ACK Price begins the defence of his hard-won ACU RT Keedwell British Trials Championship crown this Saturday, March 10, when Hookwoods Trials Club stage the opening event in the seven-round (eight trials) 2018 series at Hookwood, West Horsley, Sussex.
The Gas Gas rider snatched the title last year in the final round in Scotland after a season-long battle with Jack Sheppard. Shep has switched from Beta to Sherco this year so the appearance of the East Anglian is eagerly awaited.
Pricey warmed-up with a masterly ride in the Westmorland club’s Milnthorpe Cup National (S3 Parts Rd 2) on Sunday, under the watchful eye of Gas Gas UKs John Shirt, and looked in great form. Last year’s third place man, Michael Brown (Gas Gas) also rode the Milnthorpe and was pretty relaxed about it all.
East Yorks brothers Dan and Jack Peace are both a year older and wiser and the Gas Gas duo will be up for podium placings this year. Dan made an important breakthrough by winning the final round of the series last year and now knows that the top step of the podium is a reality, not just a dream.
Toby Martyn is another talented youngster and has made a major machinery change going from two-stroke Vertigo to Montesa, Toby certainly has the skill – but will he gel with the four-stroke? This is the Cornwall rider’s first major appearance this year and there will be plenty of interest in the new combination.
Meanwhile, Welsh ace Iwan Roberts had a successful International 2017 season but struggled in the British Champs. However, a switch to TRS machinery should give Iwan renewed impetus, although he is another rider who hasn’t yet appeared in a significant event.
Six-times British Trials Champ James Dabill has signed-up as the Beta factory No.1 for 2018 but has said he is only planning to ride occasional British Champs events. He is entered for the opener though, which will give the series contenders plenty to think about, and who knows how the season will develop – maybe James will change his mind and go for that sixth title!
There are several big changes on the RT Keedwell front from last year. For 2018 the ACU has introduced a third class between Championship and Experts named the Masters and will run on a 50/50 course.
The official ACU Youth A Championship has been moved back to run alongside the B, C and D series but there is the option of riding in a new Youth Elite class in the BTC. The only proviso is that if riders opt to contest the Elite then they are not eligible to score points in the Youth series.
Last year’s runaway Youth A Championship winner Billy Green, who won every single round and won on a 160 maximum, has skipped straight through to the Championship class where he will pit himself against the best and his progress will be watched with interest.
There are 15 riders entered in the Championship class, including Scorpa duo Tom Minta and Andy Clilton, plus Hookwoods’ own wily vet Sam Connor and youngster Oliver Smith on a premier class debut.
There are 23 Experts in the hunt, including last year’s champ James Fry on the Sherco and runner-up Beta’s Richard Sadler. Stir in Dan Thorpe, Luke Walker, Guy Kendrew and Ladies champ Emma Bristow – who will be in Women’s BTC action on Sunday – and the result is anyone’s guess.
The new Masters 50/50 class is off to a slow start with just four entries with only TRS rider Ross Danby dropping down from Championship joining Tom Afleck, Kiaran Child and Grynedd Jones.
Seven contenders have entered for the new Youth Elite but with several still to be approved by the ACU as TMX went to press we’ll just have to await developments.
Jim Connors said: “The course will be very slippery as rain is forecast this week but we have a good variety of sections, muddy banks, tree roots, boulders and rock steps, plus the final completely new section with some huge beech trees. We have tried to keep the course flowing as much as possible.
“The venue’s problem is the wet conditions of fields at this time of year for parking so everyone is asked to team up with transport if possible to keep any parking problems to a minimum. Hot food and drink will be available all day, ” he added. So, it all happens on SATURDAY at Hookwood with a 9.30am start when the contenders will face a 12-section course which will be lapped three times.
March 10: Hookwood Trials Club
April 15: Westmorland MC
April 29: Neath MC
June 10: West of England
August 26: Guisborough DMC
September 30: Hafren Dirt Bike Club
October 20/21: East Lothian MC