Report: Tim Tighe. Pics: Tilde Tighe
Following a slight delay from the opening round at Bicton, the 2017 Rock Oil XC Championship got back into top gear for a dry and dusty affair at Brakehill Farm, Northants. This venue has recently seen major reconfiguration that lead to much of the MX track and start area left without any natural cover which contributed to the dusty conditions. Luckily a stiff breeze cleared the dust as fast as it appeared but the start of both adults races suffered slightly until the packs of riders had strung out around the lap.
The course was really good, sweeping turns and tighter technical stuff,with big open field areas to relax in, made for interesting battles across all three races.
First up were the youth riders with Sion Evans and Cory Cookland contesting the top spot in the 85/150cc class. Evans took the lead early on and held it to the finish as Cookland matched him on laps, a minute down, to take second spot with Lucas Holdcroft secure in third. Alfie Davies was the top 65cc competitor ahead of Jack Sandland and William Barnett.
With a noticeable rise in temperature from the early start of the youth race the dust and wind swirled around the Sportsman, Novice, Youth B and Vets B competitors in the first adults race of the day.
An eight-minute lap faced them and all the undulations the venue had to offer were included in the course, mainly in the woodland section, making for a very well-balanced route out to the field section at the far side of the venue.
Dan Leadbetter and Will Farrow were the top two competitors, leading the pack for most of the race after working their way through the Vets B class that started ahead of them. Vets B’s Nick Hargrave kept in touch for most of the race but it was the youngsters who took the day with Leadbetter taking the overall win followed by Farrow with Carwyn Rosser third in the Youth B class and fourth overall.
Hargrave took the vets B win ahead of Shaun James and Ed Hopkins while Ben Martindale grabbed first spot in the Sportsman ranks. He was followed by Louis Allen in second and Steve Farthing, third.
Josh Lucy took the top Novice position ahead of Ashley Williams with Ian Foster third.
Things heated up in every way possible for the final race of the day. In the Expert class the Ditchfield brothers were back on track following the theft of their bikes a few weeks back, both raring to go while Ben Murphy, Brad Williams and Harry Edmondson were determined to make old timers James Jackman and Derek Bawn work hard to get into the top three.
Jack Ditchfield nailed the holeshot only to be overtaken by brother Max further around the lap as Ben Murphy worked his way to the front of a gaggle of riders. Within a couple of laps he was in control and left Max Ditchy and Harry Edmondson battling for the runner-up spot. The pair swapped places throughout the race as fuel stops played their part and even into the final three laps it was anyone’s guess who would take second spot. Max eventually charged harder than Harry to take second overall but it had been a very close race. Murphy was in great form and won by well over a minute, easing off slightly in the final couple of laps.
Sam Davies in the Youth A class certainly made his mark. He beat every Clubman and Vet rider to finish eighth overall with seven Experts ahead of him. Quite a ride! Callum Sedgwick took second in the Youth A class with Charlie Chater third.
Topping the Clubman ranks Ryan Hughes who had battled with Lee Hattersley throughout the race, the pair were rarely more than metres apart. Third in Clubman was Jacob James, fully recovered from last season’s injury and on top form.
Chris Wagstaff once again head the Vets A class with a terrific display of fast and controlled riding adapted to the dusty conditions. The surprise of the Vets A class was Honda poster boy Kev Sandland – riding a KTM! Sandland had a great outing to take second spot as Anthony Dean took third.
All in all it was a tough day but one where youth triumphed over experience for once. It was great to see so many good young riders bashing on the door of the established ranks and giving their all in tough conditions at times.
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