The opening round of the 2018 Power Maxed Arenacross Tour certainly got off to an exciting and interesting start inside the packed Manchester Arena.
Several of the Pro class front-runners failed to automatically qualify for Main Event while the winner turned the Betway odds on its head.
The race card was virtually thrown out of the window when reigning AX champ Thomas Ramette (SR75 World Team Suzuki) – the three-time holder of the title – and one of his closest racing rivals, Cedric Soubeyras (Team Fro Systems), the current French Supercross champ, together with former British motocross champion Elliott Banks-Browne (Geartech Husqvarna) and winner of the first-ever Arenacross Pro series Adam Chatfield (Team Green Holeshot Kawasaki), all ended up battling against each other in the head-to-head eliminator segment of the show.
Soubeyras and Ramette fought tooth and nail right to the end to win the highly prized top two slots which gave them a guaranteed passage to the Main Event, while Chatfield and Banks-Browne earned the recognition of the promoter to also make it through to the 14-lap final.
An all-French podium was the order of the night with an unexpected winner in the form of Buildbase Honda’s Charles LeFrancois and the Suzuki pairing of Cyrille Coulon and Ramette second and third.
Banks-Browne had a good pace in the early stage of the race, but a couple of offs put him out of contention, leaving seventh-placed Jack Brunell (Team Green Holeshot Kawasaki) as the top-placed British rider.
Motocross fans had a keen interest in Evgeny Bobryshev last night but the AX debutant is just finding his feet in the frenetic-paced Arenacross racing and on his new RFX Suzuki ride. He started steady enough collecting eighth place in Qualifying but could only finish seventh in his first heat race before appearing to suffer a mechanical issue in the second heat.
RFX Suzuki team-mate Angelo Pellegrini had his own issues of a different sort, in the opening heat race he got caught on the landing of a jump by another rider, which forced Pellegrini to the deck hard. The Italian recorded a DNF and he was sadly done for the night. There’s no news at this time on the extent of his injuries.
Before last night, LeFrancois’ only other AX experience were fewer than a handful of rounds spread over two seasons with his last points-scoring appearance back at the penultimate round in 2015.
To say LeFrancois’ win was a surprise is an understatement. Before the gates dropped at the Manchester Arena you could secure betting odds of 45/1 for the Frenchman.
But it didn’t take long for LeFrancois to show his speed on the Buildbase Honda, finishing fourth in Qualifying and following that up with second-place in his first heat race and winning his second. If that wasn’t enough to convince he then topped the Hot Lap table.
“It’s a very good start for me and I’m really happy,” he said. “All night has been good for me with great starts and I have a good feeling with the Buildbase Honda so I am very happy for the team.
“I took the holeshot in the Main Event and then concentrated on my lines because the track was difficult with many ruts – the dirt was very soft but I like that because it gave me many lines to choose from.”
LeFrancois now has a five-point lead ahead of Coulon who sits two points in front of Ramette.
Moving down the racing ranks and testosterone levels were at an all-time high in the Pro Lites class which saw Joe Clayton (Team Green Holeshot Kawasaki), Jason Meara (JK IFly Yamaha) and Chris Bayliss (Wooldridge Demolition) dicing to the wire.
The youth classes were equally as furious with German rider Carl Osterman cleaning up in the Supermini group and Harvey Antrobus dominating the youngest race category, the 65cc Youth.
The second leg of the 2018 Arenacross Tour now heads to the north-east to the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle, next Saturday the 13th of January.
Secure your tickets
If you want to ensure the best seats in the house for Newcastle you can secure them now by heading to www.arenacrossuk.com or by calling the Box Office on 0844 844 0444.
Pro Overall results Manchester
- Charles Lefrancois, Buildbase Honda, 23 points
- Cyrille Coulon, SR75 World Team Suzuki, 18
- Thomas Ramette, SR75 World Team Suzuki, 16
- Cedric Soubeyras, Team Fro Systems, 15
- Fabien Izoird, Buildbase Honda, 14
- Adrien Escoffier, MVR-D St Blazey Husqvarna, 13
- Hugo Basaula, Shocktech Kawasaki, 13
- Jack Brunell, Team Green Holeshot Kawasaki, 12
- Adam Chatfield, Team Green Holeshot Kawasaki, 10
- Dan Reardon, JK IFly Yamaha Racing, 9
- Elliott Banks Browne, Geartech Husqvarna, 8
- Ashley Greedy, Team Fro Systems, 8
Pro Lites results Manchester
- Joe Clayton, 40 points
- Jason Meara, 34
- Chris Bayliss, 34
- Scooter Webster, 30
- Lewis Dowdeswell, 26
- Oliver Benton, 24
Supermini results Manchester
- Carl Osterman, 20 points
- Buster Hart, 18
- Raife Broadley, 16
- Robert Storer, 15
- Kai Tucker, 14
Youth 65cc results Manchester
- Harvey Antrobus, 20 points
- Shaun Mahoney, 18
- Jake Davies, 16
- Zane Stephens, 15
- Kyron Carron, 14