On the horizon was the start of the World Motocross Championships, but before that, Hawkstone Park in Shrewsbury hosted the HIMX. The annual season opener to the outdoor scene in the United Kingdom is one of the biggest pre-season International events on the calendar, attracting major teams and riders from the World Championship, as well as the British Motocross series. With classes for MX1 and MX2, the level of competition was extremely high, as riders were hoping to get the best preparation for the season ahead, on one of the toughest tracks in England. In the MX1 class, the line-up was packed full of international talent, including Holland’s Marc De Reuver (BT Honda) and Portugal’s Rui Goncalves (Bike-It Yamaha Cosworth). In terms of British talent, this class included fan favourite Tommy Searle, on the factory CLS Monster Energy Kawasaki. Tommy had originally signed up for the 2013 event but after cancellation, returned to Hawkstone Park on the back of a full season in MX1 of the World Championship. Tommy is one of the best from the United Kingdom but would face strong competition from within, as plenty of home-grown talents had signed up, including Shaun Simpson (HM Plant KTM UK) and adopted Brit, Matiss Karro, on the Wilvo Forkrent KTM.
Whilst in the MX2 class, the front runner certainly had to be the 2013 World MX2 Champion; Jeffrey Herlings, on the Factory Red Bull KTM. Herlings had smashed the competition in 2013, winning 15 out of 17 races and approached Hawkstone Park to get his 2014 year off to the best possible start. Even though it was his debut at the HIMX, after 2013’s cancellation, you could expect him to be at the front of the field. Competing in the class hoping to overhaul Herlings was GP regulars Mel Pocock (HM Plant KTM UK) and Holland’s Lars Van Berkel (Honda) both who were easily capable of taking victory on the challenging track. After years of being on the Yamaha in the World and British Championships, Mel Pocock had switched to KTM machinery for a dual campaign. Other riders in the MX2 field who were worth watching as experienced riders on British tracks was multiple MX2 Red Bull Champion Neville Bradshaw (Putoline Apico Honda) and Frenchmen Steven Lenoir (Dantec Husqvarna UK).
Herlings secures opening Moto Victory
The first race of the day saw the MX2 riders take to the track after an ultra-competitive qualifying session. With sand specialist Jeffrey Herlings showing why he was a double MX2 Champion, the Dutchman was first to take up a spot on the start gate, but once the gate dropped, it was fellow countryman Lars Van Berkel who broke out ahead after passing Mel Pocock, who took the holeshot As track conditions had become tougher since qualifying, the riders were working extra harder to complete a lap of the Hawkstone Park track, but early on nothing fazed Van Berkel. With Herlings pushed down the order in fourth, he was finding it hard to overhaul GP competitor Mel Pocock on the opening lap, but it wasn’t long for the Dutchman to move his KTM into second. The third lap of the race saw the decisive moment of who would end up taking the honours, as Herlings used his ability to pass Van Berkel’s Honda and with that, disappeared into the distance. The talent of Herlings saw him end up securing the opening MX1 race by over one minute, in what was his first proper race since injury over the winter.
With Herlings clear of the rest, it was the battle for the final podium spots which certainly caught the attention of the watching crowd. With Van Berkel sitting in second and looking clear, a surging Ben Watson decreased the Dutchman’s advantage, after disposing of Mel Pocock. Pocock’s moto unfortunately ended early, with the HM Plant KTM giving up, as the rear axle collapsed and busted the chain. Before Pocock’s disaster, he had looked very strong throughout the race, sitting in third or fourth. As he swapped with Ben Watson in the early stages, the KTM rider had looked capable of closing in Van Berkel, as the Dutchman started to tire in the later stages.
The challenge of Ben Watson vs. Lars Van Berkel was very exciting in the last few minutes of the race, but the speed of Petar Petrov saw the Kemea Reytec Yamaha rider move into contention of a podium place. After working his way up the order throughout the race after a bad start, Petar found himself into third and putting pressure on the rear of Van Berkel’s Honda. As Petrov passed Van Berkel with minutes remaining, the last few laps enabled Ben Watson to take advantage of Van Berkel’s mistakes and the two crossed the finish line only metres apart. With the top five completed by Frenchmen Steven Lenoir, ahead of South African Neville Bradshaw in sixth, the two of them had quite a competitive showdown in the closing stage, as Bradshaw had reeled in Lenoir on his Putoline Apico Honda. The final standings for the top five in the opening MX2 race at the Hawkstone International looked as follows:
1. Jeffrey Herlings (84 – Red Bull KTM Factory) = 14 Laps = 31:19.635
2. Petar Petrov (152 – Kemea Reytec Yamaha) = +01:05.267
3. Lars Van Berkel (107 – Honda) = +01:08.633
4. Ben Watson (919 – HM Plant KTM UK) = +01:08.950
5. Steven Lenoir (685 – Dantec Husqvarna UK) = +01:27.219
Overall the opening MX2 race had started tight but as soon as Herlings found his way to the front, his talent was shown, as he rode off into the distance, on a track which was very similar to the sands of Holland. With Pocock non-finishing in this race, the HM Plant KTM rider would certainly be back out in race two and hoping to give the Dutchman a good run for his money and booking his place in the all-important Superfinal.
