It’s come around quickly but Assen is the 19th stop on the MXGP calendar. I know this is the Brit report but I couldn’t talk about Assen without tipping a nod to Jeffrey Herlings who claimed his first MXGP title after a dominant season, so well-done Sir, a very worthy champion.
There were a lot of Brits in all five classes this week so plenty to talk about from the cathedral of speed. The track is completely man-made, thousands of tonnes of sand trucked in to create a motocross course on the main start/finish straight. With a huge grandstand and all the facilities of a permanent circuit I think it’s a fantastic venue although it’s certainly marmite – you either love it or hate it.
Perfect weather and a huge partisan crowd added to the atmosphere, chainsaws and orange smoke flares ready to celebrate a home win.
Shaun Simpson and Max Anstie are still looking for a ride for next year so a solid weekend would help both of them. Tommy Searle had been picked for our MXoN team and social media had been divided about his inclusion so a good result might silence some of the nay-sayers, and Graeme Irwin was returning to the MXGP after taking a stone in the face at the Swiss GP.
In timed practice Simpson put in a stormer to go second quickest with Anstie less than two 10ths behind in fourth. The qualifying race saw Anstie again in fourth, Searle in eighth and Simpson ninth after a crash with Irwin in 20th. The track was proving to be tricky, more slippery usual with soft areas at the edges. Sunday warm-up doesn’t mean much but Anstie improved his time and was third fastest with Searle and Simpson seventh and eighth.
Race one was a show of dominance by Herlings as he claimed the world championship with ease as he lapped up to seventh. Simpson was in sixth, even with a small crash in the middle of the race and the last man on the same lap as Herlings. Anstie made a good start in fourth and after pressuring Coldenhoff into a mistake on lap seven he slipped into third spot. Searle battled up to 12th after a mid-pack start while Irwin claimed the final point in 20th.
Race two was almost a carbon copy. Simpson was sixth again, a small crash mid-race allowed Desalle to threaten but Simpson simply rode away. Anstie started and finished fourth, despite pressuring Coldenhoff for most of the race he couldn’t make the pass. It was good enough for another podium though, third overall was a fantastic result for the effervescent Anstie.
Searle retired from a comfortable 11th just after the mid-point, his Kawasaki boiling over while Irwin improved to 17th, telling me afterwards that he was happy with Saturday but in the races he just wasn’t flowing but couldn’t put his finger on it.
Simpson was disappointed too. “My goal was top five and yesterday proved that it was possible but I crashed in each race and that cost me. In the second race Gajser was 20 seconds ahead so I didn’t really have the carrot to chase.”
Ben Watson is having a break-out year while Conrad Mewse and Adam Sterry have faced a few injuries but with all three fit, healthy and good in the sand, anything was possible. All inside the top 10 in timed practice, Mewse used his gate pick to his advantage and made a great start in the qualifying race running second until half distance, he would finish third.
Watson got tangled at the start but would work up to 10th with Sterry in 12th after crashing twice, the first crash leaving him feeling sore. “I landed near the side of the track and the bike just stopped dead, catapulting me over the bars. I feel really stiff, like whip lash today,” said Sterry.
Mewse must’ve had a good night’s sleep because during Sunday warm-up he was fastest by seven 10ths of a second. Unfortunately, it didn’t transfer to the races where nine – 17 finishes were a lot less than he had wanted and expected. He left before I could get his reaction. It was a consistent weekend for Watson, fourth and fifth gave him fifth overall although he lost six points in the championship to Covington. Still in a strong fourth in the championship he was happy, “I felt strong all weekend, the start in the second race wasn’t good but I was hustling and got past Jonass,” he said. “I had a bad couple of laps and he got me back.”
I asked about the Nations as I hadn’t seen him since the team was announced. “I can’t wait. I don’t feel any pressure because it’s not part of a championship so I know I can just go and give it everything.”
Adam Sterry’s 10–8 finishes gave him some consolation. “I’m glad for two top 10s but I wasn’t riding as good as I could. Its sand but its different to all the other sand track we race on and I didn’t feel comfy at all.”
The women have one more round left and the top three is still open but unfortunately no Brits are involved in the title fight. Natalie Kane just clinched the Swedish championship but the reality of working full time has compromised her ability to compete with the top ladies. “It’s been another up and down weekend,” she said. “I went down in the third corner and started last but worked my way back up to ninth. Then I get noise tested and we’re over so I got docked five places….I’m so over it! The speed is good enough to be top five but I need some luck.”
Without any funds left she probably won’t make it to the final round at Imola so a fifth and a 14th could be her last results.
Stacey Fisher scored a couple of points in the first race before she goes in for shoulder surgery this week and should be stronger next year, while Kathryn Booth returned after a few months off recovering from a variety of injuries that started at the Hawkstone international.
She started in ninth but faded as the first race went on, obviously lacking a bit of bike fitness but she was delighted with 14th. “I haven’t been able to prove myself so it feels great to be back and show what I can do,” Fisher said. “I tried to push but I knew I needed to calm down and get to the end. Seven points is great, not for the championship but for me to feel good.”
With a full winter of training already planned, expect to see a leaner, meaner Booth scoring more points next year. As none of the ladies are planning to contest the final round, that could be it for this year.
The EMX250 championship was already settled so this final round was about confirming the final podium places. Mel Pocock clinched second spot a 16th and 10th in one of his most difficult weekends but his consistency earlier in the campaign had given him the buffer needed.
Unfortunately, for his team-mate Martin Barr he would miss out on third in the final order by a single point with 14–8 finishes. Fourth was no consolation. “The season started so well, I was leading for a long time so it’s very disappointing to come fourth, especially by one point,” he said.
Looking very dejected, I asked him if he would be able to pick himself up for the MXoN. “Definitely. I’m looking forward to it, it will be my 14th consecutive Nations, which I think is second or third on the all-time list.”
Steven Clarke took a strong third in the second race. “I nearly got the holeshot, I just kept it on longer than everyone else. I’m not happy with fifth in the championship – I came here to win but with everything that’s happened this year (his team folded half way through) it’s not too bad.”
Todd Kellett was all smiles, sixth overall marked his best finish so far. He changed tactics in the races and made some more aggressive early passes and that seemed to be the only difference.
For the remaining Brits it was a mixed bag of crashes, bike issues and poor starts that meant James Dunn (17–14), Alexander Brown (23–17), Josh Spinks (DNF– 22) and Jamie Carpenter (27–28) left with fewer points than they wanted.
Adam Collings and Sam Nunn made the trip to the final round worthwhile by scoring a few points each. Crashes held Collings back in race one but in the second race he was more measured and finished 16th to take his first championship points. “I knew Sam was behind me but I just wanted to get some points,” he said. The 17th place for Nunn also gave him his first points of the season, the engine rebuild after the first race helping him with the start in race two, and the finish.
The world championships conclude in two weeks at another man-made track in Imola. The MX2, WMX and EMX300 titles will all be decided so I’ll see you there.