The opening round of the ACU British Quad Championship started proceedings at the 2015 Hawkstone International for qualifying at 9:00am but conditions weren’t as predicted. With the forecast saying cloud with sunshine, thirty-nine riders were faced with awful fog conditions on a very damp sandy Hawkstone Park track. With five to six laps predicted during the fifteen minute session, all eyes were on the championship favourites and wildcard Joe Maessen, with championship favourite Paul Holmes going top with a 02:12.109 on his second lap. As lap times became quicker once riders adapted to the track and shrugged off winter blues, it was the under twenty-one youngster Dean Colhoun who stole the show, snatching pole from Dutchman Maessen with a 02:10.894 and becoming the only rider to get under two minutes, eleven. As Maessen held onto second ahead of Holmes, naughty boy Mark McLernon took fourth, looking for a strong opening round to overhaul a twenty-five point penalty for an outburst on social media. Completing the top five was Luke Cooper, on-board the KTM Quad, but his time was four seconds down on pole sitter Colhoun. With a big grid of riders, grid position would be crucial for the opening heats to get a good start into the tight first corner.
ACU British Quad Championship Qualifying – Top 5
- Dean Colhoun (43) = 02:10.894s
- Joe Maessen (101) = +00:01.092s
- Paul Holmes (11) = +00:01.215s
- Mark McLernon (919) = +00:01.219s
- Luke Cooper (69) = +00:04.432s
Opening the racing at the Hawkstone International after qualifying, the Quads took to track for the first of three races, expecting a feisty opener, after the winter break. With most of the Quad family anticipating a strong showing from wildcard Joe Maessen and Paul Holmes, everyone ended up taking a back seat to returnee Luke Cooper, who blasted out of the gate on the KTM and into an early lead. For Luke, this was his first time back on the Quad after an ACU ban stopped his title challenge in 2014, due to dangerous antics on track during a club meeting. Whilst there was a five way tussle for second, Colhoun sat at the head of the pack, before inheriting the lead within moments.
As Cooper looked very quick out front, he soon went out of sight of the commentary box and didn’t return into view. The reason for this was due to a severe crash at the Bomb-hole, which resulted in a dislocated hip and medics on scene within minutes. With yellow flags being waved in the area of the crash, Colhoun took the lead of the race and tried to pull clear of the rest. With Stefan Murphy lying in second and chasing hard, the seventh lap of the race saw the stewards halt proceedings, due to Cooper needing assistance of an ambulance for a trip to hospital. The update we heard from the Quad Championship organisers was that Luke Cooper was having surgery on Sunday evening (08 February).
With the race stopped during lap seven, the race result went back a lap with Dean Colhoun taking the first win of the season by nine seconds from Murphy, with under twenty-one George Callaway completing the podium in third. The rider who did have one hell of a race was wildcard Joe Maessen, who suffered a crash on the opening lap and then fought his way up the order from dead last to eleventh. In order to free himself from his crash on the first lap, Maessen had deflated one of his tyres and tackled the rest of the race and the sand with a flat at the front.
ACU British Quad Championship Heat One – Top 5
- Dean Colhoun (43) = 6 Laps = 13:33.997
- Stefan Murphy (72) = +00:09.446s
- George Callaway (89) = +00:11.259s
- Paul Holmes (11) = +00:15.090s
- Oliver Sansom (3) = +00:18.946s
The second race of the day took place in the afternoon after the first races for the MX1 and MX2 Solos, on what was starting to become a rough and tough track. With the Quads starting to overheat a lot more than the previous race due to conditions, heat two was surely going to be a test of strength of rider and Quad in order to be on the podium.
With everyone having a cleaner start through turn one this time around, the No.3 Quad of Oliver Sansom broke out into an early lead, but before he knew it, Murphy and Maessen were breathing down his neck. When the Dutchman pulled out in front, he never looked like being beaten, especially proving how good he can be around Hawkstone Park in heat one. Whilst Murphy held to the rear of the Dutchman, the threat of Dean Colhoun caused the Englishman to lose ground, slipping to third in the early stages. With Colhoun into second, he pulled clear of the chasing pack, but couldn’t catch the wildcard Dutchman during the closing stages of the race, even after Maessen found himself within backmarkers late on.
Within the group for the final podium places, the fourth lap of the race unfortunately saw reigning Under-21 Champion Mark McLernon hit the deck, whilst Paul Holmes was moving up the order after a slow start. The rider giving Holmes the most pressure in fifth was KTM challenger Sheldon Seal, who was listed by many as a dark horse during the 2015 season. After a race one finish in seventh, Seal had worked his way up the order early and was giving the former champion a run for his money. Seal looked very quick on the sandy Hawkstone Park track after using his experience from January’s Le Touquet Quad Enduro beach race in France, where Seal came home sixth overall and as the highest Brit. Unfortunately for Seal though, Holmes retained fourth and pulled away to a gap of six seconds.