Searle Beats Simpson in Thrilling MX1 Opener
As soon as the opening MX2 race was completed, the track was free for the 450 machines of the MX1 class, as Tommy Searle brought out his Monster Energy CLS Kawasaki to do “battle of the Brits,” after beating fellow countryman Shaun Simpson by a couple of tenths in qualifying. With the focus on which Brit would grab the holeshot, Latvian Matiss Karro split the Brits by snatching the holeshot on his Wilvo Forkrent KTM, whilst Simpson and Searle diced over second. As Karro slipped to fourth on the opening lap, Simpson moved ahead on the HM Plant KTM and started to pull clear, with Searle in third behind a quick Todd Waters , racing for Red Bull Ice One Husqvarna. It didn’t take long for the top four to break away, with Waters vs. Searle the main attraction and on lap five, the Kawasaki rider was into second.
By the time Searle had moved into second, Simpson had used the open track to his advantage and pulled out a comfortable lead ahead of the chasing pack. With Searle now ahead of Waters and on course to chase Simpson down, tragedy hit Waters, as the Husqvarna slowed before being damaged in a heavy crash. With Waters heading for the paddock, Karro moved into a podium position but unfortunately was way down on his rivals out front. Matiss Karro tried as hard as could to close the margin on Simpson and Searle but it was to no avail, with the two Brits riding as hard as possible to break away from each other.
In the closing stages it was brilliant from Searle, as the Kawasaki completely reduced Simpson’s lead and set up a thrilling finale over the added two laps. With the Kawasaki jumping higher and longer than the KTM, momentum was on Searle’s side, who blasted into the lead and continued his momentum by pulling clear by over four seconds. With Simpson having no answer to Searle’s class, the KTM rider settled for second ahead of Matiss Karro’s KTM. Behind the leading three, former British MX1 Champion Brad Anderson came home in fourth on the Buildbase Honda, closely followed by Jens Getteman on the 24MX Honda, who had rounded out the top five. The final standings for the top five in the opening MX1 race at the Hawkstone International looked as follows:
1. Tommy Searle (100 – Monster Energy CLS Kawasaki) = 13 Laps = 29:51.115
2. Shaun Simpson (24 – HM Plant KTM) = +04.991
3. Matiss Karro (91 – Wilvo Forkrent KTM) = +48.357
4. Brad Anderson (60 – Buildbase Honda) = +01:07.106
5. Gert Krestinov (37 – LPE Kawasaki) = +01:12.918
In a race which had showed the overall class of the MX1 field, this set things up nicely for race two and who would qualify for the thrilling Superfinal. The questions ahead of the final MX1 moto were who could overhaul Searle’s excellence? and whether this would be Simpson or Karro?
Herlings Makes it Two out of Two in Dominant Fashion.
After a support race broke up the proceedings, the track was a lot tougher come the second MX2 race, but this never fazed MX2 World Champion, Jeffrey Herlings, with the Dutchman being a certain sand specialist and loving these conditions. He made that evident at the start of the final MX2 moto, by launching away from the gate and grabbing the ever-important holeshot. With the Dutchman out front and not having to follow the track of another rider, it only took until the third/fourth lap for him to have a five seconds lead over the rest of the field.
As Pocock and Van Berkel settled into second and third from the gate, the next three got caught up in a little fight, with Neville Bradshaw trying to hold back Ben Watson and Martin Barr. As the three British Championship regulars battled over fourth, Martin Barr on the VMX/Malin KTM was able to get a run on his rivals and begin to chase down Pocock and Van Berkel. The battle over second was very competitive, with Van Berkel getting an excellent run on Pocock’s KTM and out jumping him before the table top. The jump pass forced Pocock to slow up and then moments later, Barr moved ahead into third as well. After going backwards on the KTM, Pocock gained momentum to crawl back both positions come the flag, as Van Berkel tired for a second time and Pocock found his way past Martin Barr.
