Report: Tim Tighe. Images: Tilde Tighe/foto-x.co.uk
The 2017 Fast Eddy Rock Oil Championship drew to a close on Sunday with the final round taking place at Bicton Farm near Shrewsbury, the Fast Eddy crew’s favourite venue.
Although used many times throughout the season, Bicton never ceases to come up with something new and provide great racing, which is exactly what happened on Sunday. The small woodland area was utilised to the maximum with a handful of new routes thrown into the mix along with the stubble field sections and part of the old MX track.
The weather was perfect for racing, as was the ground, with berms in all the right places around the seven-minute lap for the adult racers.
The Youth riders started the day’s events and it was good to see this race so well supported. Alfie Rickwood and Josh Williams were two new names on the entry sheet, their first ever XC race, a break from their usual MX outings. Keelan Hope was also back in the ranks putting his MX skills to the test.
In the 85-150cc class Rickwood nailed the holeshot and was untouchable from that point onwards, he was gaining 20 seconds a lap in the first part of the race but Hope got his head down and dug deep to get within two minutes of the leader and take second place with Fast Eddy regular Cory Cookland just eight seconds adrift in third.
It was a tough course for the 65/auto riders but the battle between Jack Sandland and Alfie Davies was impressive as they clocked up 11 laps apiece. Sandland took the class win by 17 seconds over Davies with Will Barnett in third spot.
For the adults race the course was in prime condition, the Youth race riders having taken the slippery top layer off. With everyone from Expert to Novice in the same race it was helpful that the course was one of the longest ever at Bicton.
In the Expert ranks it was time for the re-match between Ben Murphy and Sam Greenslade. The previous meeting at Bicton saw them wheel to wheel for much of the race with New Zealander Greenslade taking the win at his first race in the UK. It was clear from the start that Murphy was out for revenge.
Henry Yardley showed he was back in form and fully recovered by taking the holeshot ahead of a pack of quality experts as Max Ditchfield stuck to his rear wheel while Murphy and Greenslade trailed in his wake. Harry Edmondson bought up the rear of the pack on a Sherco 300, trying the machine for the first time in race conditions.
Murphy, Ditchfield and Greenslade slowly eased a gap on the rest and by the mid-point Ditchy had caught some traffic allowing Greenslade to overtake and pull a 20 second gap with Murphy around 15 seconds ahead. Harry Edmondson eased his way through the pack to join the leader but it was all eyes on the front two as the gap yo-yoed between them.
Greenslade put in the fastest lap of the race to close within 7 seconds of Murphy then ditched it near the finish line, losing 20 seconds in the process. As the final laps approached neither rider had refulled until with 10 seconds remaining on the clock Murphy took a quick splash and left for his final lap. Greenslade had disappeared, out of fuel in the stubble field section he walked disconsolately back to the pits, his gamble had failed.
Max Ditchfield had stuck at it and was rewarded with second overall while a great ride from Harry Edmondson, fending of Henry Yardley for most of the race, saw him take third.
A testament to the quality of the Youth A riders was evident in the results as they took four of the top nine places amongst the Expert riders.
Cole Cookland clocked eight laps to win the Youth A class ahead of many Experts and all Clubman riders, another cracking ride from this youngster whose days in the Youth ranks must be numbered. Sam Davies and George Yardley both rode extremely well to take second and third in class and post 18 laps into the bargain. Will Farrow headed the Youth B ranks ahead of Carwyn Rosser and Adam James.
Jacob James was the only Clubman rider to clock 18 laps. He battled Lee hattersley for the holeshot and continued to work his way through the field, eventually taking ninth overall along with his class win. Hattersley eventually nailed the runner-up spot just less than 10 seconds ahead of Ben Key in third place.
Kev Sandland emulated his sons win in the Youth race by taking the Vets A top spot ahead of Chris Wagstaff and David Williams. In Vets B it was Mark Plain and Joe Webster vying for supremacy with Plain eventually taking the win ahead of Webster as Tony Gunn took third.
Ben Martindale once again ruled the roost in the Sportsman class but was followed closely to the flag by Nick Whitehead with Nick Dawson a little way behind in third. The Novice class went to Josh Lucy who had been bar-to-bar on several occasions around the course, determined to take his class win in what turned out to be a great ride. Dave Withington secured second spot with Kristian Ankritt in third.
The race was a terrific finale to the series with a cracking course and red-hot competition between riders across all classes. Bicton has played its part well this season in several guises but last Sunday saw it at its best.