ACU British Quad Championship Heat Two – Top 5
- Joe Maessen (101) = 11 Laps = 26:01.804
- Dean Colhoun (43) = +00:11.828s
- Stefan Murphy (72) = +00:17.462s
- Paul Holmes (11) = +00:20.882s
- Sheldon Seal (92) = +00:26.296s
For the last race of the day for the Quads, the track was in a really rough state, after not being graded since the lunchtime interval. With the field darting into turn one, one last time, the No.11 Quad of Paul Holmes broke into an early lead and never looked back. With a clear track in front of him, Holmes was able to take the right lines to suit his style and this resulted in the former champion pulling clear from the rest.
As the gap between first and second increased, a fight for second was on between Dean Colhoun and Stefan Murphy. Both were also battling for the overall honours for round one, but it wasn’t long before wildcard Joe Maessen closed the gap in fourth. With the clock ticking down in the later stages, a mistake would cost Colhoun dearly, as the young Irishman suffered a puncture and dropped down the order. To make things worse, whilst chasing down Carl Bunce, Colhoun went over the handle bars in the bomb-hole and failed to get the Quad going. A red flag before the race’s end, handed Colhoun a thirteenth place finish and left him as tied championship leader in the Under Twenty-one class, with George Callaway on the RPG Yamaha also on 141 points after three races.
Back within the top three of the race, front runner Paul Holmes had pulled out a ten second advantage, whilst Murphy was under huge pressure from Dutch sand specialist Maessen. It was within the closing stages that the Dutchman made his move, passing Murphy and securing a second to back up his win in heat two. With Murphy holding onto third and way ahead of Carl Bunce in fourth, the Englishman claimed the top spot in the overall standings and would lead the championship. For Bunce and McLernon in completing the top five, this was their best rides of the opening round and hopefully a boost for the rest of the campaign.
ACU British Quad Championship Heat Three – Top 5
- Paul Holmes (11) = 11 Laps = 27:04.226s
- Joe Maessen (101) = +00:09.841s
- Stefan Murphy (72) = +00:12.227s
- Carl Bunce (585) = +00:39.135s
- Mark McLernon (919) = +00:55.156s
Fog cleared and three races of 2015 completed, the winter training for Stefan Murphy had certainly worked its magic, with the Irishman leading the ACU British Quad Championship for the first time in his career. Without taking a victory during the 2015 season opener, Murphy’s training within the French Sand Championship had allowed the twenty-four year old to ride his ATV’s R Us Yamaha YFZ450 to a second and two thirds on one of Britain’s toughest sand tracks. With the ACU British Quad Championship starting earlier than normal, this limited the amount of testing for most of the riders, but Murphy used his experience from France to score well on a track which dug up particularly deep and became worse during the day, especially with the MX1 and MX2 solos having four races around the three of the Quads. In terms of the rest of the championship, Murphy holds a slender one point lead over championship favourite Paul Holmes, who powered up the standings with a superb win in the final twenty minute heat by over two and a half minutes. The former British Champion picked up three top four finishes over the course of the day, but struggled in heats one and two with set up and the dangerous arm pump that riders can suffer with. A change of set up for the final race allowed him to break away and record a well-deserved victory, setting up what could be a thrilling encounter for the rest of the season between Murphy and Holmes.
ACU British Quad Championship Standings Top 5:
- Stefan Murphy (72) = 47+45+45 = 137 Pts.
- Paul Holmes (11) = 43+43+50 = 136 Pts.
- Joe Maessen (101) = 30+50+47 = 127 Pts.
- Dean Colhoun (43) = 50+47+28 = 125 Pts.
- Sheldon Seal (92) = 37+41+39 = 117 Pts.
ACU British Quad Championship Under 21 Standings:
- Dean Colhoun (43) = 50+50+41 = 141 Pts.
- George Callaway (89) = 47+47+47 = 141 Pts.
- Bailey Edwards (33) = 39+43+45 = 127 Pts.
- Luke Davies (71) = 43+35+43 = 121 Pts.
- Jack Naylor (74) = 33+41+35 = 109 Pts.
For a chance to see the ACU British Quad Championship throughout 2015, the wait until round two is now two months, with the series getting back underway at the Northern Ireland venue of Desertmartin on the 02 May. Within the same month, the championship will return to the shores of England, with a trip to the thrilling Foxhill track in Swindon on the second Bank Holiday weekend. The second half of the season then gets underway on the 07 June at Stratford in Warwickshire, before the penultimate round in Cumbria at Deanmoor on the 19 July. The finale is a lengthy wait for the riders and teams after Round Five, with Canada Heights, Kent hosting Round 6 on the 04 October.
To follow the championship online, we recommend you visit http://www.nora-mx.org.uk or follow @UKQuadSports
Written and Produced by Chris Collier and Cheryl Closs.