Riders faced a strenuous weekend as the MXGP race format returned to the two-day schedule for the first time in two years with two practice sessions and a twenty-minutes-plus-two-laps race to decide grid positions on Saturday. The sweeping grassland track in southern England was in remarkably good condition after the gale-force winds of storm Eunice had caused postponement from the previous weekend but the heavy rainfalls of recent weeks inevitably saw long deep ruts develop quickly in this, the first of twenty rounds of the world series. Team F&H’s Australian displayed immaculate speed throughout the day as he posted seventh-fastest time during practice on his MXGP debut and confirmed this pace with a strong ride from fourteenth to ninth during the first eight minutes of the Qualifying race. The low intense sunshine of a February late-afternoon under brilliant blue skies urged a degree of caution and he wisely consolidated the position to the chequered flag.
Jed Beaton: “A 450 is pretty different to the 250s I have raced previously in my career but I have some good people around me which has helped the transition. I already feel pretty good and we are trying to build every week. The sun was pretty low by the end of the day so it was difficult to see the lines but I have a good gate-pick for tomorrow. “
Ben Watson made a steady GP debut for Kawasaki Racing Team MXGP. The English rider was squeezed wide at the first turn of Qualifying and will go to the gate nineteenth in each of tomorrow’s points-scoring GP motos.
In the FIM World MX2 Motocross Championship Beaton’s F&H Kawasaki teammate Kevin Horgmo also showed good pace in practice with eighth-fastest time and posted lap tines only fractionally off those of the leaders during the Qualifying race to advance from eleventh to ninth; the young Norwegian was one of few riders to make passes in a high-speed train. Big Van World MTX Kawasaki’s Mikkel Haarup was right out of luck in the Qualifying race. Eleventh-fastest in practice he made a lightening getaway to hit turn one in the top three but was cannoned to the ground by a rival.
Mikkel Haarup: “I had a great transition during the winter; everyone in the team is excited and I made a great start but then someone hit me from behind. But I’m still confident for tomorrow; this is a beautiful circuit, very technical with nice jumps. “