The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing team had a cracking start to the ACU Fast Eddy British Extreme Enduro Championship by taking the top two steps of the podium in the Pro race.
Graham Jarvis put in a master-class of skilful riding to take the win nearly nine minutes ahead of teammate Billy Bolt, the only riders to clock up eight laps around the extended Parkwood Offroad course.
Eurotek’s Paul Bolton secured third place, which was an excellent result considering he had just returned to racing following an injury and was unable to put his full weight on his recovered ankle. His holeshot and easy passage over the first rock section showed he was back in the groove right from the start at the head of the field.
Eurotek KTM teammate David Knight crashed hard on the opening lap, on a steep downhill section with a sticky throttle while battling to get to the front of the pack following an uncharacteristic start, which saw him back in sixth spot over the first rocky section.
The Extreme Enduro Championship opening round at Tong certainly lived up to it’s billing by providing the toughest and longest course ever built at the venue. The Fast Eddy crew went all-out to include new sections and their attention to detail was obvious. The new sections were gnarly and tricky with no respite anywhere, added to the infamous waterfall, rock slabs, gulleys and ditch jump and everything in between, the course was a true extreme test. Heavy overnight rain certainly didn’t make things easier but as it abated conditions stabilised and racing began.
A tight left-hander off the start lead to an even tighter right-hander ahead of a rock section that finished with large rock steps before getting onto the course proper. This was only used for the start much to the relief of many riders. Picking a line whilst walking the course is one thing but getting that line with 80 other riders also trying for their chosen lines is another, as was the case in the Sportsman class.
The Vets were away first and, with hindsight, they were relatively trouble free with Mick Boam and Mark Houson, two long-time Tong rivals at the head of the pack shortly into the opening lap. They have enjoyed many battles at this venue and Mick Boam enjoyed this one even more as he took the overall win and the Vets class ahead of Houson who was trailing by over seven minutes. They matched each other lap for lap but Houson couldn’t close the gap. Kieran Hankin pulled six minutes on Karl Greenhall to take third spot.
The Youth class rider know no fear and they hammered at the course right from the off. Dawson Marriott got a flyer as Harry Edmondson struggled to start his Husqvarna then crashed hard, allowing the pack to get away from him. Tom Knight was amongst the leaders and showed just how much he had improved over recent months to work his way into the top three by the end of the race. Edmondson pulled back some time on the opening lap only to lose it and more on the second lap as he opted for the hard route on the rock slabs. A superhuman effort saw him lift his bike upright just yards from the end of the ‘No Help’ zone. Incredibly he managed to get to second in class by the end of the race. Dawson Marriott didn’t have quite so much trouble and put in an exceptional performance to win the Youth class and finish fifth overall against some really tough competitors. He was focussed and fast, dealing with the numerous jams at tricky sections and he thoroughly deserved his win.
The Sportsman class was a much tighter affair. Les Mudie took the win at the head of a class of 80+ riders and was joined on the podium by Chloe Richardson who matched Mudie on laps but just couldn’t close the three and a half minute gap he had on her. It was the tightest finish of the race in terms of class positions. Jamie Rogers was a further five minutes adrift in third spot but all three were on the same lap.
The entry for the afternoon race virtually matched the morning contingent. The course was altered to incorporate the waterfall, ditch jump and the rock slabs on the opening lap, which were not in the first lap of the morning race, and several other sections were included to give a lap of around 16-18 minutes for the Pro class.
Eurotek’s Paul Bolton tore off the startline and grabbed the lead but Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing team rider Danny McCanney was in hot pursuit as Graham Jarvis languished in fifth with David Knight sixth and Billy Bolt way down in eighth spot.
Within minutes news came through of Knight’s crash, much to the disappointment of the crowds at the ditch jump and the waterfall. Billy Bolt and Graham Jarvis didn’t need any encouragement to take full advantage and Jarvis quickly took the lead with McCanney, Bolton and Bolt vying for second spot. Jarvis pulled away as Bolt surged to within catching distance at one point but the Sorcerer gave his apprentice a lesson in how to turn up the heat and surged to the finish line nearly eight and a half minutes clear of Bolt in second, both riders on eight laps. Bolt has improved and matured considerably since his first outing just 12 months ago at Tong and he rode a cracking race behind his teammate. Jarvis posted the fastest lap of the race on his final lap of the day as the track cleared of traffic and gave him a good run. He hadn’t escaped completely unscathed and put his hands up to a couple of ‘interesting’ offs during the race.
Paul Bolton had a terrific ride to take third place and spoil a potential Husqvarna 1-2-3 as Keelan Hancock was pushing hard in fourth on his St Blazey MX Husqvarna as Daniel McCanney gave Husky its fourth top spot out of five.
It was tight at the top in the Experts class as Matt Jones, Sam Ludgate and Charlie Frost fought for supremacy. Jones got the best of it and took the win three minutes up on Beta mounted Ludgate while Frost enjoyed his first real outing in anger on his Active Bikesport MRS Sherco.
The Clubman class was huge and volatile, with a dozen riders capable of nailing the win. Fred Adams proved to be the best of the lot as he put in five laps to take the class victory as behind him Brad Lilburn and Ryan Armitage fought for second and third. Lilburn got the break and finished just a minute ahead of Armitage who had close friend and rival Lee Hattersley just 15 seconds behind him.
Three riders from Romania entered the event and it came as quite a shock to find that the course was somewhat smaller than they were accustomed to. Usually a lap is around 50km but at Tong they found there were just as many challenges as in a huge 50km lap. Nicusor Botoaca, Dumitreascu Alexandru and Stefan Muntean represented the Stlina Viking Pruszynski team and all three finished, much to their delight.
This was a cracking event, full of action and incident, a proper extreme course. We know that because for the first time ever, Graham Jarvis didn’t tell Paul Edmondson that he had made it too easy. Praise indeed.
The Championship could not have asked for a better start and if Tong is an indicator of what’s to come then the whole series is going to be epic. The second round is on February 5th at Cowm Quarry where there is not a tree to be seen. Talk about going from one extreme to another!