After the spectacular setting of Pietramurata, Italy, the MXGP circus moved to the motocross capital of Portugal to one of the riders’ favourite circuits on the calendar. The outskirts of Agueda were set to provide plenty of drama as its red dirt got drenched in rain in the week preceding the race. The sun returned and plenty of hard work was put in to avoid the proceedings turning into a mud fight.
Hitachi ASA KTM’s Conrad Mewse headed into Round 5 defending a top five position in the championship, while team-mate Graeme Irwin aimed to replicate his performance from the British championship on a world scale. But the best-laid plans often go awry and the flowing Portuguese track laid all sorts of traps to halt their progress on Sunday afternoon.
The rough course spelt misfortune for the #426 MX2 rider in the first race of the day, Mewse suffering a setback soon after the start as he got dropped to the back of the pack and had to battle his way through his rivals. The British rider climbed as high as 19th position at the halfway point of the race before the surface got the best of him and led to a DNF in the final few minutes of the race.
The quest for points continued three hours later but the second moto did not bring much luck to the young rider’s corner, Mewse not getting a chance to break into the top 20 on his KTM 250 SX-F and defending 21st position for the second half of the race.
At the end of a very difficult weekend, he left Agueda empty-handed and dropped two places in the championship points.
After a difficult MXGP qualifying with Graeme Irwin battling flu, the Northern Irishman finished 21st.
Irwin started off the first premier class race on Sunday knocking on the doors of the top 10. The British champion rounded the first corner in 11th place before he got caught on the back foot in the melee of the first lap and lost ground towards the back of the top 20. Irwin then had to abandon the race with 10 minutes still on the clock.
On an increasingly challenging track, slightly better fortunes awaited in the second moto and Irwin made a fast start into 16th position. After struggling to find his rhythm in the early part of the race, the British rider had to eventually give up on the final points on offer and settle for 23rd place.
After a tricky afternoon in Agueda, Irwin heads to Russia in 24th position in the championship.
Graeme Irwin said: “I was confident ahead of this round, but on Friday before the race I was feeling a little rough and on Saturday I was full-blown ill. I won’t go into too much detail, but I felt completely drained for the rest of the weekend and you need to be fully-fit to wrestle the KTM 450 SX-F against the best riders in the world and on a track like this. We are due some luck in GPs, but we will go to Canada Heights [British Motocross Championship] this weekend to keep the red plate on the bike.”
What’s next for Irwin and Mewse?
This weekend brings another opportunity to make amends, Irwin and Mewse defend their red plates in Round 3 of the Maxxis ACU British Motocross Championship taking place at Canada Heights.