CAS Honda’s Billy Mackenzie, who is still recovering from injury, put in two solid performances at the Grand Prix of Catalunya today with 11th and fifth place finishes, earning his best result so far this season with eighth overall for round six of the FIM World MX1 Championship.
Mackenzie, who is still recovering from the dislocated thumb injury he sustained just one week ago in Portugal, was feeling confident throughout all of this weekend’s practice sessions. In the qualifying heat Mackenzie got a steady start into tenth place, but worked his way through the field to earn himself a good gate position in sixth position at the hard-pack Bellpuig track.
In the opening race of today, following pain relieving injections in his hand, Mackenzie got a good start into eighth place at the first corner of the 35-minute plus two lap moto. By the end of the first lap the Scottish rider was in second position, chasing race leader Jonathan Barragan, before Antontio Cairoli took him down and out on lap two.
A frustrated Mackenzie remounted his CRF450R race machine into 22nd place and put in a gritty performance, lapping faster than most of the front-runners, to battle through the field into tenth place. In the closing stages of the race the CAS Honda pilot was fighting through the pain in his thumb to hang onto his CRF450R, and crossed the finish line in a solid eleventh position.
In race two Mackenzie gated well and charged into second place in the hot conditions at the Catalan circuit. On lap two the 25-year-old reigning British Champion took to the front of the field, stretching out an amazing four seconds over his nearest rival in just one lap.
Mackenzie scorched out in front for 10 laps, until a hard charging Max Nagl caught the CAS Honda-ace, pushing him back into second position mid-race. In the closing stages Mackenzie dropped back as the pain in his hand worsened, but the CAS Honda pilot dug deep to cross the line in fifth place, which earned him eighth overall and his best Grand Prix result so far this season.
Billy Mackenzie #211: Race 1: 11th Race 2: 5th
“Things have definitely been going better this weekend. The bike is feeling great, I’m feeling much fitter, and it’s just a bit frustrating I have this thumb injury I picked up in Portugal, which is very sore. In the first race I didn’t get the best start, but managed to get up-to second place by the end of lap one. I was feeling really good, then Antonio Cairoli completely cleaned me out and we both went down. I picked up the bike and got going, but I was way back outside the top 20. I just kept fighting all the way to the end, and I was enjoying it out there. I got back into the top ten, but then the thumb started aching pretty bad and I had to grit my teeth to hang onto the bike. I’m sure a top five would have been possible if I hadn’t been taken out needlessly so early on in the race, because my lap times were as fast as the front guys right until the last few minutes of the moto. In the second race I got a good start and took the lead. I just got my head down and went for it, the CRF450R was feeling good and I was out front for ten laps. I made a few little mistakes and in the last ten minutes I started to struggle with my hand, but I just had to hang on and bring it home in the best position I could. So it’s not been a perfect weekend, but we are getting there, and thanks to the team for all of their hard work recently. I need to get over this hand injury, and I’m really looking forward to Mallory Park, where I’m hoping we can put on a real good show for the fans.”
Neil Prince: CAS Honda Team Manager
“We’ve definitely come a long way in the last few weeks, and Billy has really shown his capabilities this weekend. He is struggling a little with his hand injury, but I am happy with his improved performances today. In race one he was fighting at the front when he was taken down by another rider, which really he couldn’t have done anything about. To come through from 22nd into the top ten with a hand injury was impressive, and he rode determinedly throughout with fast lap times right through until the last few laps of the race. In race two he took the lead early on, and stretched a healthy gap over his rivals. He began to falter late on in the race, but after getting off the bike it was obvious that his thumb injury isn’t in great shape. His confidence has definitely improved, and we’ve also done a huge amount of work with the bike in the last few weeks, which was noticeable today. He will need to rest this week for his injury in preparation for our home race at Mallory Park in two weeks time, but we are getting there step-by-step.”
**Cedric Melotte was ruled out of this weekend’s proceedings after the back injury sustained in Bulgaria, which has seen him miss races in five of the last six events, left him in excruciating pain after first practice. Melotte will return to Belgium for more treatment and as mutually agreed with the team, will not be contesting in the World MX1 Championship for the foreseeable future.