The rider of the race though who had another brilliant ride after a shocking start was Petar Petrov. After working his way up the order in race one, he did exactly the same in race two, to come home in fourth ahead of Van Berkel, who was able to keep a battling Steven Lenoir and Neville Bradshaw outside of the top five. The final standings for the top five in the final MX2 race at the Hawkstone International looked as follows:
1. Jeffrey Herlings (84 – Red Bull KTM Factory) = 13 Laps = 29:47.462
2. Mel Pocock (119 – HM Plant KTM UK) = +01:26.687
3. Martin Barr (50 – VMX/Malin KTM) = +01:26.687
4. Petar Petrov (152 – Kemea Reytec Yamaha) = +01:31.864
5. Lars Van Berkel (107 – Honda) = +01:41.838
With both MX2 races concluded, the overall winner of the class was Jeffrey Herlings, after being the star of the show to secure victory in both Motos. Herlings was awarded the Hawkstone International trophy for MX2 and would line up in the Superfinal, as the first MX2 rider to choose his gate position. The overall top five in the MX2 standings looked as follows:
1. Jeffrey Herlings (84 – Red Bull KTM Factory) = 50
2. Petar Petrov (152 – Kemea Reytec Yamaha) = 40
3. Lars Van Berkel (107 – Honda) = 36
4. Martin Barr (50 – VMX/Malin KTM) = 32
5. Ben Watson (919 – HM Plant KTM UK) = 31
Simpson and Karro Fight For Win As Searle Drops Out
For the final MX1 Moto, the rest of the field were certainly out to prove that Tommy Searle wouldn’t secure a double, as Matiss Karro and Shaun Simpson beat the Kawasaki away from the line to make a KTM manufacture 1-2 into the opening few corners at Hawkstone Park. As Karro led Simpson, the HM Plant KTM started to up the ante, pilling on more and more pressure at each corner. It was on the fourth lap that Simpson made his move, but Karro ended up seeing Searle go past as well, after the Kawasaki had kept with the two KTMs early on and kept Todd waters at bay in fourth. After Tommy moved into the lead, the Kawasaki rider looked certain to pull away, but a loose stone worked its way into the sprocket and ruined his race. After plenty of laps on the side-lines, Tommy re-joined in last.
With Searle effectively out of the running for the MX1 Hawkstone International crown, it was left to Simpson and Karro to go to war. As the Brit moved into the lead ahead of Karro, Simpson used his ability to pull clear, on what was a very difficult track surface. With many of the ruts catching riders out, Simpson tackled the corners a lot smoother than Karro, allowing him to pull out a comfortable margin and secure the moto. Victory for Simpson awarded him the MX1 title and lined him up perfectly for the Superfinal. As Karro came home in second, Todd Waters settled for the final podium spot on the Husqvarna.
Rounding out the top five in fourth and fifth was Gert Krestinov (LPE Kawasaki) and Marc De Reuver (BT Honda), who in the closing stages had an epic battle, with Brad Anderson chasing down both of them throughout the race. Anderson had his own battle in the race from fellow Buildbase Honda Nathan Parker, who secured a place in the Superfinal along with his team mate. The final standings for the top five in the final MX1 race at the Hawkstone International looked as follows:
1. Shaun Simpson (24 – HM Plant KTM) = 13 Laps = 31:03.404
2. Matiss Karro (91 – Wilvo Forkrent KTM) = +11.766
3. Todd Waters (47 – Red Bull Ice One Husqvarna Racing) = +33.502
4. Jens Getteman (51 – 24MX Honda Team) = +44.102
5. Gert Krestinov (37 – LPE Kawasaki) = +49.959
As mentioned above, the victory for Shaun Simpson saw him lift the MX1 trophy for the 2014 Hawkstone International ahead of Matiss Karro and surprisingly Jens Getteman. The surprise was the non-points finish for Tommy Searle in race two, which saw him finish overall in seventh. Ahead of the Superfinal, which would see the MX1 riders find things pretty difficult by starting five seconds behind the MX2 field, the overall top five in the standings were as follows:
1. Shaun Simpson (24 – HM Plant KTM) = 47
2. Matiss Karro (91 – Wilvo Forkrent KTM) = 42
3. Jens Getteman (51 – 24MX Honda Team) = 33
4. Gert Krestinov (37 – LPE Kawasaki) = 32
5. Brad Anderson (60 – Buildbase Honda) = 32
Herlings Destroys the Field to be Crowned Georges Jobe Trophy Champion
For the 2014 Hawkstone International Superfinal for the Georges Jobe Trophy, the MX2 pack started the race on the 250 machinery, before the MX1 pack were released five seconds later on their faster, but heavier 450 machines. With the top riders from MX2 hoping to make the most of the five second advantage, Lars Van Berkel made the jump to grab the holeshot and lead on the opening few laps. As the MX1 riders were released, one of the favourites for the trophy got caught out and completed ruin his chances. After disaster in the second MX1 moto, Tommy Searle miss-timed the gate drop and ended up dead last on the Monster Energy CLS Kawasaki.
