In a result that mirrored Great Britain’s astounding success in the 2012 Olympics, Kawasaki’s Tommy Searle pulled out all the stops to go 1 – 1 and clinch the overall victory at the British GP in Matterley Basin.
Although there had been loads of other races over the weekend, the one that the crowds had come to see was the showdown between Herlings and Searle. And right from the moment the gate dropped, Searle was not going to disappoint, nailing a fantastic holeshot and rocketing down the pit lane straight with Herlings, Ferrandis and Osborne close behind. The fifth spot out of the blocks was taken by new Suzuki signing Julien Lieber, who went on to put in a stunning ride, and then an impressive looking Jake Nicholls in sixth.
This order stayed fairly static for a number of laps, with Teillet, Tixier and Lieb following on the lead pack, but it was Van Horebeek and Tonus that were charging forwards, desperate to overcome a poor starting positions. The two sliced their way up the pack to get up to ninth and tenth by lap ten. At the front, Tommy was holding the lead well, and despite Herlings best efforts he couldn’t close the gap and the crowd were loving it. Osborne was riding strong in third but was too far back to get with the leaders, and too far forward to worry about being caught.
By half distance, Lieber was beginning to tire, and Nicholls was able to get past to take fourth on lap eleven. Further down the order, Anstie was fighting against an appalling start and attempting to climb up the field from an initial 27th place. Van Horebeek got past Tonus and continued to chase down the lead pack.
Jake was able to get past Ferrandis with four laps to go and Van Horebeek followed on a lap later. Up at the front it looked like Herlings was going to catch Tommy as he closed in at the top of the circuit. But then to the delight of the crowd, Herlings lost the front end of his KTM and his challenge was over. Tommy took the chequered flag a lap and a half later and Matterley went ballistic.
Moto 2 looked like a carbon copy of the first race, with Tommy once again getting a fantastic drop and showing his rear fender to the opposition. It was van Horebeek this time that had the number two slot, with Herlings a few places back. Jake was in the mix once again, and after the first lap it was Searle, Van Horebeek, Herlings, Osborne, Nicholls, Tixier and Ferrandis.
Tonus was again having to work hard to improve a poor start, but was quickly up into sixth, a position he would keep all race. Lieber had started well, but clearly had given his all in Race 1, falling a couple of times and sinking into the pack.
By lap seven, Herlings had got past his team mate and was going after Tommy once again, with the prospect of snatching the overall victory. But Searle was having none of it, riding strong and defensively to frustrate and deny Herlings any quarter. With Two laps to go, the KTM rider was almost on Tommy’s end can and the crowd were holding their breath to will the British rider to stay in front. And then came the moment, Herlings cleared the finish line double, and within the blink of an eye, he was on the floor and Matterley erupted. Unaware of the fall, Tommy was still pressing on, but soon he realised that the challenge was gone and the victory was his.
Herlings remounted to keep second place, but as he followed round the remainder of the race, the partisan crowd couldn’t hide their delight at his misfortune.
Searle crossed the line, the propane flares blasted and the noise from the hillside was deafening. We could not have asked for more. Tommy had delivered the goods.
Jake Nicholls fought in an impressive fifth place finish to record a great overall fifth behind Van Horebeek in fourth and Osborne in third.
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After the drama of the MX2 class, the MX1 race felt like it was going to be a bit of an anti- climax, and in reality that wasn’t far off the truth. Antonio Cairoli took the holeshot in his usual style, and from that point on really had nothing more to worry about, leading every one of the nineteen laps. Following on behind was the giant form of Ken De Dycker, closely followed by Xavier Boog, Clement Desalle and Max Nagl, fresh from his return to the GP circuit. The third turn saw a huge pile up, but with most of the front runners away up the hillside, the effect wasn’t too dramatic.
Nagle got past Desalle with surprising ease, and with the German on an absolute mission, Boog was only able to stay ahead for three laps before passing up his third place. Paulin was making similar progress forward, also managing to overhaul the Suzuki rider by the seventh lap.
Shaun Simpson was down in a frustrating twentieth place at the start of the race, but was able to steadily improve matters over the course of the moto.
At the head of the pack, Nagl eventually hunted down Big Ken to take second, but with Cairoli well ahead, he would have to settle for second.
In what was perhaps a somewhat embarrassing retirement, Honda’s Evgeny Bobryshev had to pull out of the race without the seat of his CRF450R, the offending item retrieved by one of the track marshals.
With the last lap sign on show, Cairoli whipped and scrubbed his way round the Matterley circuit, to the appreciation of the crowd. The Sicilian rider took the chequers, with fellow KTM riders Nagl and De Dycker completing an all orange top three. Paulin and Boog were able to hold on to fourth and fifth respectively, in front of an uncharacteristically lack lustre Clement Desalle.
In what seemed a deviation from the script, Max Nagl nailed the holeshot to Moto 2, from Antonio Cairoli and a seemingly re-invigorated Bobryshev. In fact it seemed like the Honda squad had had a serious team talk, as Rui Goncalves was at the pointy end of the pack from the very start of the race, starting lap two in a much more impressive fifth place.
Nagl’s lead didn’t last long, as Cairoli sliced past him to take the front, and went on to lead every single lap on the score card just like Moto 1. By half distance, Gautier Paulin had managed to get past Bobryshev and was carrying Goncalves with him, the Honda riders eventually swapping places on lap twelve.
DeDycker had overshot the same corner that Desalle had in qualifying on lap four, dropping him down to eighth for a while. But with a steely resolve, No 9 got straight back on the gas, steadily climbing through the field to eventually end up between Goncalves and Bobryshev. Desalle was having another forgettable race, managing to go backwards through the pack over the course of the nineteen laps. With the GP circuit into its final throes, Clement needed this result like a third armpit.
By the end of the race, Antonio took the win and the overall, with Nagl and Paulin a comfortable difference behind. The overall GP classification was a replica of the Race 2 result.
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But as for the weekend – this was all about Tommy Searle and one of the best GPs we could ever have hoped for.