By Jason Macalpine of MXDaily.com.au
The fourth round of the Rockstar MX Nationals was always going to be an emotional affair with the tragic loss of Andrew McFarlane only two weeks prior. While the Australian Motocross community was still in grieving, Toowoomba became a celebration of the life of Sharky. The weekend saw the whole community band together to make sure that his memory lives on and to also raise money for Sharky's wife and daughter.
There were Sharky Shirts printed, stickers made, donation tins and a bunch of companies tipped in to make an amazing weekend.
"I think it just goes to show the character of the people that are involved in Motocross. We have members of our Motocross family that are in need right now and on the weekend we all came together and made sure that we were there to help. This is what makes Motocross such a special sport to be a part of!" Kevin Williams explained after the race.
While the weekend was about helping the McFarlane family there were also 9 races to be run across three classes and that racing did not disappoint.
Josh Cachia has been a freight train in the first part of the series but this weekend there were a few riders ready to step up to the plate. Harley Quinlann came into the first Queensland race of the series fired up and wanting to replicate his 1-1 finish from 2009 while fellow QLD rider Dylan Peterson wanted to claim his first win of the season. Luke Arbon has yet to win a race in the class and was desperately looking for a win this weekend.
Before the first moto even got underway, Dylan Peterson received a 10 second time penalty for moving dirt in front of the start gate. Dylan took it on the chin but had to win the moto by a big margin to take home a win. Behind the scenes more than a few people were unhappy with the inconsistency of the penalty system so far this year. Questions were asked at where 10 seconds can come from if Josh Cachia was only penalized 5 seconds for cutting a section of the track at the Canberra round of the series.
Opinions meant nothing though as the first moto got underway. Peterson got an impressive holeshot over Cachia and put some serious time on the field on lap one. Cachia, Quinlann and Arbon got into a dog-fight for second but slowly Cachia started to gain on the pair.
Out front Peterson must have used the penalty to fire him up and he put 8 seconds between himself and Cachia in a handful of laps. Quinlann and Arbon battled hard but clean for the entire race and pulled on Cachia. With only one lap to go Cachia went down and Quinlann and Arbon fought it out with Luke Arbon just edging Quinlan out. Peterson came home with a 12 second lead and took the win, despite the penalty.
"You know what? I only had one thing to do that moto and that was to win by a long way, and I did it. I honestly do have an issue with the way things have gone in the 19's class this year and I am not the only rider who is getting sick of it. To start with I did the wrong thing by moving dirt, that's all good. At the time I didn't think that it was wrong because it was before the sight lap and i was just kicking at the ground to see where there was moisture and slick stuff. I won't be doing it again that's for sure!
The problem I have is that I can do something small like that and get a 10 second penalty and Cachia can go and cut a huge section of track off at Canberra, come in and get 5 seconds off! I spoke to one of the riders and he said that Cachia crashed in front of him, cut the track and ended up two positions ahead of him. Then in the first race when I won, a rider went down after the whoops section and there was a yellow flag on the double. I was in the lead and rolled it and Cachia jumped it in plain sight of everyone. It was even picked up by the commentators on the MX Live coverage and there was absolutely nothing done about it. It's just crazy and it seems like there is two sets of rules out there. One for us and then one for him. I am not the only rider that is pissed off with it I can tell you..."
The format for this round was once again different with the second and third moto's being back-to-back 15 minute sprint races; opposed to the 20 minute first moto.
When moto 2 kicked off it was Luke Arbon on his Cool Air Kawasaki who grabbed the lead and checked out for the win. This time both Cachia and Peterson struggled while Harley Quinlann was able to come home in second with rookie Matt Phillips in third.
With the final moto on the line, Arbon was looking good for his first win of the season and once again started up the front. Josh Cachia was firing though and put together a solid win with Matt Phillips in second and Arbon in third. The third place gave Luke Arbon the overall win, Harley Quinlann second and Matt Phillips third.
"I feel really good right now!" Arbon said.
"I felt good at Canberra and ended up second there but one more step up on the podium is good and I’m happy.
I went to hospital at the first round and lost a bunch of points there, but everyone is riding awesomely and it’s going to be tough but there are a lot of races left.
