The opening round of the Fast Eddy Racing Rock Oil XC series could not have got off to a better start with great conditions, an upgraded course and a guest appearance by Yamaha’s Jamie McCanney.
Bicton Farm, near Shrewsbury, has received serious attention over the past few months and it was obvious just how much work had been done to the venue – especially the woods section – to turn it into one of the Fast Eddy Racing favourite locations for the coming year.
The weather in the run up to the event had been unpredictable but it stayed dry, which allowed a practice day to run on Saturday and also meant the farmer, Matt Egerton, could regrade the course on Saturday evening ready for racing on Sunday.
The first round of each Rock Oil XC Championship always starts at Bicton Farm and includes ‘A Lap for Joe’, in memory of Joe Edge, a young rider, who lost his life doing the sport he loved.
This year saw another increase in the number participating in the memorial lap, with riders circulating slowly behind Paul Edmondson and Joe’s dad as they led the way around the course.
Sunday started with the first Youth race of the year and saw a dozen young riders hit the track.
The course was made only slightly easier for the youngsters, with them missing out some of the trickier woodland sections.
In the Big-Wheel 85s Sion Evans took the first win of the series and claimed the overall ahead of Bradley Price and Sam George.
Cory Cookland topped the Small-Wheel 85s, chased by Connor Davies and Lucas Holdcroft.
Jack Sandland continued where he left off last season with a win in the Junior 65cc class ahead of Alfie Davies and Jake Willis while Alfie Dawson tackled the tough course on his Auto for the first time and managed six lap – quite an achievement.
The first Adult race had been full for days in the run-up to the event and the start area was packed with the ranks of Veteran B, Youth B, Sportsman and Novice riders – all set for two hours racing.
Although Bicton Farm isn’t the largest venue used by Fast Eddy the course was flowing and fast over fields and through woodlands alongside the River Severn and the ground was perfect.
A huge entry of Veteran B riders started the race and the track improvements soon became obvious as the racing was close and fast, especially through the woodland section where the track had been cleared and widened to make it faster and less technical.
Lee Allis-Smith had his bike running sweetly and had no trouble taking the overall and the Veteran B class win ahead of Mark Plain, clocking up 18-laps as Fast Eddy regular Shaun James, nailed third in class.
Chris Tompkins was top Sportsman on the day and had a terrific ride to take his class win and second overall against a huge field of eager Sportsman riders.
Liam Belfield and Louis Allen backed him up on the podium.
Nick Whitehead was going really well until he had problems and was last seen running across the fields in search of an 8mm spanner.
The top three Youth B riders were tightly packed on 18 laps but Dan Leadbetter managed to gain 30 seconds over Harrison Holdcroft to take the win, with Will Farrow third.
Josh Lucy and Dan Jones were just seconds apart in the Novice class to claim the top two slots with third-placed Steve Farthing less than a minute adrift of the leading pair.
Tony Chawner went well until his front brake pads fell out although he did manage to refit then with the aid of a twig until he could get back to the pits!
The line-up for the afternoon race was impressive.
Jamie McCanney, Mark Roberts, Sam Winterburn, Alex Walton and Shaun Buchan were just a few riders to grace the Expert class, many using the race as an opportunity to get some competition time in before the EnduroGP and BEC seasons get underway.
Max Ditchfield got the jump at the start of the second Adult race around the first tight left-hander and led the class off into the distance as McCanney was initially stuck mid-pack. By the end of the first lap the plan for the race had been set with McCanney out in front as the others scrabbled for positions.
McCanney rode a flawless race and finished over three minutes clear of Mark Roberts in second spot on his new Colwyn Bay KTM.
Sam Winterburn had a real battle to keep ahead of a hard-charging Alex Walton, but he took third place for his efforts.
Lee Hattersley just nicked the Clubman class victory from friend and rival Ryan Armitage, literally with yards to go to the finish flag.
They had battled throughout the two hour duration and Hattersley’s determination paid off as a small error cost Armitage dearly. Nathan Rogers took a solid third spot.
Cole Cookland, in Youth A, had a terrific ride. He was 11th overall with ten Experts ahead of him, and class rival Sam Davies hot on his heels in second spot. George Yardley, who usually flies around Bicton, was down in third place.
Yamaha-mounted Chris Wagstaff once again took the Veterans A win to back up his Champion’s title from last season.
Kev Sandland was three-minutes behind him but had Gary Benniman breathing down his neck as the race concluded. Sandland took second and Benniman third.
This was a terrific start to the Rock Oil XC series– it looks like being a cracker.