After an average start to the season at Round 1 of the British Motocross Championships 3 weeks ago, the Oakleaf Kawasaki Team were looking for improved results at Round 2 this past weekend at Canada Heights in Kent with Alex Snow in MX1, James Dodd and Jake Millward in MX2 and also present at the round was the team’s youth rider Tommy Alba who was competing in the MXY2 class’s opening event of the season.
The opening session of the day was the MX2 qualification which saw James and Jake both out there battling to set a fast lap time on the seriously technical hillside circuit which featured a number of newly modified sections, after struggling last time out at Round 1 in qualifying James really upped his performance this time as he went 26th fastest, and Jake near enough matched his previous performance with a 22nd despite the fact he had to use his spare bike after a problem with his race bike, although if both riders could have found just half a second more time they would have jumped up a fair few positions.
Alex went out next for his MX1 qualification and managed to set the 14th fastest lap which was similar to his performance at the previous round, but he was still a little disappointed to miss out on the top 12 superpole shoot out again by just a small margin.
Next up was Tommy’s MXY2 qualifying session and with alot of bikes on track at the same time he really struggled to find the room on the tight twisty circuit to put in a totally clear lap but he still put in a solid performance to set the 8th fastest lap.
With qualifying complete the riders attention turned to the lunch break and autograph session and with the team set up in prime position, Oakleaf was a busy place to be with a constant queue of spectators getting signed riders posters and free stickers, whilst the rest of the Team along with its invited sponsors and guests relaxed and refuelled in the Team Hospitality section.
With the break over it was time to go racing and first up was the MX2 race 1. As the pack of 40 riders powered out of the first corner, Jake had come through it in 19th place whilst James was a little further back. As the race began to settle down after the opening few laps Jake had moved up to 17th and James also moved up a few places to hold 23rd. Both Oakleaf riders were now in a long train of riders with passing pretty hard to do, Jake lost a couple of places as some of the series top riders were charging through after earlier crashes. Jake held 19th into the closing laps with James not too far behind in 22nd, with 2 laps to go Luke Remmer dnf’d from 14th pushing Jake and James up a place but as soon as Jake moved up he was passed by top Suzuki rider Stuey Edmonds and returned to 19th. James was now in 21st and all over KTM Uk’s GP rider Sean Mitchell as they entered the last lap but he tried to find a way past in vain to go across the finish in 21st missing out on a point by the smallest of margins, after Jake was passed by Edmonds he sat in behind him to cross the line in 19th and take 2 points.
Next to the line was MX1 race 1 and Alex got a lightning start and almost pulled the holeshot but he settled into 2nd place behind former British Champion Stephen Sword, a few laps in and GP riders Marc De Reuver and Shaun Simpson forced their way past Alex, as the laps went on Alex was riding a smooth and consistent race but he did lose a few more places and found himself in 8th as more championship front runners found their way past. With just two laps to Alex had Matiss Karro right behind him and Championship leader Kevin Strijbos a couple a seconds further back and try as he might to hold on both were faster and passed Alex to leave him in 10th at the finish.
Tommy’s first race was next up as he made his debut in the series, where many of his rivals are at least a couple of years older than the 15 year old Oakleaf Star, but as always Tommy showed no fear and got away from the start in the top 5. after just one lap Tommy had found his way up into 2nd and was chasing down leader Chris Bayliss hard, and just a lap further down the line Tommy was leading and pulling away. He soon gained himself a few seconds advantage as he put in the fastest lap of the race, a full 3 seconds faster than the next closest and as he came round to complete 6 laps an injury to a fallen rider caused the race to be Red Flagged but as it was over half way the results stood to give Tommy and the Team their first National event race win much to the delight of everybody involved.
The action was soon back on track as the MX2 class were back on the line for race 2, and Jake got a slightly better start and was in 16th whilst James was further back in the late 20’s. A few laps in and Jake lost a place to LPE Kawasaki’s Connor Walkley whilst James sat in 28th. As the race was on its 6th lap, dissaster struck for James as he took off from one of the big jumps on the far side of the circuit he hit a bump and the force of it caused his problematic shoulder to dislocate again, for the 4th time in just 12 months, forcing him out of the race and off to hospital for scans. Jake meanwhile was still battling on and with a handful of laps to go he was passed by Shane Carless, pushing him back into 18th. With the next rider a little way back and only 2 laps to go Jake settled for the position to finish 18th and claim 2 more points.
As the MX1 riders returned to the startline for their second race Alex was looking for a repeat of his previous race start but it wasn’t to happen and Alex came round the first turn in 7th place. He soon found a way past John May to take 6th on lap 2 but a couple of laps further in Alex was overtaken by PAR Honda rider Dorren Coutts. It was another solid ride as was the first race for Alex and he looked set for a 7th place finish but as the raced reached the final two laps a mistake saw him get caught by one of the series favourites in the shape of Kristian Whatley and lost his position going on to finish in 8th.
