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Hawkstone International Race Report

Sunday saw the 12th running of the annual extravaganza that is the Hawkstone International, and the first to be promoted by HIMEX, who has taken over the running from the Salop Motor Club.

  • Shaun Simpson
  • Xavier Boog
Hawkstone is the last of the pre-season “shakedowns” and as such attracted some big teams, including Martin Honda, Teka Suzuki, Red Bull KTM and CAS Honda, among others. The field would have been more heavily stacked had the global recession not played its part, with notable absentees including David Philippaerts’ and Josh Coppins’ Monster Yamaha and Tony Cairoli’s Yamaha Red Bull De Carli teams deciding not to make the trip to the UK due to cost.

The huge amount of fans that turned up were treated to an excellent day’s racing, including a new-for-’09 British Rider Shootout with £500 up for grabs for the fastest British Passport holder! With the track in absolute top condition and a couple of changes thrown in, including a new set of whoops that caught out quite a few, the scene was set.

Red Bull KTM’s Shaun Simpson has started this season at a gallop, with a first in Mantova and a second in Valance, and carried this form into Hawkstone, grabbing the holeshot in the first of the day’s MX2 races. Behind him, Beursfoon Suzuki’s Nikolaj Larsen slotted into second with Motone KTM’s Shane Carless making up the top three. Back in the pack, Inotec Suzuki’s Xavier Boog and Red Bull KTM’s Rui Goncalves were making their way forward after poor starts, with Boog relieving Larsen of second place on lap six. Unfortunately for Boog, Goncalves relieved him of the position on the last lap, but there was no chance of catching Simpson, who had simply checked out and crossed the line 22 seconds ahead of his teammate.

1.         Shaun Simpson
2.         Rui Gonclaves
3.         Xavier Boog
4.         Shane Carless

The second of the MX2 races was something of a procession as once again Simpson grabbed the lead from the start, with Goncalves and Boog in tow. Goncalves managed to keep Simpson honest in the race and managed to hang with him, although Simpson looked like he could deal with anything Goncalves had to offer. The leading trio had pulled far enough ahead of the rest of the pack that there was practically a race within a race with PAR Homes Honda’s Scott Elderfield at the front of the following pack in fourth. A small mistake by the PAR rider dropped him back a couple of spots, allowing DB Racing’s Neville Bradshaw to snatch the position on the eighth lap – a position he would hold until the finish.

For Simpson, things couldn’t be going much better for him and he’s optimistic about the upcoming season.

“In the first race, I managed to pull out a decent lead and cruised it home, but in the second one Rui [Goncalves] got a decent start behind me and was pushing me for a few laps,” Simpson said. “I managed to pull a comfortable gap but he pushed me right to the end, which was good. The first race was almost like practicing so it was nice to have someone pushing you, pushing your boundaries and your physical condition. Mantova went good, where I got first overall, then Valence last week I had a bit of a ball up in the first race which cost me the overall, but again winning this week so the confidence is back up and it’s good going into the first GPs with the confidence high.”

1.         Shaun Simpson
2.         Rui Goncalves
3.         Xavier Boog
4.         Neville Bradshaw

MX2 Overall

1.         Shaun Simpson
2.         Rui Goncalves
3.         Xavier Boog
4.         Joel Roelants
5.         Neville Bradshaw

MX1

In the MX1 class, it was no surprise that the quickest man in qualifying was last year’s Hawkstone winner, the sand maestro Marc de Reuver. What was a surprise was that his Martin Honda teammate Kevin Strijbos was only a fraction of a second behind him. It’s no secret that last season was an absolute disaster for Strijbos, but since joining Martin things are starting to look up for the likeable Dutchman who has posted three firsts and two seconds within his first eight races this season.

When the gate dropped on the first race, it was Strijbos grabbing the holeshot with de Reuver right on his tail, whilst behind them it was chaos, as a bunch of riders got ever so slightly tangled, with PAR Honda rider Gordon Crockard seemingly bearing the brunt of it.

  • Marc De Reuver
  • Strijbos and De Reuver
  • Billy Mackenzie
  • Steve Ramon
  • Ken De Dycker
MotoXtreme Kawasaki’s Lewis Gregory got off to a great start sitting in third before problems caused him to retire on the fourth lap, allowing CAS Honda’s Billy Mackenzie to step into third. It wasn’t long before Belgium’s “Big” Ken de Dycker relieved Billy of the position before a mechanical problem ended the Teka Suzuki rider’s race, allowing Mackenzie back into third. At the front, de Reuver put in some super-fast laps to catch and pass his teammate Strijbos, taking control of the race and bringing it in for the win.

1.         Marc De Reuver
2.         Kevin Strijbos
3.         Billy Mackenzie
4.         Steve Ramon
5.         Cedric Melotte

In a reflection of the second MX2 race, the final MX1 race is again something of a procession. After Strijbos again grabs the holeshot, de Dycker quickly pushes past to take the lead, with de Reuver settling into third and Teka Suzuki’s former World Champion “Steady” Steve Ramon sitting in fourth. Behind them, CAS Honda’s Billy Mac has a nightmare going down on the first lap, bending his bike out of shape and ending any hopes he has of getting on the podium.

Despite looking as if he’s out for a Sunday-afternoon stroll, de Dycker’s unique riding style keeps him eight seconds ahead of Strijbos in second. De Reuver, meanwhile, is assured of the overall and keeps it safe back in third while Ramon maintains fourth throughout the entire race.

For de Reuver, winning here doesn’t mean he’s counting his chickens as far as this season goes.

“I like this track a lot,” de Reuver said. “It’s good, not because it is sandy but because it is a classical, good, proper track. In the first race, it was good, in the second, I saw Ken [de Dycker] in front and that Kevin [Strijbos] was close to him. The sun was blinding and I could see nothing at all. I had a couple of little warnings, you know? So I played it safe and settled for third as I knew that gave me the overall. As far as this season goes, winning here says nothing. It’s nice, but it doesn’t mean that I’m going to start winning. Everything in the team is great; Kevin and I speak the same language and get on well together, so it should be good.”

After a shocker of a season in 2008, things are finally looking up for Kevin Strijbos, and he’s fairly optimistic for the future now that he’s found a team that suits him.

“[Last year] was a mess for me, but I ride really good on the Honda,” Strijbos said. “It suits me really good. I didn’t need to push too hard. I could ride at my own speed and it went well. After last season, I didn’t know if I would have the speed for the first race, but I have been training really hard through the winter and it seems to be working. The Martin Honda Team is really easy. Everything is always clean, everybody is always happy and we all laugh a lot. You know, having Marc as  a teammate is great, and I think that definitely the two of us can put some good races together during the GPs.”

1.         Ken De Dycker
2.         Kevin Strijbos
3.         Marc De Reuver
4.         Steve Ramon
5.         Carl Nunn

Overall

1.         Marc De Reuver
2.         Kevin Strijbos
3.         Steve Ramon
4.         Cedric Melotte
5.         Erik Eggens

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