45am.
Picture © Imagerich Media