The rider in the MX1 class who got away well and wrapped off the MX2 class very quickly, was Hawkstone International champion Shaun Simpson, who got within the top ten in the first few laps. With Simpson catching Van Berkel by the end of lap two, he had a very close shave with HM Plant KTM team mate Mel Pocock. As Pocock led the race after dispatching Van Berkel, he found Simpson right on his tail as they entered the whoops section. With Simpson on faster machinery, he easily outpaced Pocock, but the lighter MX2 machine made things very difficult for Simpson to get by. As they came over the final table top and into the dip, Simpson and Pocock went at it, nearly ending up on the floor as the two got very close. With the MX1 rider coming out on top, the two continued side by side along the back straight, as the factory Red Bull KTM of Jeffrey Herlings closed in on them.
With Herlings pushing the HM Plant KTMs, he made light work of Pocock before being handed the lead with Simpson slowing. With Simpson pulling out at lap five, Jeffrey Herlings was free to break clear from the pack. As Matiss Karro inherited second, the KTM rider was unfortunately too far back to catch Herlings, with the sand specialist making light work of the very rutted Hawkstone Park track and on his way to victory. Sitting in third place behind the two KTMs was Lars Van Berkel, who had worked his way back up the order after falling to fifth in the early stages. As Mel Pocock dropped away completely and the field split up, Van Berkel found himself in a fight with Martin Barr. For Barr, a brilliant ride up the order saw him chasing down the Honda in the closing stages, making light work of the margin that kept him off the podium. Unfortunately for Martin, time was against him as he caught Van Berkel, with the Dutchman holding onto third across the line.
Just inside the top five at the line was MX1 podium finisher Jens Getteman, ahead of a strong Todd Waters, who had consistently rode well throughout the meeting and ended the Hawkstone International with a good sixth place on the Husqvarna. Behind Waters was Gert Krestinov, who at one stage was battling with a recovering Tommy Searle, but the Monster Energy CLS Kawasaki rider had more issues in the closing stages of the Superfinal and ended the race in 27th position. After starting the meeting well with MX1 victory in Moto 1, Tommy’s day had certainly gone from good to bad, whilst overall winner and GP front-man Jeffrey Herlings had gone from strength to strength.
The overall victory for Jeffrey Herlings was certainly well deserved after the performances he put in, in every moto and if his form continues on the Grand Prix stage, he looks very likely to become a triple MX2 Champion, on-board his Red Bull Factory KTM.
The overall top ten in the Hawkstone International Superfinal looked as follows:
1. Jeffrey Herlings (84 – Red Bull KTM Factory) (MX2) = 13 Laps = 30:54.229
2. Matiss Karro (91 – Wilvo Forkrent KTM) (MX1) = +59.628
3. Lars Van Berkel (107 – Honda) (MX2) = +01:27.833
4. Martin Barr (50 – VMX/Malin KTM) (MX2) = +01:30.046
5. Jens Getteman (51 – 24MX Honda) (MX1) = +01:36.414
6. Todd Waters (47 – Red Bull Ice One Husqvarna Racing) (MX1) = +01:38.180
7. Gert Krestinov (37 – LPE Kawasaki) (MX1) = +01:42.100
8. Brad Anderson (60 – Buildbase Honda) (MX1) = +01:46.591
9. Brent Van Doninck (172 – Creymert Racing KTM) (MX2) = +01:47.359
10. Neville Bradshaw (272 – Putoline Apico Honda) (MX2) = +01:50.085
With the Hawkstone International completed, the riders attention now turn to the start of the World Championships, which begin on the 1st and 2nd March in Qatar. For Jeffrey Herlings he would be looking to defend his MX2 World title, whilst for the competitors of the MX1 class, they would be looking to overhaul reigning champion Antonio Cairoli, who has won the title every year since 2009 on the Yamaha and then the KTM. With the Italian holding the MX1 crown on the KTM since 2010 and Herlings being MX2 champion since 2012, this has meant that Red Bull KTM Factory Racing have had a hold on the World Championship and wouldn’t be looking to give this up in 2014.
In terms of the British Championship, riders have until the 16th March, when the MAXXIS sponsored championship begins at Landrake, ahead of an eight round championship. With some of the top riders from this event like Pocock, Bradshaw and Lenoir looking for the vacant MX2 title, the fight for the MX1 crown will be intense. This is due to both 2013 champions being in the class as reigning MX2 Champ Elliot Banks-Browne (Buildbase Honda) takes on the reigning MX1 champ Kristian Whatley (MBO Sport Yamaha), whilst Hawkstone International front runners Simpson (HM Plant KTM), Karro (Wilvo Forkrent KTM) and Brad Anderson (Buildbase Honda) should certainly be in the running for the title.
It was evident at Hawkstone Park that all riders have prepared themselves well over the winter, so you can expect very competitive championship either international or domestic.
For more pictures from the Hawkstone International, please click here.
Written and Produced by Chris Collier and Cheryl Closs.