Searle Seals MX1 Championship Lead at Lyng

2015 Champion Shaun SimpsonCadders Hill, Lyng was the venue to open the 2016 Maxxis British Motocross Championship on the 20 March 2016 with the sand based track an extreme test for the MX1 boys after a long winter. As a few of the front runners were fresh from two World Championship rounds in Qatar and Thailand, all eyes were going to be on the reigning double champion and the Wilvo Virus Performance KTM of Shaun Simpson. Starting the season where he had left off in 2015 with a win at pre-season opener the Hawkstone International, Shaun came into Lyng as the sixth best in the world after Thailand and was going well on-board the KTM. History in the British Championship and especially at Lyng had put Shaun as the rider with a target on his back and the level of competition for the opening round was pretty high in 2016. Coming off years of recovering, 2016 was going to be a favourable year for Kawasaki returnee Tommy Searle, as the Brit returned from Grand Prix level to contest the British Championship with Monster Energy DRT Kawasaki, after being with the Red Bull Factory KTM team in the past season. Lying eighth in the World Series had seen Searle back to his best and he was predicted as favourite to challenge Simpson for the MX1 British title this year. Just hiding in the shadows of Simpson and Searle and targeting victories was the ever popular Buildbase Honda team, run by the legend Dave Thorpe. With Kristian Whatley returning after a mixed 2015, the 2013 British Champion was joined this year by former Suzuki contender and Ireland’s Graeme Irwin. Big things were again expected from the Honda duo against the KTM and Kawasaki, however another manufacture, Husqvarna, in the hands of regular MX1 contender Jake Nicholls, was expected to be the near the front. Recovering from lengthy spells of injuries, Lyng’s local lad was looking to fight for the title on-board the Hitachi Construction Husqvarna on a track which Nicholls has gone well on in the past. In terms of a few other riders who couldn’t be left out as potential winners or championship contenders, one was the MX2 British Champion Steven Lenoir, making the step up into MX1 and remaining with the Dyer & Butler KTM team, after outscoring an injured Max Anstie in 2015. Back for another season at MX1 since winning the MX2 title was Bury St Edmunds’ Elliott Banks Browne, who was leading the line-up for the GearTec Yamaha team, after switching from the Suzuki he rode in 2015. With the British championship being strong domestically, two foreign riders were lining up to try and upset the Brits. Back for another season on British soil was Gert Krestinov, riding this year for Phoenix Tools Honda and Tanel Leok, who had switched from a Kawasaki to the MVRD Fuel 10K Husqvarna. Over two motos of twenty-five minutes plus two laps, the 2016 Maxxis British Motocross Championship was underway.

Qualifying was controlled by Tommy SearleWith free practice and timed qualifying going the way of Tommy Searle on the Monster Energy DRT Kawasaki, Searle was favourite for the opening moto in his quest to de-throne reigning champion Shaun Simpson. Lapping the Cadders Hill circuit over three seconds faster than his fellow MX1 riders, Searle chose the middle gate, with Simpson alongside and the Buildbase Hondas of Whatley and Irwin in close company. Once the gate dropped though, it was MX2 Champion Steven Lenoir (Dyer & Butler KTM) who surprised the Lyng crowd, taking the holeshot in his first Maxxis British Motocross MX1 race. Leading the way on the opening lap, Lenoir was challenged by Simpson, with Searle chasing hard in third position. Just outside the podium spots in the early stages, Kristian Whatley pushed hard with Gert Krestinov in the battle of the Hondas whilst Jake Nicholls was locked in a tussle with Elliott Banks Browne.

Back out front a mistake by Lenoir cost him the lead and the potential for a top three finish, as the Frenchmen slipped to eighth. With Simpson out front, the No.1 KTM had the Kawasaki of Searle snapping at his rear wheel and it wasn’t long before the Kawasaki made its move and into the lead. Once ahead Searle rode the conditions perfectly, breaking clear of rival Simpson, who himself had to be cautious of the chasing pack, especially with the Husqvarna of Tanel Leok looking more impressive in the closing stages and pulling closer towards second place. The race distance unfortunately halted Leok’s process in challenging Simpson, but it was the battle for forth that heated up as the race progressed.

