MXGP ROUND 3: GOOD DAY IN THE SAND FOR HM PLANT KTM UK
Strong showing for HM Plant KTM UK in Holland
A wintery Grand Prix of the Netherlands was the chilly stage for a positive beginning to the European phase of the FIM Motocross World Championship for HM Plant KTM UK. The third round of eighteen in the series saw Natalia Kane finish third in the opening meeting of the seven-race FIM Women’s contest while Elliott Banks Browne and James Dunn picked up points in the MX2 class and Nathan Watson also made the leaderboard in the premier MX1 category.
27,000 spectators filled the Valkenswaard circuit over both days of action through Easter weekend where brief snow flurries were not a strange sight. For EBB and Dunn it was a heavy contrast from the initial appointments on the MXGP calendar in Qatar and Thailand and it was a little frustrating to see yet more ice and frozen terrain outside of the UK. The cold conditions meant that the Dutch sand did not carve into its usual bevy of holes, ruts and lumps and forced a higher speed as a result.
Kane’s results were the standout. The Irishwoman is in good shape and ready to fill her expected role as lead rival to Kiara Fontanesi for the 2013 crown. Holland was the first of seven rounds and the girls will head to Slovenia, Italy, Croatia, Great Britain, Czech Republic and Slovakia. Kane took two third positions at Valkenswaard and was unlucky in the second moto when a problem with her timing unit forced her to slow while leading the first half of the race.
Banks-Browne also had a bittersweet experience. A glitch with his suspension meant he had to pull out of the first MX2 sprint while holding a position in the top half of the field and chasing a top ten finish. A good start in the second outing saw the British Champion running with fellow Brits Mel Pocock and Max Anstie and he completed a solid race to capture fourteen points for seventh place; a personal best so far at world championship level. James Dunn is wading through the ‘deep end’ that is MX2 grand prix competition in his first seasons but was happy to gain his first points of the year with twentieth in the second affair.
Nathan Watson made his MX1 GP debut for the team in Holland. The British youngster crashed in the first moto and had to quickly pit to bash his front brake and bars into shape but rode to twentieth and improved his ranking by four slots in the second race.
Overall the Grand Prix was a thorough exercise in tough competition through demanding conditions and was the ideal ‘warm-up’ for a full scale assault on the third round of the Maxxis British Championship at Lyng in Norfolk next weekend. The Grand Prix of Italy will take place at the Arco di Trento circuit near Lake Garda in two weeks.
Natalie Kane: “The weekend went pretty well. I was the fastest in the free practice and it was really good because I was not expecting to be riding so close to Kiara and everyone else at this point; my goal for the weekend was to finish in the top five but I was actually going for the lead. I was at the front most of the second race and I did not finish far behind in the end, so I am really happy.”
James Dunn: “It was a quite difficult qualifying race, as the track was flat and everybody was riding really close. I think I finished about thirty-sixth, so I didn’t have a good gate pick. The start was very tricky this weekend. In the first race I was riding well but then I had a small crash and I ended up around 26th but in the second race I managed to get my first point and I’m really happy about that. Hopefully I can keep on getting more in the next Grand Prix.”
Elliott Banks-Browne: “I finished 12th in the qualifying Heat which was ok and in the first race I didn’t get such a good start. I was riding really well when something happened to my fork and I got a DNF. In the second moto I made a decent start and finished seventh and I was really happy because it was the best result I have ever had in a GP, so hopefully we can progress on this and be better in the next races.”
Roger Magee, Team Owner: “It was a good weekend for the team, we were really close to the overall with Natalie but unfortunately in the second moto when she was leading the transponder bracket broke, so she could not turn properly in the corners and she lost the rhythm of Fontanesi and Rutledge. It was great for HM Plant to be on the podium and I hope she can finish in the top three through the whole season. The other two riders scored points this weekend, which is really good taking into account that a sand track like the one in Valkenswaard is very difficult for the British riders. Elliott Banks-Browne had a technical problem in the first race and had a DNF, but in the second moto he had a good start and he ran top six for most of the duration to finish seventh. At the same time James Dunn brought home the first point, which is very difficult in the first year, and he actually beat many of the riders that are racing the British championship with him.”