Next race to the line was the MXY2 class’s second and final race of the day with Tommy looking for a repeat of race 1 but things didn’t go to plan! A mid pack start saw Tommy in amongst a gaggle of riders on the opening lap a mistake on a jump saw him crash hard, he remounted but was in last place and obviously in a fair bit of pain, he tried to ride on but the pain was too much and he was forced to pull out of the race, and as with James, he was off to hospital to get checked out.
Attention now turned to Jake, who was left as Oakleaf’s sole rider for the 3rd and final MX2 race of the day following James’ injury, but he got a bad start in comparison to his previous 2 efforts and was down in 26th after the first lap, after a couple of laps he began to settle into his rhythm and started to advance gaining two place’s to sit 24th on lap 5 but just as Jake was beginning to look strong and heading towards the points, the Red Flag was brought out as Anthony Reville had crashed and needed on track medical treatment. As with the MXY2 race 1, this one had gone far enough for the current standings to count as the race result, giving Jake a 24th place finish.
To wrap up the days proceeding’s it was the 3rd MX1 race and Alex didn’t start well by his standards, sitting outside the top 10 in 12th on the opening lap, he soon found a way past former Oakleaf one-off guest rider, Josh Waterman on lap 2 and settled into 11th. Passing was now at a premium throughout the standings as a low setting sun and the increasing technicality of the track made it a job on its own to just ride around, let alone race! Alex did however gain on Jamie Law, who was in 10th ahead of him but he couldn’t get close enough to try and make a pass, and with GP rider Alfie Smith in a distant 12th, Alex settled and just rode a smooth and steady race to the finish 11th.
Tommy’s race win was the highlight of the day for the team and even despite his non finish in the second he sits in 8th overall but just 15 points behind championship leader James Harrison. Jake had a solid day picking up 5 points to add to his 4 from round 1 and now lies in 29th in the MX2 championship. James unfortunately missed out on scoring by a whisker in race 1 and is still to pick up any points this season, fingers crossed he will be fit for the next round and get scoring there. Alex ended the day as 10th overall in MX1 with 34 points, which is progress from round 1 but still not as high as where he and the team want him to be, and he now lies in 13th in the championship.
Reflecting on the day as the Team packed up to head back home, Boss Shaun Anthony said ‘ This has been our first meeting with all 4 riders under the awning and it was good to show the full potential of the team, all the riders gave 100% throughout the day and improved from the previous round at Fatcat even though the circuit was again very demanding especially with a few of the changes which had been added. As a new team to the paddock it was pleasing to get some good feedback from the public on how the team was presented, which gives everyone involved an extra boost, and that’s rubbing of on the riders, as confidence is rising all the time which can only help make for better results, hopefully the injuries to James and Tommy won’t see them having to take too much time off the bikes, on the whole though we’re again a happy team.’
Rider comments :-
Alex Snow- ‘I’m not to disappointed with today, we’ve made good strides in the right direction so that’s pleasing. In the first race I got a mega start but I pumped up abit and dropped back a little but it was ok. The second race was pretty good, I had a comfortable 7th but then I went down and ended up 8th. Then in the last race as I went to the line the start device popped off and I couldn’t get it back on so I had a bad start, got into 11th but just couldn’t make anymore headway than that. It’s definitely a step in the right direction though, I felt better on the bike, the bike was all running good and we’ll all keep working hard to get to where we want to be.’
Jake Millward- ‘My day didn’t start to good as my race bike broke leaving me just my spare stock bike which up against all the tuned bikes in this class is a definite disadvantage, we wanted to try and swap some of the parts over but things are so flat out at these meetings we didn’t have enough time between races to get things done but I did ok, my aim this year is to score points in each race and I did that in the 1st two. I felt as though I could have got some in the last race swell because I was going good but with the Red Flag it kind of stopped me in my tracks.’
James Dodd- ‘When I looked at the track it looked real tricky and I liked the look of some of the changes they had made but didn’t like some of the others. I had a good qualification compared to last time at Fatcat, but I struggled on my starts. I rode well in the first race and was gutted to just miss out on a point by one place again after finishing one race last time in 21st as well, then race 2 I was just beginning to get into my rhythm when it all went wrong on one of the big jumps as I was about to take off I hit a bump and it pulled my shoulder out again, I’ve managed to get it popped back in but I just need to wait and see if I’ve done any damage to it again.’
Tommy Alba- ‘ Today has been good and bad, I had an alright qualifying, did ok but I tightened up, I wasn’t too worried though because gate choice isn’t all that important here. In the first race I had a good start and was up there, a couple of people crashed up front and I came through to 2nd then made the pass and went on to take the win, it was a shame it got red flagged and cut short because of a crash but a win is a win and I’ll take it! Then the 2nd race didn’t go to plan, on the first lap I hit one of the big step up jumps and my foot came of, I got cross rutted, went over the bars then went into the fencing, I got up and tried riding but my coccyx is hurting really bad so I’m off to get that checked out, hopefully it’ll be nothing too much and I’ll rest up then get back on the bike.’