Bicton Farm near Shrewsbury. Report & pics by Tilde Tighe.
The opening round of the 2017 Fast Eddy Racing Rock Oil XC series could not have got off to a better start with great conditions, an upgraded course and a guest appearance from Yamaha’s Jamie McCanney to launch the yet another championship year into the spotlight.
Bicton Farm near Shrewsbury has received serious attention over the past few months and it was obvious just how much work had been done to the venue, especially the woods section, to turn it into one of the Fast Eddy Racing favourite locations for the coming year.
The weather in the run up to the event had been unpredictable but stayed dry, which allowed a practice day to run on Saturday and also meant that the farmer, Matt Egerton, could re-grade the course on Saturday evening ready for racing on Sunday and what a day that turned out to be.
The first round of each Rock Oil XC Championship always starts at Bicton Farm and host ‘A Lap For Joe’ in memory of Joe Edge, a young rider who lost his life doing the sport he loved. This year saw another increase in the number of riders participating in the memorial lap, which grows with each passing year, as every rider with a bike circulated slowly behind Paul Edmondson and Joe’s Dad as they led the pack around the course.
Sunday started with the first Youth race of the year and saw a dozen young riders take to the Bicton course, some for the first time ever as their XC racing careers got underway.
The course was made only slightly easier for the youngsters, missing some of the trickier woodland sections, but it proved to be fast and flowing and promoted great racing. In the BW85 class it was Sion Evans who took the first win of the series, overall and winning his class ahead of Bradley Price and Sam George while Cory Cookland won the SW85cc class ahead of Connor Davies and Lucas Holdcroft.
Jack Sandland continued where he left off last season with a win in the 65cc class ahead of Alfie Davies and Jake Willis while Alfie Dawson tackled the tough course on his Auto for the first time and managed six laps which was quite an achievement.
The first adult race had been full for days in the run up to the event. The start area was packed with the ranks of Veterans B, Youth B, Sportsman and Novice riders, all set for two hours of great racing around the rejuvenated course.
Although Bicton Farm isn’t the largest venue used by Fast Eddy the course was flowing and fast over fields and through woodlands alongside the River Severn and the ground was simply in perfect condition.
A huge class of Vets B riders started the race and the track improvements soon became obvious, as the racing was close but fast, especially through the woodland section where the track had been cleared and widened to make it faster and slightly less technical.
Lee Allis-Smith had his bike running sweetly and had no trouble taking the overall win and the Vets B class win just ahead of Mark Plain, clocking 18 laps as Fast Eddy regular Shaun James nailed third in class.
Chris Tompkins was the top Sportsman on the day and had a terrific ride to take his class win and second overall against a huge field of eager Sportsman riders. Liam Belfield and Louis Allen backed him up on the podium. Nick Whitehead was going really well until he had problems and was last seen running across the fields in search of an 8mm spanner.
All of the top three Youth B riders were tightly packed on 18 laps but it was Dan Leadbetter who managed to gain 30 seconds over Harrison Holdcroft to take the win with Will Farrow coming in third.
Josh Lucy and Dan Jones were just seconds apart in the Novice class top two slots with third placed Steve Farthing less than a minute adrift to the leading pair. Tony Chawner went well until his front brake pads fell out although he did manage to refit then with the aid of a twig until he could get back to the pits. All in all, a pretty eventful race.
The line up for the afternoon race was impressive. Jamie McCanney, Mark Roberts Sam Winterburn Alex Walton and Shaun Buchan were just a few riders to grace the Expert class, many using the race as an opportunity to get some competition time in before the Enduro GP and BEC seasons get underway.
Max Ditchfield got the jump at the start of the second adults race around the first tight left-hander and lead the class off into the distance as McCanney was stuck mid-pack initially. By the end of the first lap the plan for the race had been set with McCanney out in front as the others scrabbled for positions. Jamie McCanney rode a flawless race and finished over three minutes clear of Mark Roberts in second spot on his new Colwyn Bay KTM Stuff machine. Sam Winterburn had a real battle to keep ahead of a hard-charging Alex Walton but he took third place for his efforts.
Lee Hattersley just nicked the Clubman class win from friend and rival Ryan Armitage, literally with yards to go to the finish flag. They had battled throughout the whole two hours and Hattersley’s
determination paid off as Armitage’s small error cast him dearly. Nathan Rogers took a solid third spot.
Cole Cookland, in the Youth A class, had a terrific ride. He was 11th overall with 10 Experts ahead of him but class rival Sam Davies hot on his heels in second spot. George Yardley, who usually flies around Bicton, was down in third place, which was really unusual.Yamaha mounted Chris Wagstaff once again took the Veterans A class win to back up his Champions title from last season. Kev Sandland was three minutes behind him but had Gary Benniman breathing down his neck as the race concluded. Sandland took second and Benniman third in class.
This was a terrific start to the 2017 Rock Oil XC series. Bicton had never been in better shape, despite rain coming in for the final lap of the day. If this is a sign or what’s to come then the Fast Eddy Rock Oil XC Championship is going to be a cracker this year. Image galleries on www.foto-x.co.uk