UK Moto Gymkhana Championship 2017
Round 3 – Rockingham Speedway
Round 3 of the National Moto Gymkhana Championship visited a new competition venue for the sport, Rockingham Motor Speedway in Corby and yet again the sun gods smiled upon us. Three warm dry events in a row must be a bit of a record! A healthy entry list was bolstered by a visit from two of the top European riders, Bert Schuld and 2016 European Champion Kristian Eekhof. Unless there was some mishap everyone knew Kristian was going to win, his talent and dedication have made him the stand out moto gymkhana rider in Europe for several years. So the battle was on to see who could get closest to him. The British championship title race is very close so it wasn’t just pride at stake. An unusual course with some new designs and multiple use of pylons in different combinations made the course look particularly difficult but by the end of the day all competitors had completed the course correctly in at least one of their two competitive attacks of this fast open course. Attack 1 led to a couple of wrong courses and a couple of unusual crashes.
Current UK championship leader Mark Wraith got a little mixed up with one obstacle, losing a little time by going a longer route than necessary. With that playing on his mind he tried a little too hard at the next combination and lost the front end.
Another of the green bib runners, John Ritchie also lost the front on a different section of the course, although John crashing is perhaps a little less of a surprise than Mark. There were several ‘moments’ with a little too much throttle sending rear wheels sliding, Ian Handley and Andi Beazley in particular, Mr Beazley demolishing one set of pylons in the process. With a few lock ups and unintentional stoppies under heavy braking it was an eventful first attack. After all had had their first run it was no surprise to see Kristian well ahead on his radically modified Fireblade. Second was Bert Schuld on his 250 2 stroke Honda and Ian Ashford third after a fast aggressive run on his CBR600. Championship leader Mark Wraith was way down in 16th and Rob Fox, his closest championship challenger was in 5th after a brief moment of brain fade lost him several seconds.
In the women’s class Beth Price Williams used her excellent technique to lead with Joanna Noble Finch 3 seconds behind.
In the novice category it was Ian Handley out in front on his Hornet with Gymkhana supremo Andrew Freeman next on his mighty ZRX1200 and long distance Scots traveller Grant Fraser in third on his SV650. So with almost all to play for and a refresher course walk during the lunch break it was on to the second attack. With a time in the bank from the morning run competitors tend to push harder and improve their time in the afternoon so it was surprising there were no more falls and no wrong courses, most competitors also improving their times.
Needless to say it was Kristian Eekhof who romped away with the win but second and third weren’t so obvious.
Bert Schuld surprisingly didn’t improve on his morning time but still managed to hang on to second from the similarly mounted Rob Fox who got his act together and claimed the final podium spot. With an 8 second improvement. Two two strokes on the podium has happened before but not often. The Novice class results had a bit of a turn around in attack 2. Grant Fraser improved on his morning time by a massive 10 seconds leapfrogging to the top of the class, also gaining a ranking point and 7th place overall. An excellent result for only his third ever competition.
Runner up was Ian Handley who improved on his morning time by 3 seconds and also scored a ranking point despite a big slide coming out of a turn.
Third spot on the podium was Steve Laughton with a neat and tidy run on his R6. The novice class is really competitive with the fastest mixing it with some of the experts. In the women’s class Beth Price Williams had a bit of a nightmare on her second run, doing part of the course twice but her closest challenger, Joanna Noble Finch had a similarly off form second run so it was Beth with her Honda 400 who took the top spot from Joanna and her KTM 690 Duke and Pauline Thornton third with another KTM. And so to the championship positions, Current leader Mark Wraith had a surprisingly subdued second run finishing 5th, and giving up a few of his slender points lead to Rob Fox. Mark now leads by just two points from Rob with Andrew Rayfield, another to have a rather subdued day a further 9 points back in 3rd. Any of the top three can still win the championship. In the novices Ian Handley leads Grant Fraser by 1 point with Steve Laughton just 2 behind in 3rd place. Again all three could win with two rounds remaining. In the women’s championship Beth Price Williams has to miss one of the remaining rounds so barring a disaster Joanna Noble Finch is uncatchable, but you never know. With one score dropped Beth still has a mathematical chance of winning. No pressure then Joanna!! The next event is back at Donington Park on Sat 2nd September, expect another interesting course, with all classes undecided and two of them very tight it’s going to be a close fought race to the finish.
Ian Handley – Grant Fraser – Steve Laughton
Bert Schuld – Kristian Eekhof – Rob Fox