Billy Mackenzie and Shaun Simpson came to Hawkstone Park on Sunday knowing that the MX1 and MX2 titles were within their grasps. For Billy Mac, a first-moto win would do the job even if Noble finished second, which was not an unrealistic expectation for the man who won the first eight motos in the series on the fly without any real challenge.
It seemed from the start of moto one that it would be a simple task, as Ray Rowson led from Brad Anderson and Mackenzie. Mac’s CAS Honda was very swiftly into second past an Anderson riding at less than 100 percent, and straight onto the back tire of Rowson’s PAR Honda, and it looked as though it was all over but the shouting. But reigning British Under-21 champion Rowson proved surprisingly resilient, showing no sign of being under pressure and lapping plenty quick enough to make it hard work for Mackenzie to get past. It took five laps for Mackenzie to gain first place, and even then Rowson kept him honest, battling to stay with him. In the end, Billy Mac’s class told, and he began to edge away, scooting out to a 23-second lead to seal the championship as Rowson brought it home second, almost another thirty seconds in front of Tom Church, inheriting third after Ando briefly disappeared.
As Mackenzie celebrated retaining his MX1 crown, a treat was in store for his fans: As promised earlier in the year, he rolled out for moto two on a steel-framed CR500 in full CAS livery, and the sound of it wide-open on a very lively sighting lap was just awesome to behold for those who remember the days of 500cc GPs at Hawkstone where the gate was exclusively two-stroke. Out of the start, Mackenzie got squeezed right up against the fence but still came around in sixth on lap one, working his way into fifth past Jordan Rose, then inheriting fourth as Mark Jones suffered a fall, and it seemed like he was set fair to bring the old girl home just off the podium.
But the fickle finger of fate loosened the mighty motor in the frame, and Mackenzie took it into the pit box and out of the race after an honorable performance. In the meantime, Rowson was up front once more, but Anderson seemed more comfortable this time out and kept the 111 Honda in sight all the way to the flag. There was drama behind them, though, as Gordon Crockard came out for moto two with his race face on, charging from outside the top fifteen to sweep through the field. With five minutes to go, the Irishman was into third and charging hard, but the clock ran down and he had to settle for third, a couple of seconds in arrears to Ando after a sterling ride.
The MX2 class was all about Sword versus Simpson. In Molson Kawasaki’s final race, all Stephen Sword could do was win and hope that Simpson hit sufficient difficulties for him to be able to make up the fifteen-point deficit. Swordy did his part, taking a pair of holeshots from the far outside gate and controlling it all from the front for a couple of uncontested wins, but Simpson showed icy cool nerves to recover from average starts (by his sky-high standards) and race through the top five into second, knowing that that was plenty to seal his first National title and bringing his KTM UK bike home to glory. Zach Osborne rounded off the series in style after a first-moto charge through the field brought him up alongside Matiss Karro – the young Latvian was on a wildcard entry and showing awesome speed in the Hawkstone sand – but Osborne had the better of him by the race’s end, despite starting outside the top ten. The American battled with champion elect Simpson for large parts of race two, but was forced out of the fight late in the race – he ended up eleventh in the points table after his part-season, and it’s a virtual certainty that he’ll be one heck of a lot further up at the end of 2009.
Hats off, then, to the UK’s two Scottish national champions. For Mackenzie, it would have been a travesty if fate had prevented him from retaining the number-one plate, such has been his dominance on the domestic scene, but Simpson had to work for his against a fit, motivated and extremely fast Stephen Sword. When the chips were down after his broken collarbone, sustained the week before Brampton, Simpson gritted his teeth, came out and still delivered a win against all the odds - and those are the performances of a true champion.