Report: Tim Tighe. Pics: Tilde Tighe, Jack Fleming.
As the year draws to a close the long-awaited finale of the 2016 BEEC arrived at Westwood near Sheffield to provide a surprising conclusion to this outstanding series, one where the Experts outshone the Pros for once to provide a nail-biting finish over the final few laps.
Always eager to provide great value for money, Paul Edmondson added a night race just for fun once the extreme championship had been settled and it proved to be hugely popular with both the riders and onlookers who witnessed the hundreds of small lights bobbing about in the Westwood woodland.
At midday the start flag dropped and the final two race-filled hours of the championship began around a course that looked fairly straightforward but proved to be anything but as the race progressed. Tight, technical woodland filled with bomb-holes and streams, fallen logs and rock outcrops bought the race into sharp focus for riders right from the start as the inevitable log jams dotted the early part of the course, allowing the fast boys to gain ground while lesser riders toiled with their machines over slippery logs.
The packed entry line up was terrific. No David Knight, no Billy Bolt, no Graham Jarvis and no Jonny Walker left the race as open as can be and ready for a new name in the BEEC winners records. Just four riders stepped up to the Pro plate, all credit to them. Gary Daniels is always a contender and has been ever present in the pro class all year long. He was joined by MPS Sherco’s Luke Flack and two of the D3 racing stable of riders, Rich Ely and a revitalised Sam Winterburn, but the eventual winner was none of the above!
The battle of the day was in the Expert ranks as Keelan Hancock and Charlie Frost yo-yoed at the front of the field, taking the lead then losing it as they passed backmarkers littered all around the course until Hancock made a slight error in the final few laps by following another rider who became stuck, allowing Frost to build a significant gap to finish the race in the number one slot. Luck may have been involved to a degree but fantastic riding, commitment and determination also played their parts in delivering victory to a worthy Charlie Frost. Hancock could be seen as unlucky after he had lead the race on and off until over the halfway point but finishing just 24 seconds adrift is no mean feat. It was close and just one more lap could have seen a very different result. Ben Wibberley took third in the Experts. Upholding the honour of the Pro ranks Luke Flack grabbed third overall, winning his class into the bargain ahead of Rich Ely and Gary Daniels.
The Clubman class witnessed a real ‘old school’ battle between Fred Adams and Dan Knaggs initially, trading blow for blow over each obstacle but it was Adams who hit his rhythm by the midpoint of the race and then disappeared into the distance to win the class by over five minutes as Knaggs took second, a lap up on third placed Ryan Armitage who was virtually on home turf.
Looking at the results it seems that Brad Lilburn dominated the Youth class and, fair play, he rode really well but there were a string of riders who gritted their collective teeth and charged around a course that became increasingly tough as the race progressed. Dawson Marriott took second spot and Thomas Widd third but young Tom Knight of the IOM dynasty had a great outing, as did Rosie Rowett who kept the princess in the box and continued to ride despite her ankle swelling in her boot! Henry Yardley was unlucky as he suffered head gasket trouble but made the finish all the same.
Mick Boam, ‘suffering from old age, too many beers and not enough exercise’ ripped the Veterans class in his usual feet up style but was happy to see the finish flag for once. Anthony Ayrton followed him home ahead of Alex Owen.
Darren Cox headed the pack of the large class of Sportsman riders as Reece Pickersgill and Ben Linklater filled the other podium spots but it was a big old class with some very competitive riders in it, a few were large on guts but fell a little short on talent and consequently the race was a series of deadlifts over obstacles but they attacked the course with true extreme enduro enthusiasm, which made for great spectating.
As the main race finished there was just over two hours until the evening race began at dusk. The venue looked like an electricians convention as LED helmet and bar lights blinked into life, amazing to see how technology has moved on in recent years with 90 minutes of light from a single charge on some of the helmet lights and they were pretty powerful.
The view of the start line was spectacular, proper ‘Close Encounters’ stuff. Once the race was underway it was awesome to see strings of lights weaving around the woodland as photographers did their best to obliterate riders night vision with their flashguns.
Luke Flack swapped the 4T Sherco for a 2T and simply rode as if it was midday, never missing a beat as his portable floodlight arrangement illuminated most of the venue. He took the win and restored some respectablity to the Pro ranks. Ben Wibberley was the Expert winner as Ryan Armitage nailed the Clubman class.
Anthony Tempest took the Vets win as Darren Cox was first Sportsman past the finish flag. Dawson Marriott headed up the Youth ranks.
It was a perfect finish to a truly excellent day and fantastic Extreme series and there were many requests for further night races in the future. Fast Eddy will almost certainly accommodate such requests so sorting Christmas presents has never been so easy: A set of LED’s please Santa!
Well done Fast Eddy and all of his trusty crew who put on a great event once again and another top notch series to boot!