Northern Ireland’s homegrown riders occupied the top steps of the MX1 and MX2 podiums last Sunday as Buildbase Honda pair Graeme Irwin and Martin Barr dominated round five of the Maxxis British Motocross championship at Desertmartin.
“The crowd out there were amazing,” said Irwin.
“It was the best I have ever seen here. I was at the fence watching for Martin (Barr) and if I lost where he was on the track I could tell by watching the crowed cheering and waving for him. When he got the overall on the final lap the place just erupted.”
Barr added: “The fans were phenomenal all the way round the track. It was like a Mexican wave going round and once they saw what I needed to do they got behind me and cheered me on, it was brilliant.”
The Cookstown club had prepared the Desertmartin track to perfection as usual and the hot summer sunshine brought the fans out in their thousands for six exciting races.
Irwin got the holeshot at the start of the first MX1 race with the fast-starting Robert Davidson in his wheeltracks followed by Elliott Banks-Browne, Brad Anderson and Stuart Edmonds.
By the end of the opening lap Davidson had been pushed back to fifth and Irwin and Banks-Browne had already started to pull away from the chasing pack as Gert Krestinov made his way forward from an average start.
The top-four stayed in the same order until four laps from the end when Irwin managed to shake Banks-Browne off his tail and Krestinov got the better of Anderson for third after a hard battle.
At the flag it was Irwin by just over four seconds from Banks-Browne and Krestinov third who had Anderson on his tail.
Edmonds was a lonely fifth ahead of Davidson and with Dan Thornhill, who had an ankle so swollen from qualifying that he didn’t take his boot off all day in case he couldn’t get it back on.
Irwin again grabbed the holeshot at the start of the second MX1 and he was followed round the opening lap by Anderson, Ryan Houghton, Jake Shipton, Banks-Browne and Davidson, with Krestinov again in seventh. Shipton pushed Houghton back a place on lap two with Banks-Browne doing the same a lap later but Banks-Browne’s time in fourth was short-lived as on the very next lap he got it all wrong going over one of the big fast jumps and came down hard.
Thankfully he wasn’t badly hurt and he re-started his bike and retired to the paddock, his day’s work over.
This left Irwin way out in the lead ahead of Anderson and Shipton who now had Krestinov snapping at his heels.
Irwin crossed the line just under seven seconds clear of Anderson, who managed to hold off a determined Krestinov for half the race.
Houghton had one of his best championship races in fourth from Shipton and Davidson while the biggest disappointment of the day had to be Jamie Law.
He was having a good race and running a strong sixth until – on the final downhill on the last lap and within sight of the chequered flag – his bike’s engine let go and he coasted down the hill and left it in a ditch before walking back to the paddock.
Irwin finished the day with a maximum while Anderson and Krestinov ended on the same points, ahead of Houghton, Davidson and a sore Thornhill.
“It’s been a perfect day for me,” said winner Irwin.
“In the first race I got a little bit of arm-pump but I managed to handle the situation so that when Elliott was on me I could go again. I got a good start in the second race and pushed hard, had really good lines and managed two wins.”
A happy Anderson added: “I like this track as it’s rough and technical but the first race didn’t go to plan as I felt a bit tired two or three laps from the end and Gert (Krestinov) got by us.
“In the second I got a good start but I knew Gert would come on strong at the end.
“I had to switch my lines a bit as he had some good ones but I held him off and I am so happy to get back on the box.”
Third-placed Krestinov said: “My shoulder is a bit unstable. I dislocated it a couple of weeks ago and it came out again at the MX Nationals which is why I didn’t do the second race there.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen today with it but I wanted to come and get some points so I am happy with third overall.
“Now I will try and get my shoulder sorted before Blaxhall.”
Michael Eccles is on fire since he switched to the Planet Putoline Husqvarna and he set fastest qualifying time and led the country’s best MX2 riders into turn one in their first race.
Barr, Josh Spinks, Jake Sheriden and Josh Gilbert all chased after him round the opening lap, with series leader Ben Watson way down the field in 21st and in the thick of the bar-banging action.
Barr kept piling the pressure on Eccles and on lap five he found a way past only to have Eccles come straight back at him to retake the lead.
While all this was going on Watson was on the move and up to seventh but Mel Pocock dropped out of the race while running sixth.
On lap nine Barr made his final pass for the lead and put the hammer down to take the win by just over nine seconds from Eccles.
Watson passed Todd Kellett on the last lap for third with Spinks and Millward fifth and sixth.
Barr grabbed the holeshot in the second MX2 moto, chased by Kellett, Eccles Watson and Brad Todd.
At the end of the opening lap Eccles was in the lead and a lap later Watson passed Barr for second as Kellett slipped to fourth in a very fast race.
Watson led from Eccles at the halfway stage with Barr now on equal points overall with Watson.
If Barr was to claim the overall in front of his home crowd he needed to pass the flying Eccles.
The last lap started with Barr in Eccles’ wheeltracks and as they came back into view over a jump in front of the biggest congregation of fans Barr was in front of Eccles and the crowd went mad.
Kellett was a distant fourth from Pocock, Todd and Spinks, while in the championship Watson now has a 41-point lead over new second-place man Barr, while Harri Kullas slipped to third, 57 points off the lead.
“It’s been a good day,” said a happy Barr.
“Being a home race for me there is always an extra bit of pressure from the crowd and it’s nice to finally get the overall at Desertmartin as I have got second a number of times and have always wanted the win.
“In the s second race I knew I had to put a big charge on to get the overall and I saw that Micky was getting a bit tired and managed to pass him with half a lap to go.
“It’s fantastic and I am really happy for the team.”
Series leader Watson said: “I didn’t have a very good start in race one as a rider went down in front of me and I was stuck in the rut he was in and about ten riders went past me.
“I changed my starting position for the second race and managed to get a bit of an advantage and controlled the race from there.
“It’s a shame that Martin (Barr) got past Michael (Eccles) on the last lap of race two to take the overall but it’s been a good day for my championship hopes.”
In the MXY2s Team Green Kawasaki’s Lewis Hall took two wins, although he did make it hard for himself.
Tom Grimshaw got the holeshot in the opening moto from Howard Wainwright and Jake Edey, with Hall way down in 13th place and with a lot of work to do.
By the time the race was half over Hall was in second behind Grimshaw, with Edey right behind him.
Two laps later he was in the lead and crossed the finish line just over five seconds clear of Grimshaw, with Edey third from Wainwright and series leader Keenan Hird.
Edey led at the start of the second race from Wainwright and Grimshaw, with Hall fourth.
It took Hall three laps to get into second place behind Edey but just as it was looking good for a comfortable win they both went down leaving Grimshaw in the lead from Hird and Wainwright, Hall remounting in fourth.
With three laps to go, though, Hall was back in the lead and heading for his second win of the day by just over a second from Hird, with Wainwright third from Grimshaw and Ben Clark.
Overall it was Hall from Grimshaw and Hird but in the championship Hird’s lead has shrunk to 13 points from Hall and Grimshaw.