The British Grand Prix….It’s here
The United Kingdom welcomes World Championship motocross this weekend as the British Grand Prix takes place at the historic setting of Matchams Park for round seven of the 2005 FIM series.
After the success and high acclaim of last year’s event, that saw the GPs return to the UK after a four year absence, the Matchams fixture – at a completely new and redesigned circuit – has been eagerly awaited. The first ever World Championship win taken by Bike it Yamaha rider Billy Mackenzie in Japan last weekend has increased the furore around the Grand Prix as the chance of seeing a local rider succeed at their home meeting has risen significantly and should ensure a lively atmosphere over Saturday and Sunday; something the British MX fans are widely renowned for.
The Grand Prix of Japan last Sunday was a very positive sight for British motocross as Mackenzie led national Champion Stephen Sword to the chequered flag in the second MX2 moto. With the two Scots taking heat wins and podium results from the first six rounds, Britain has not been better placed to potentially celebrate victory on home soil since the start of the millennium.
“This win could not have been better timed,” said Mackenzie last Sunday. “Hopefully people would have read or seen something about the Japanese GP this week and will now want to come down to Matchams. I live in Southampton and I know the sport is very popular down there with schoolboy clubs and a lot of tracks. It is a big thing and maybe this weekend might have pushed some more people to make their plans for June 5 th and come to support the British riders. I think everyone will love the new Matchams. In my opinion it is by far the best track on the GP calendar.”
From the two classes seven manufacturers, four tyre firms and almost fifty teams will pitch-up at the circuit this week. The MX1 and MX2 categories have been close affairs so far with some delicious racing entertaining fans from Belgium to Portugal to Japan . Three different riders have celebrated success in MX1 even if defending Champion Stefan Everts (factory Yamaha) has notched the most victories (four) and currently leads the standings. The gap to his main rival, former double World Champ Mickael Pichon, lies at a slim eleven points (25 for a win, two motos per class) and round seven this weekend will be another chapter in their close tussle for ’05 glory. MX1 will also see protagonists such as works Suzuki rider Joel Smets (two moto wins), KTM’s Ben Townley (one Grand Prix win), reigning British Champion Honda’s Josh Coppins (three podiums) and Everts’ team-mate Brian Jorgensen (one podium) vie for top three places. Local hopes lie in current MX1 British series leader Paul Cooper and the in-form James Noble, who has equalled his personal best GP moto finish of fifth position twice in recent weeks and will be looking to break the top four at his home event.
In MX2 (125cc two-strokes and 250cc four-strokes) the 250cc Yamaha machine has been dominant, taking five out of six Grand Prix and clean-sweeping the podium at least three times. From the ‘blue posse’ Italians Antonio Cairoli and Alessio Chiodi have been the most consistent but Australia’s Andrew McFarlane, Billy Mackenzie, Italy’s Davide Guarneri and Belgium’s Cedric Melotte have all shared spoils. Kawasaki rider Stephen Sword has regularly found himself surrounded by Yamahas but managed to win the second moto at Namur as Honda and KTM have suffered with injuries to key riders.
The Grand Prix will also give the next generation of British talent a chance to show their mettle alongside the more established sect of riders such as Mackenzie, Sword, Carl Nunn, Tom Church, Cooper and Noble. Fifteen year old Tommy Searle has impressed with a string of top ten results in the MX2 Maxxis British Championship during his debut pro season and Suzuki’s Lewis Gregory, Honda’s Wayne Smith and Suzuki’s Jason Dougan will also be looking to catch the eye of the factory teams.
Matchams Park , with its famous energy–sapping fine sandy soil that becomes a rough, technical and demanding terrain, has undergone a layout overhaul at the skilled hand of track designer Johnny Douglas Hamilton. Several big table-tops have been constructed along with a spectacular timing section of jumps. With the parking, paddock and access routes all hard-standing asphalt the World Championships will not find a better-suited Grand Prix venue all season.
Pre-event and VIP ticket sales have been encouraging and the high level of interest in the event so far indicates that a decent crowd is expected this weekend. Former multi World Superbike Champion and Britain’s most famous road racer of the last thirty years, Carl Fogarty, is planning on attending the GP. Ticket competitions have been run frequently on Wave FM, the biggest radio station in the south of England, as well as last Saturday on Radio 1’s Saturday morning Breakfast show. More than fifty press pass applications have been received and combined with the international media should ensure that almost 100 journalists and photographers will be covering the event. Two giant TV screens one located on the top section of the circuit housing the pits, start gate, timing section and finish line and another in the tiered ‘valley’ setting, will mean that the fans can base themselves anywhere around the course and not miss a beat of the action.
Off the track visitors to Matchams will be easily distracted by various entertainments such as a mini-bike track, the Eastpak/Vans Freestyle team, karting, a fun fair, live bands and a packed trade stand area where some good deals with apparel and bike kit for reduced prices can be found. The official Grand Prix programme will also be on sale for £5 and contains numerous interviews and stories with some fantastic photography. Camping facilities are available for people wanting to make a weekend of the race and with Bournemouth, Christchurch and the New Forest nearby Matchams will be one of the more tourist-friendly Grand Prix of the year.
Tickets are still on sale and can be bought in special booths on the day. VIP tickets can be purchased in advance but space is limited. Call 0161 763 6660 (four lines supported by call centre back-up). Arrive early to avoid congestion entering the circuit and to secure a good vantage spot.
The weather forecast predicts bright and warm conditions for the weekend with clouds and the chance of the odd shower on Sunday.
The Grand Prix schedule begins with the first free practice sessions from 10am Saturday morning. Please see the official website for more information on accommodation, timetable and for how to get to the circuit: www.britgp.com
Info Brit GP, photo copyright Yamaha Racing