Blue skies, blistering heat, big crowd, a perfect track and a British winner made the biggest GP of all time the perfect motocross race.
Words and Photos by: Jonathan McCready
Matterley Basin near Winchester, provided the location for a mammoth weekend of motocross that comprised 338 riders and ten classes of racing over four days. The main MX1 and MX2 classes were joined by the Euro 125, EMX2, WMX GP, Veterans, Euro 85, Euro 65 and even some amateur racing!
The huge gathering of noisy British fans were kept enthralled as Conrad Mewse won a race in the 85 class and James Dunn won an epic against newly crowned champ Tim Gasjer in the screaming 125 division. Natalie Kane made the podium in the Women’s race where Fontanesi won her first World Championship, as Cairoli put on a clinic in MX1,but it was Tommy Searle who stole the show in MX2.
The air-horned fuelled atmosphere reached fever pitch in the two MX2 races when Tommy Searle went toe to toe with his bitter rival Jeffrey Herlings.
Searle nailed the holeshot in race one, but Herlings was straight into second and all over the Englishman. Zach Osborne moved into third and did all he could to stay with the leading duo. The American was enjoying huge support from the British crowd but he just couldn’t hold the pace of Searle and Herlings eventually settling for third position.
Halfway through the moto it looked like Searle had the win in the bag, with a six second lead the CLS Kawasaki rider was in control but then Herlings stepped up his game. Adjusting some lines and lifting his intensity Herlings somehow, someway, caught the British hero and put all kinds of pressure on Searle. Tommy stayed strong and refused to give in as they entered the last lap but Herlings was all over him, then in one moment it all changed. Herlings went down as he was about to launch his final attack half way round the last lap, the crowd erupted and cheered Searle to a hugely popular victory.
Searle took advantage of a last lap fall by Herlings to take the win.
Race two was more of the same, Searle grabbed the holeshot, Van Horbeek was second with Herlings quickly into third and Osborne in fourth. The fleeing foursome set a blistering pace that was just brilliant to watch. Eventually though Herlings moved into second and he and Searle edged away into their own private battle.
Herlings was on Searle the whole moto and with three laps to go he made his move diving up the inside of Searle in the waves section, Searle though refused to shut the throttle and they entered the next turn side by side, but Searle was not letting the gas off and Herlings had no choice but to back off. Searle kept the lead and upped his pace in the last two laps. Herlings went to give it one final charge again on the last lap but, as happened in the first moto, he lost the front wheel and went down allowing Searle to play to the crowd and give them the moment they had been waiting for – a British winner at the British GP!
Herlings, aka Tommy Searle's shadow.
It just can’t get any better than winning your home GP, going head to head against the championship leader and fierce rival , and to come out on top in two scintillating motos.
Hot on the heels of the Olympics in London Tommy Searle gave the British fans another gold medal of sorts!
An ecstatically happy Searle summed the weekend up for everyone by saying on Twitter, ‘ what an amazing weekend, to win in front of everyone who came out was the best feeling in the world.’
Jeffrey Herlings was not the most popular rider of the weekend, but he earned the British fans respect. He gave it everything he had to win, and his efforts to beat Searle made the race so entertaining. Both riders wanted to win so badly and Herlings can be proud of his efforts.
Zach Osborne had his best GP of the year. He got to see and run with the leaders for a while in both motos and a 3-4 was good enough for his second GP podium in a row. It will a loss to not have Zach riding in the British Championship or GP next season, his all out action style definitely makes him one to watch on the track, and it was nice to see him get on the podium in the UK, he certainly had a lot of British fans cheering him on!
Zachy-Poo has been a podium-machine since returning to the series.
We spoke with Zach after the race to get his take on the day and returning to America in 2013. “I had a pretty solid day today, obviously I don’t have the fitness to run with those guys for 35 minutes but I proved I can do it for twenty. It has been tough to come back in the thick of things and be up there. I am glad to have two podiums in a row and just keep building to the end of the season. Everything is perfect, (with his injury) I took the appropriate amount of time to heal so it is good now. My preparation going into this season was a lot of supercross so probably not a lot will change (going into 2013), I will just need to be ready for the heat. I think the American style of one day racing suits me better than the two day racing. I am looking forward to it, I know that I can do well and have a good season. They (Geico Honda) gave me a deal I couldn’t pass up, I am really proud to be a part of it. I really can’t wait.”
In MX1 the racing was less exciting but Antonio Cairoli still entertained the fans by showing just what an incredible rider he is. In the qualifying heat on Saturday both his two main rivals crashed, Pourcel crashed out while in sixth meaning he had a terrible gate for Sunday while Desalle spectacularly threw it away while leading Cairoli. It summed up the season as Cairoli just doesn’t make the same mistakes.
Desalle came into the weekend have just lost his Aunt at the beginning of the week, his Saturday crash also injured his hand and the Belgian stuggled on Sunday to sixth overall.
Cairoli holeshot race one on Sunday and took a dominating victory, it seemed to be that easy! In race two in was Nagl with the early lead but Cairoli found his way through, and despite Nagl keeping the gap small, the legendary Italian won again and now looks almost certain to win his sixth world title. The battle between the AMA champ Dungey and the soon to be World Champ Cairoli at the Des Nations in Belgium is mouth watering!
Cairoli looked as dominant as ever.
German Max Nagl was in great form again as he continued his comeback from injury and he was second on the podium with Gautier Paulin returning to form with third on overall.
Ken De Dycker made it a KTM 1-2-3 in the first MX1 moto and was looking to do the same in race two but a crash put paid to that ambition and the big Belgian finished fifth and fourth overall.
Christophe Pourcel had a truly horrendous weekend. The talented enigma wrapped in a mystery carded ninth place and a sixteenth on a track he won a moto on last season. It means Pourcel is now barely ahead of Gautier Paulin in third in the standings, and with Leirop coming up next Christophe could well lose third place in the series.
Pourcel’s MXDN place could also be under threat after the always consistent Xavier Boog scored a fine fifth place overall and made it two Factory Kawasaki’s in the top five.
The GP fraternity now head to the deep sands of Lierop in Holland in what will be the toughest GP of the year. Even sandier than Lommel, Jeffrey Herlings will be looking to win his home GP to return the favour to Searle, while Cairoli just loves the sand and it will take a miraculous performance for anyone to beat him there.
The GP of Lierop is always amazing to watch as the finest riders in the world battle through the toughest track in the world, not to mention it will be good practice for the Des Nations in Lommel, but as a one off GP the British round we have just witnessed will be hard to beat. It was motocross heaven.