With tension high and adrenalin pumping, the gate dropped to signal the start of the AMCA British Championship.

Now was the time for riders to see if their winter preparation had been enough. 

And after three fast and furious blocks of racing, Luke Burton (MX1), Ray Rowson (MX2), Brad Turner (2T) and Simon Lane (Vets) emerged happy after getting their campaigns off to a winning start.

The venue for the opening round of the series powered by Datatag and supported by Dunlop was Minchinhampton in Gloucestershire, a track hosting its first race meeting. 

Christening the new terrain was a high-quality MX1 field and Ryan Crowder grabbed the holeshot as both Arran Poolman and Adam Harris tasted the soil. 

By the end of lap one, reigning MX1 Champion Burton, John May and James Dodd had all found a way past Crowder and by lap four and Dodd was in second and closing on Burton. 

Lining up a pass, though, Dodd slipped and was forced to settle for runner-up ahead of Gary Gibson, Richard Cannings, May, Shane Carless and early leader Crowder. 

Electing not to defend his 2T crown, Ben Saunders instead lined-up in MX1 and started by blasting his 250cc AJP Husky from 30th up to a very respectable 12th.

Despite gating in eighth, Burton took just six laps to move through and pass Carless for the moto two win with Dodd, Gibson, Cannings and May again inside the top six. 

It was then the turn of MX1 debutant Paul Neale who grabbed the final holeshot of the day before being relegated on the opening circuit by Carless. 

This developed into a great moto as Gibson scorched to the front. Four laps in and Burton moved up into second but in challenging for the lead overshot a fast, banked corner, going over the berm and off the track. 

Quickly regaining his composure and somehow staying on board he was back on the gas and by lap seven in control of the moto and heading to yet another victory. 

Burton was delighted with his round one success and said: “I really liked the layout of this track and was looking forward to racing on it. 

“I was gutted to then wake up on Sunday morning feeling unwell. I didn’t get the best of starts on the day but had the speed to work my way to the front. Big thank-you to all the FUS team and SPS.”

After falling on turn one of the opening MX2 contest and restarting a distant last, Luke Dean must have been very relieved to see the moto later red-flagged.

In the rerun, it was Josh Waterman leading the charge despite suffering with an ankle injury that has kept him off the bike for the last few weeks. Ray Rowson moved up from an early seventh to slot into second and that’s how it stayed. 

In a big tussle for third Jansen Day got the verdict just ahead of Lewis King, Bradley Tranter, Dean and Clinton Barrs.

As Jack Gardner claimed the MX2 moto two holeshot, first-race winner Waterman was down in 11th but on a charge. That move up the leaderboard was halted in the early stages after a collision with James Wainwright on the exit of a turn, dropped him to 14th. 

At the front Rowson passed leader Dean on lap six to take the win. In the closing stages, the hard-charging Day also managed to find a way past Dean as Wainwright, King, Waterman, producing a storming comeback, Gardner, Jack Cox, Luke Mellows and Barrs completed the top ten.

In a class that produced some outstanding action, MX2 finished with a classic. 

After holeshot king Gardner had been overhauled, Dean and Waterman indulged in a great scrap, passing and repassing for several laps. 

Waterman eventually took the win though was Waterman as Rowson produced a strong ride to move up and also then pass Dean with just two laps remaining. 

The first overall verdict in what promises to be an exciting MX2 season went to Rowson. 

“I was happy with how it went. I was looking for a top five finish in this class today as it’s stacked with so many capable race winners,” he said.

“I struggled with my starts and rode too tight but I am looking forward to racing on more new tracks throughout the season.”

With Ben Saunders having departed to MX1, there’s going to be a new AMCA 2T Champion in 2017 and moto one at Minchinhampton certainly started the campaign in style. Matthew Nash grabbed the holeshot only to be passed by Tony Griffiths, it was then Brad Turner who became the pace-setter. 

In the early stages of this very competitive clash, Turner was under tremendous pressure with Griffiths, Shaun Buchan, Bradley Doyle and Sam Smith right on his tail. Gradually though, Turner stretched that throttle wire before racing onto a comfortable win with Smith the runner-up.

In a rerun 2T moto two, Jack Waterman led the long charge to turn one on both occasions before the super Turner took control for the win. Once again, Smith who had competed in MX1 during 2016 was a very gallant runner-up behind the Turner with Jason Kendrick, Jordan Saunders, Griffiths and Doyle in the mix. 

Making it a perfect start to his title campaign, Turner then galloped to victory in the last 2T clash of the day from Kendrick, Benniston and Griffiths. 

After starting the day with a brace of runners-up slots, Sam Smith’s chances of a podium were dashed by a disastrous moto three where he took a lowly 33rd place finish.  

Bagging the podium places was Turner, Kenderick and Doyle. 

After making the move across from MX1 into 2T, Turner said: “I struggled a little with my starts as I haven’t had much race practice since badly breaking my wrist last June. 

“Once in the lead I tried to concentrate hard and put in some fast laps, keeping focused and not making mistakes.”

Finishing as runner-up in the 2016 Vets title race, Simon Lane must have been pleased with his flying start to the first clash of 2017. Simon was quick away until James Russell decided to upset proceedings. 

The former AMCA Champion, making a welcome comeback to top-level racing, passed Lane on lap two and with Terry House rapidly recovering from an indifferent start to slot into third, the battle for honours was on. 

After initially gating seventh, House then moved through in style to take the win with Russell, Lane, Martin Atherton, Richard Chinn and Stephen Elford the next best.

Moto two and House gated down in 19th as Russell and Lane again set the pace at the front. 

Although House did remarkably well to get back into third, the front two had long gone and that’s the way it stayed. 

In the final Vets clash, it was Lane bagging a start to finish victory from House, Russell, Gary Jones, Atherton and Elford. With points added up, remarkably Russell, Lane and House were all locked together on 164 for the overall, the verdict going to Lane courtesy of his last moto win. With Joshua Scott and Joshua Herbert taking the Non-qualifiers overall verdicts the round one action was complete.