After a five-week domestic series break, Hitachi ASA KTM UK returned to action this past weekend for the fifth outing of the 2018 Maxxis ACU British Motocross Championship. The team headed north of the Scottish border for the hard-packed challenge of the Duns circuit.
Graeme Irwin intended to close down the 29-point deficit to the MX1 championship leader, Jake Nicholls. Irwin got off to a perfect start by securing pole position in the morning qualifying session, stunning spectators with a 2.276 second lead from Evgeny Bobryshev.
Following a heroic performance in qualifying, a confident Graeme Irwin positioned himself in the second starting gate and lined himself up for the first turn. The #1 bike fired out the gates before coming together with the top five riders again and again as the race made its way through the first three tight corners.
During this battle another rider made contact with the back of the defending champion’s bike, bending the rear chain guide and sprocket, causing the drive chain to come off.
As Irwin exited the corner and went for the throttle for the first jump, it was clear what had happened. The Carrickfergus-born rider jumped of his KTM 450 SX-F at the side of the track and repeatedly tried to reinstall the chain, but the damage was too extensive and forced his retirement from the race.
With weather conditions continuing to deteriorate, Race Direction and the Circuit of Duns had to prioritise rider safety and were forced to prematurely finish the meeting after MX2 Race 2, meaning the Hitachi ASA KTM UK team would not get a chance to recover any points in the MX1 championship.
“I am very disappointed with today,” said a downcast Irwin. “Duns started the second half of the season, so we knew from this round on we needed to start closing the gap. I started the day in qualifying 2.3 seconds faster than anyone else.
“I know my fitness is good, I know my speed is good, the bike is working well. It’s so disappointing because what happened was out of my hands and we were just unlucky. Somebody must have clipped the back of the bike and I tried everything I could to fix it, but it wasn’t meant to be.
“This was the kind of day where I needed the second race to make amends and – with the conditions – hope that some of the top riders had a bit of bad luck too. But it was called off and that was that.
“From this point now, the attitude has to totally change for the remainder of the season. We now need to go to win. Nothing else is worthwhile because if we want to win this championship, that’s what it will take.”
Hitachi ASA KTM UK Team Manager, Lee Tolan: “Let’s not talk about rain, let’s talk about Michael Ellis – best race result of the year! Up there fighting amongst the top 10, peaked in sixth before finishing seventh. We are all really pumped for him, he looked fast and confident out there, so we are over the moon.
“In MX1, Graeme got off to a great start today, qualified pole with a considerable margin so the team were excited as we needed to start recovering points today. He launched well, fourth into the first corner and well he just got bumped. It derailed the chain and with the damage it was not going to stay on, so, unfortunately, it was a hero to zero in just a few turns. Due to the weather the racing was ceased for the safety of the riders, it meant we didn’t have the chance to redeem ourselves. Its motocross and that’s the way it goes sometimes, but we will be back fighting at the next one.”