Crendon Fastrack Honda team-mates Conrad Mewse and Josh Gilbert started their 2023 ACU British motocross championship in fine form as they both ended up on the podium at the brand new, super-tough Oakhanger track in Hampshire on Sunday.
Mewse took second overall after two runner-up rides in which he came from the back of the pack in both races. And Gilbert was third overall with fifth then third place rides after some good starts, despite the very deep sand track not playing to his best strengths.
The opening moto saw Mewse make a poor start while Gilbert was in the leading pack. At the end of the first lap, both men had made progress with Gilbert already up to fifth and his team-mate just inside the top ten.
As the track got rougher, Gilbert continued to hound the leading group and briefly moved up to fourth but Mewse was in incredible form, carving through the pack to catch up then pass his team-mate. As the gruelling conditions took their toll, the British MX2 champ was the quickest man on the track, making short order of his rivals as he came through to second place behind Harri Kullas before the flag fell.
Race two saw Gilbert in a solid second place behind Kullas, while Mewse was caught up in traffic once more but was soon in the top four as he mastered the deep track. As Kullas once again held a solid lead, Gilbert battled with former British champ Shaun Simpson. Mewse caught them and eventually came past and set off in a bid to catch the leader, with all three of the chasing men starting to reel Kullas in. Simpson got the better of Gilbert but the Honda man never gave up. He nipped back through after a daring move on the last lap, and he crossed the line third, just two seconds behind his team-mate Mewse as Kullas held on for the win.
Mewse said: “We’re in the fight from the title from round one, and in my first proper start to a season on a 450 so I have to be pleased with that. I had two second places when I had to push through from the back in both motos so overall it was a solid day. I felt like I rode really well too, so it’s a great way to start the championship – although I wanted to win both motos of course. The team did a great job on the bike and I’m leaving here fit and healthy, where the track caught a lot of people out today. I’m feeling comfortable and ready for the season ahead.”
Gilbert said: I started off in not the best way with eighth in qualifying. I didn’t really feel comfortable in qualifying, or the first race – all day to be honest! I was not a big fan of these conditions so to come away with a podium is a good start to the series. So I can build from this and with Harri having a win, I need to start winning and claw back some points. A positive was that my starts were good, and I almost holeshot the second one. So onto the next round at Canada heights which is I track I like. I’m going to look for a holeshot and start my winning there.”
Team manager, triple world 500 champ Dave Thorpe said: “That was a really solid start to the season for both Conrad and Josh in extremely difficult conditions. In all the years of racing, I’ve never seen a track like that in the UK. Even in the past when Hawkstone Park has a lot of and, it was never quite like that. I’m really pleased for both the riders. We didn’t quite have enough on the day but we’re in it from round one and that’s the key.”