Race 1 saw Graeme Irwin ride brilliantly from outside top 10Looking comfortable in the early stages saw the Buildbase Honda of Kristian Whatley eventuality engulfed in a fight with another Honda, as Gert Krestinov fought hard on the Phoenix Tools Honda. With the two fighting along every straight and into the corners, a chasing Irishman was racing through the field and would create a three way Honda scrap for fourth. Graeme Irwin on the second Buildbase Honda had suffered a dreadful start, but strong riding by the mid-way point saw him overhaul both local riders, Jake Nicholls and Elliott Banks Browne, before being on the coattails of Krestinov. A late move on the Phoenix Tools Honda of Krestinov set up a superb last lap, with Irwin snatching fourth of Whatley at the flag, in what was a great comeback ride on his British Championship debut with Dave Thorpe’s Buildbase Honda team. With Whatley and Krestinov rounding out the top six, Nicholls came home seventh, comfortably ahead of the KTMs of Brad Anderson and Steven Lenoir, who fought over eighth and ninth place.

Maxxis British Motocross Championship – MX1 Race One = Top Five:

  1. Tommy Searle – No.100 (Monster Energy DRT Kawasaki)
  2. Shaun Simpson – No.1 (Wilvo Virus Performance KTM)
  3. Tanel Leok – No.40 (MVRD Fuel 10K Husqvarna)
  4. Graeme Irwin – No.5 (Buildbase Honda Racing)
  5. Kristian Whatley – No.227 (Buildbase Honda Racing)

Searle grabbed holeshot & never looked backFor the second and final Moto for the MX1 class at Lyng, conditions had changed with a bit of rain in the air and the temperature getting colder. With Searle lining up first and rivals from race one alongside, the Kawasaki rider made sure he grabbed the holeshot when the gate dropped. Taking the lead into turn one, Searle continued from where he left off in Moto1, breaking clear from the field and looked totally comfortable out front.

For Shaun Simpson, a poor getaway left the No.1 KTM behind the Husqvarnas of Jake Nicholls and Tanel Leok, but it didn’t take the reigning champion long to barge his way past and into second. By creating a small margin ahead of third place rider Nicholls, Simpson could look to challenge Searle, but the Kawasaki rider was long gone and in a comfortable position to do the Lyng MX1 double.

Local Lad Jake Nicholls secured podium for race 2In the later stages of the race, the fastest rider on track looked to be Jake Nicholls, with the Hitachi Construction Husqvarna closing the gap to Simpson and pulling away from the other Husqvarna of Leok in fourth. Nicholls looked like he was about to mount a challenge to Simpson in the final few minutes, but Simpson held his nerve to retain second at the flag after twenty-five minutes, plus two laps.

With the riders spacing out within the top four, the battle behind to complete the top five was between team-mates, as the Buildbase Hondas rode wheel to wheel. This time around, the 2013 Maxxis British MX1 Champion Kristian Whatley was able to kept Northern Ireland’s Graeme Irwin behind him, with Gert Krestinov chasing on another Honda in seventh, but the star of the show was definitely Tommy Searle, as the Kawasaki rider tackled Lyng in the best possible way to secure a double in the season opener.

Maxxis British Motocross Championship – MX1 Race Two = Top Five:

  1. Tommy Searle – No.100 (Monster Energy DRT Kawasaki)
  2. Shaun Simpson – No.1 (Wilvo Virus Performance KTM)
  3. Jake Nicholls – No.45 (Hitachi Construction Husqvarna)
  4. Tanel Leok – No.40 (MVRD Fuel 10K Husqvarna)
  5. Kristian Whatley – No.227 (Buildbase Honda Racing)

Championship leader is Tommy SearleJust over a month was the gap between round one and round two of the Maxxis British Motocross Championship, as riders would prepare themselves for the challenge of the famous Canada Heights venue, just outside Swanley in Kent. The date was set for the 24th April 2016 to see whether the KTM of Shaun Simpson could fight back against the Kawasaki of Tommy Searle, who had secured the maximum on his return to the British Championship. With Searle having to settle himself back into the format of the British tracks in 2016, Simpson has the history of being unbeaten in 2015 at nearly all the tracks on the calendar, therefore meaning we should have a titanic year ahead of us to crown the MX1 British Champion. With plenty of battles taking place throughout the field at Lyng and the lap times being fairly similar, you can expect challengers to arise from the manufactures, like Husqvarna (Tanel Leok and Jake Nicholls) and Honda (Irwin, Whatley and Krestinov) as well as KTM (Anderson, Lenoir) and lastly Yamaha (Elliott Banks Browne).

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Written and Produced by Cheryl Closs and Chris Collier for Collierhousehold Motorsport