Round 2 at Cowm Off-road, Whitworth, Lancs.
Jonny Walker celebrated his return to the UK extreme scene with an emphatic victory at Cowm Quarry last weekend. The Red Bull KTM factory rider produced an outstanding display and led the Pro field, virtually from the start.
Cowm Quarry had undergone many changes in the build-up to this event. Some of the sections looked easier but proved to be much harder while the addition of a significant amount of faster, open going where riders could “rest”, made the event very stop start in places.
Third gear straights suddenly terminated into a first gear, an inch-by-inch pick through extremely technical sections. Add to this the biting wind cutting across the venue, icy patches strewn randomly around the flatter areas and steep climbs offering no grip then plenty of grip, all made for a very mixed challenge for all riders.
The course, as with Tong, ran in different directions for both the morning and afternoon races. Although it would have been easy for the Fast Eddy crew to choose well-established paths and routes, they decided to tear up the map book and lay out something completely different.
The course, for the morning race at least, was more technical than usual, the afternoon course, although very different to the normal layout, presented few problems for the Pros and Experts.
The star-studded Pro race began at 12.30 with a fairly subdued charge around the first set of hairpins and logs; no one wanted to make a mistake here! It wasn’t until riders were clear of the start area, that the racing really began. Initially, it was a three-way battle between Walker and rivals Graham Jarvis and Billy Bolt from the Rock Star Husqvarna factory team.
By the time the leaders reached the redesigned rock garden, close to lap-scoring, it was Walker who had just a few seconds lead over Bolt with Jarvis very close behind, all three circulating at roughly the same pace.
Walker turned up the gas and by the half-way point, there was roughly forty seconds between Walker and Bolt, with Jarvis a further forty seconds adrift with Eurotek’s Paul Bolton roughly thirty seconds behind Jarvis.
Beta mounted Jonno Richardson was hanging up there, just off the leading pack and slightly ahead of Sam Winterburn with championship riders Jordan Scott and Gethin Humphreys filling the top ten places.
Disaster struck Graham Jarvis on lap ten, where he ran out of fuel. Paul Bolton and company gladly received the gift of a jump up the leader board but no one was capable of matching Walker or Bolt, the only two riders to complete the lap in less than twelve minutes. At one stage, Walker had eked out nearly a two-minute lead over Bolt, who was making small errors, each one nibbling a few seconds off his time. Bolt recovered however and closed within six seconds of Walker to take the runner-up spot as Paul Bolton secured third.
A significant group of Expert riders followed the Championship class home. Joe Deakin took the Expert win from Sam Ludgate and third placed Gav Houson but even more impressively, Gas Gas mounted Juan Knight, in the Elite Vets class, made it to ninth overall and another class win in this series. He had plenty of competition. Wayne Braybrook was a minute and a half behind in second spot. An excellent outing for someone who does not ride competitively these days. Harold Crawford completed the Elite Vets top-three, a lap down on Knight and Braybrook.
It was interesting to note that the highest position achieved by a Clubman rider was 31st overall, quietening the claims of pot-hunters. Stuart Mack and Dawson Marriott battled hard throughout the two-and-a-half-hour race but it was Mack who eventually emerged victorious. Olly Lawer completed the Clubman podium line-up.
The morning racers definitely suffered the worst of the conditions. Although bright sunshine bathed the whole venue, the wind chill factor was down to artic proportions. The course was ok, although in some of the shaded areas the grounds seemed to be in perma-frost. The Veterans always provide great racing at Cowm, in particular Mick Boam and Mark Houson. Houson seems to have the edge at Tong but Boam definitely has the advantage at Cowm but not this year.
Youth and enthusiasm overcame age and experience as Will Stansbie clawed his way to the front of the pack and despite the efforts of Boam, Houson and fellow Youth rider Suff Sella, he maintained his lead to claim a glorious victory in the most challenging conditions ahead of Mick Boam, second overall but first in Vets and Sella, third overall and second in the Youth class. Gas Gas mounted Tom Knight, took third in the Youth class down in a lowly 9th overall spot with a handful of talented Vets ahead of him, while Karl Greenhall nailed third in the Vet class.
Grant Gillender led the Sportsman class home just sixteen seconds ahead of Ryan Crayston with Liam Robinson close behind in third.
The bitterly cold conditions seemed to have little effect on the quality of riders and fierceness of the competition, in fact the morning race seemed to have more urgency about it than the afternoon race (but it was cold so maybe they were just trying to get warm).
Walker’s return to the UK was welcomed by his many fans and it was great to see him battle with Bolt, Jarvis and Bolton at times even though he always seemed to have things firmly under control. Billy Bolt was close but for a few mistakes here and there, he may well have taken the win but still gaining in experience, he still put in a superb performance. The demise of the master, Graham Jarvis, running out of fuel gives hope to the rest of mere mortals who have been known to do so on a regular basis. Paul Bolton, as ever, hung tough and was rewarded for his efforts. A smart rider who knows the game really well.
A massive well-done to Fast Eddy and his dedicated but frozen crew, who spent the week at Cowm building a superb course, assisted hugely by John Whittle and his big machines.