The Hitachi ASA KTM UK team returned to British action for Round 2 of the Maxxis ACU British Motocross Championship this past weekend at Canada Heights in Kent. Riders Graeme Irwin and Conrad Mewse entered the meeting in positive spirits after a tough MXGP in Portugal but as red plate holders in MX1 and MX2 respectively, but only birthday boy Mewse would leave as a championship leader.
Despite the weather interruptions so far to the championship, thousands of excited spectators were treated to a race day of glorious sunshine at the Swanley venue, making for an incredible atmosphere and some very exciting racing from a challenging and changing circuit.
After suffering with illness during the previous weekend’s racing, reigning MX1 champion, Graeme Irwin, looked to be fit and back on form during the morning qualifying session, placing second, just 0.072 seconds short of Evgeny Bobryshev’s best time of 2:01:624.
Despite a strong start at the gate in the first moto, the red plate holder was unable to take advantage of his qualifying success after getting caught in a second corner crash. After straightening his KTM 450 SX-F up, the Northern Irishman – now in dead last – had a gap of over 30 seconds to the next rider to cover.
The crowd watched Irwin push himself hard for three laps on his own before catching the next rider. He continued to pick his competitors off over the next 10 laps, finally finishing in the points with a hard-earned 11th place.
Graeme got off to a good start in the second moto, holding fifth place through the first lap, and then gaining another position a lap later. By the mid-stage, the #1 orange machine had worked up to third position and continued to edge away from those following him, but could not quite make the half a second a lap needed to catch 2nd place Bobryshev on the now much more technical circuit.
Graeme Irwin #1: “It wasn’t such a big crash to be honest and I was up straight away; I just couldn’t get the bike restarted straight away and then it felt like a lifetime in the four laps it took to catch up with the next person, never mind the front group. I just gave it my all and got to eleventh.
“By having used up a lot of energy just to get back and try to get as many points as possible in the first moto, that definitely had an impact for the second. I had an average start and managed to work my way up to third, but just fell short of the guys in front who were riding really good.
“I think if I had a good start in the first moto, I would have been able to give a bit more in the second, but it is what it is. I am disappointed, we brought it (red plate) here leading the championship, but I’ll use this as motivation to take to Blaxhall.”
Despite a tough MXGP weekend in Agueda (Portugal) one week previous, Conrad Mewse continued his domestic momentum onto the Kent circuit, recreating his perfect weekend from the opening round at Culham.
The #426 started the day off by setting the fastest time in qualifying by 1.8s, giving him first choice for the often debated best starting gate.
The opening moto saw a fierce battle amongst the pack as they turned into the first right hander and then down to the first hairpin. Conrad was pushed back to almost mid pack whilst his strongest competition had got away at the front. The first time across the line, the Shepton Mallet rider had made his way back up to 9th place and continued to make up ground. By lap four, with his head down and riding the KTM 250 SX-F hard, Mewse caught Joshua Gilbert to take third, then Josh Spinks two laps later before finally taking the lead by overtaking Mel Pocock on the Husqvarna. The Hitachi ASA KTM rider then proceeded to pull an 18-second gap over the remaining 6 laps.
Celebrating his birthday this weekend, the now 19-year-old did so in style by picking up yet another 25 points in the second moto. Conrad had to work hard again after losing out in the first corner, finally catching the race leader Martin Barr in the closing stages of the race before stamping his authority and leaving the event with red plate once again.
Conrad Mewse #426: “It was one of my toughest races for a long time. That second race I wasn’t sure if I was going to be going out, I’ve picked up a bug this week, I’m feeling pretty ill, but I managed to get through it and we’ve had a good day. I done what I needed to do, and I gave it my best.
“We had a bit of a hiccup in the GPs the last weekend, no fault but my own, but we know what the problem was, that was fixed this week, and now we are back in rhythm again.”
Lee Tolan, Team Manager: “I think Graeme had a fantastic recovery ride. To come back from 30 seconds down and finish eleventh, I thought was a fantastic ride. He was truly upset about the whole situation, but for me, I thought what a valiant ride to get back to where he did; I was happy with that! The track was really technical and tricky for Graeme’s second race, and I think he’s a little disappointed with the result. He still did us proud and got a good result.
“Conrad, another flawless weekend! What can you say? He did the business didn’t he!”