Buildbase Honda’s Adrien Escoffier put in two rock-solid Pro Lites performances on Friday and Saturday nights as the 2019 Arenacross Tour kicked off with a double-header at Belfast’s SSE Arena.
Racing a CRF250R, the Frenchman produced polished performances in his qualifying races on both nights and was rewarded with 2-2 finishes in his Main Events on Friday and 4-2 results on Saturday. These, combined with a ninth in Friday’s mixed-capacity Super Final and a fantastic fifth against the Pro 450 contenders on Saturday, were good enough to lift him into second place in the championship chase.
“Adrien did really well in the Friday night Main Events,” said team boss Dave Thorpe. “He led them both until the final lap when Cedric Soubeyras got him so he had two seconds. He then got a really poor start in the Super Final and with passing opportunities few and far between finished ninth.
“On Saturday the Main Events didn’t really go the way he wanted them to and he didn’t get great starts but in the Super Final he came around after the first lap in second and was right in the mix for fifth at the flag.”
The team’s Pro 450 class riders Adam Chatfield and Austin Root had a tougher time in the stacked big-bike field on their CRF450R machines.
Adam, the inaugural Pro AX champion for Buildbase Honda back in 2013, ran 8-4 in his Friday qualifiers and backed these finishes up with 10-5 scores in his Main Events. Unfortunately, his results weren’t enough for him to progress to the Super Final.
On Saturday he improved to an 8-5 card in the Main Events after qualifying with 8-10 finishes but he again missed out on a place in the Super Final.
“I just didn’t put it all together and had a few crashes,” said the 31-year-old. “It’s not been great. To be honest my speed was there but I’ve just had bad starts and in arenacross if you get bad starts you’ve got no chance, especially when the level is so high.
“We’ve got a couple of weeks now so the plan is to do some more testing and hopefully pull it together in Birmingham at rounds three and four.”
Austin, who’s used to racing the huge stadiums that host the Monster Energy AMA Supercross series in his native US, faced a baptism of fire as he made his AX debut and had to adapt to the tight track layout and short lap-times.
The 23-year-old from South Carolina went 10-10 in his Friday qualifying races before carding 9-9 in the Main Events. The following night he backed up 9-9 scores in the qualifiers by posting 10-9 finishes in the Main Events. He also failed to make the Super Final on both nights.
“It’s definitely been a culture shock,” he said. “On Friday I was struggling with learning the bike and trying to get used to the 22-second lap times – it’s very quick and everyone is so close with their times. Saturday was much better but I found myself on the ground a lot.
“Now I’ve got my feet wet I know what to expect so I’m definitely looking forward to the next round – I should be a whole lot better. Everything’s so new to me but it was a great experience, I’m just getting used to riding these tight spaces.”
Dave was keen to take the positives from the opening two nights of competition for his Pro 450 class riders.
“You wouldn’t think it from his results but Adam was riding really well on both nights,” he said. “If there was a crash going on unfortunately Adam was in it but he’s probably riding the best he has for a couple of years. It shows where the level is at the moment with the French riders.
“It’s been a very steep learning curve for Austin. Coming from an American supercross background he’s never seen anything like arenacross – how small and tight the tracks are and how aggressive the racing is from the word go.
“Friday was a bit of a shock for him but he was much better on Saturday. He was on the receiving end of a few block passes which is all part of the learning curve but I was pleased with him.”
The team will be in action again at rounds three and four of the championship at the Resorts World Arena, Birmingham, on February 1 and 2.