The DEP Pipes British Two-Stroke Championship traveled to Suffolk on Sunday for round eight - against the odds, the miserably wet British summer played a blinder, bathing the circuit in unexpected sunlight whilst the deep sand was just as perfect as could be hoped after the damp build-up. Such a perfect canvas deserved top-class action, and the sizeable crowd got it in bucket loads.
The first of three scintillating 125 A group races saw Jack Brunell lead the pack into turn one ahead of Christian Taylor, Jack Plowman and Ryan McLean, as reigning champion Dave Willet played a blinder in turn one to come out fifth and series leader Jonathan Pettitt prepared to charge through from the lower reaches of the top ten.
But before the lap was over, Pettitt was sprawled in the dirt, his TM on its side in the bowl turn after Mildenhall’s distinctive tunnel - he was up and going again in a flash, but by now he was almost outside the top twenty with the pack spreading out after the opening lap mayhem and the chance of a quick recovery was gone. Brunell was away out front and fighting to build a gap as Willet tussled with Taylor for second, the pair edging away from Jim Davies in fourth, but it took a long time for Willet to finally make his way by - Taylor was riding magnificently, and was at the head of the field entirely on merit.
By the time Willet made his way by, Brunell was safely away down the road, as Pettitt worked his way back through to a distant third, but a late fall by the leader handed Willet the win on a plate, Taylor scooting through for a well-deserved second ahead of a Brunell who must have been distraught at how close to victory he’d been.
Race two was epic - Taylor holeshot ahead of Pettitt and Brunell, with Willet a handful of places further back. Taylor was again on top of his game and Pettitt was unable to get by, with Brunell holding a watching brief as Willet made it into fourth and joined the freight train. For 15 minutes there was the most glorious Mexican stand-off as the four circulated nose to tail, too close on pace for anyone to make the difference, and all riding error-free, before Pettitt finally got close enough to make a move, making his way through as they hit traffic. Willet immediately forced the issue with Brunell, knowing he couldn’t afford to give Pettitt time to get away, making his way quickly past both Brunell and Taylor as the latter began to make errors - the Ironman, on his third race of the day, began to close down the thus-far unstoppable Pettitt as Brunell hopped past Taylor and back into third, Willet bringing his Yamaha right up to the back of the series leader as they began the final few laps.
It looked like Pettitt was in danger of being beaten straight up for the first time this year, but as Willet launched his assault on the last lap, he pushed just over the edge, dropping his bike and handing Pettitt the win and second place to Brunell. This time the distress was all Willet’s. Pettitt nailed another decent start in race three, ahead of Craig English, Sean Stevens and Taylor as Willet gave himself a bit of work to do. By the time he’d made his way into second, Pettitt was down the road and gone. English pulled out early on as Stevens and Taylor battled over third, but it was Taylor who dropped the ball, falling way down the field to end the day on an unfortunate damp note after two superb rides. Brunell was way down the field from the outset but spent the 20 minutes charging hard, coming back to take an excellent third from Stevens after the later spent large parts of the race in the top three - up front Pettitt had a comfy lead but a spill passing a lapper late in the race allowed Willet to close up, but the issue was never really in doubt and the TM veteran took yet another win with four seconds in hand.
Mark Eastwood came out of the gate like he was fired out of a cannon in the first Open A moto as Dave Willet got mired in the pack, but Matthew Moffat held wide it open just that moment or two longer, sweeping around the outside to lead early on. But the race was halted within a couple of laps after a nasty accident left Jonathan Tapp stranded in the tunnel - the medics were soon on hand, but there was a lengthy delay before the race could be restarted. Willet decided it was his turn to lead part two and got his head down, building a gap straight away as Eastwood made his way into second and pulled the trigger. It was an unmissable battle of wills as Easty’s big number one slowly closed the gap on the fleeing Willet, but with just five minutes left on the clock, he was close enough to make a move when Willet was baulked getting through lapped traffic, and once Eastwood was in front, he was only going to head in one direction.
Dan Brough grabbed the holeshot in race two, but Eastwood was right with him and soon into the lead - it took half a lap for Willet to follow Lewis Tombs into second and third place, and by then Eastwood had a gap. Willet made his way into second and gave it everything, logging the fastest lap of the race and closing Eastwood down, but a mistake in the final turn put him almost ten seconds in arrears and that was too much to make up. Moffat made a big push to close down Tombs, but a late incident dropped him back and gave Tombs a cushion as the top three put it in cruise control to the finish.
Easto got out well in the third moto, too, but just as the crowd were set for a final showdown between the two leading Open riders, Willet’s Yamaha pulled off the track with a suspension problem - the day promised much for the Ironman, but, as has been the case before now this season, Lady Luck delivered a cruel blow to the hardest-working (and arguably the least fortunate) rider in the series. Moffat took an excellent second place ahead of Tombs, who came out on top of an excellent battle with Nathan Rooks and Dale Raynor.
There are two rounds left in the series, and it’s the big double-header at Marshfield on the fourth and fifth of October. For the fan of premix, there’s no better place to be...