Hopefully I can win a few more – when you win you get more points and that’s what I want to do."
Coming into this weekend the SERCO Yamaha of Kirk Gibbs was sporting the red plate and after solid qualifying it looked like Gibbs was determined to keep it there. It looked like the weekend would come down to a 3 horse race for the win between Ford Dale, Gibbs and PJ Larsen as it seemed like they had just that little bit on the rest of the field. Ford Dale is hungry for a win and after setting the fastest qualifying time he hit the front in the first of the days moto's. The three battled hard up front and Dale made a mistake that gave PJ a clear lead. The race was red-flagged due to a crash and the Lites class lined up again for an 8 minute moto. Officials told us that the final result of the race would be the combined time of both moto's. Ford Dale set out to make up for his mistake in the first race by winning the shortened moto over Larsen, Gibbs and Mackie.
The second and third races of the weekend were the back-to-back sprint races and KTM dominated while the SERCO Yamaha boys crumbled. Ford crashed repeatedly and came home in 19th while Gibbs finished 22nd. This left the door open for Ryan Marmont and Luke George to come home with a second and third while Mackie again crossed the line in 4th.
With the final moto on the line and the overall and the championship points lead up in the air, the crowd was amped for the final race! PJ Larsen jumped out in front early but there was no stopping Ford Dale as he found some great lines and checked out over PJ. Larsen looked to put the sprint on to try and reel in Ford but with the overall won it looked like after a few laps he was settling for second place. Kirk Gibbs hit back after his terrible 2nd moto where he scored no points and came in a solid 3rd while Luke Stykes had an impressive ride to 4th.
When it was time to break down the overall PJ Larsen took the win and the red plate once again. Cody Mackie put it on the box with consistent scores and Ford Dale came home with a podium.
"I had a good start in the first moto getting out of the gate just behind Ford Dale and Kirk Gibbs," said Larsen. "As the race progressed I was right up with them, but someone went down on the back side of the hills, and the race was red flagged 12 minutes in. Promoters re-started the race, and combined our positions from both races for an overall moto one result. The re-start saw us race for only eight minutes, so I just maintained a consistent flow and ensured I was up with Ford Dale and Kirk Gibbs to maintain enough points for the win.
"I got out of the gate in around sixth or seventh place in the second moto, but quickly worked my way up to second, and made a pass on Kim Ashkenazi for the lead. Once I passed him I pulled a decent gap and cruised home for the win.
"I got off to a pretty good start in my final moto and was in a comfortable position by the end of the first lap. I stayed close to Ford Dale who was leading, but I didn’t want to risk anything by making any passes, I was thinking more about re-gaining the red plate, and increasing my lead in the Championship. I didn’t have to win this moto to win the round, so I settled into a good pace and rode smart to finish second, which gave me the overall for the round and a decent lead in the Championship."
Questions were raised about Billy Mackenzie after having 4 weeks off the bike but there was no doubt that the speed would be there. Mac211 narrowly set the fastest time in qualifying and came out swinging in moto 1 with the holeshot. It was "Oh No" time for the rest of the field but series leader Todd Waters didn't seem worried as he set about catching the leader, one pass at a time. After a 5th place start, Waters made his way past Simmonds and Ferris to get into second and then charge hard at the Kawasaki rider.
Jay Marmont was handed a terrible start but came through the pack while Cody Cooper straight up lucked-out, getting caught in a pile up and as a result was dead last by a long way. Privateer Matt Hayworth rode a great race in 4th for a long time but was eventually over-taken late in the moto to finish 7th.
With 3/4 of the race done it was clear to see that Billy Mac was feeling the effects of his injury and Waters started coming hard at the Scottish import. Waters pulled right up onto the back of Mac211 and looked to have the pass made when a bobble sent him back to third behind Dean Ferris once again.
Waters made another charge at a fading Mackenzie and hit a lapper in one of the turns and it was all over, Billy Mac took home the win while Todd Waters finished second. Cooper was able to come from last to 5th while Marmont struggled to a 10th.
Moto 2 was more of the same with Billy getting a holeshot and checking out. Waters was going to find it harder this time as he was further back in the pack off the start. Mid-way through the moto Dean Ferris hit a kicker on the wide-open start straight and went over the bars putting him out of the race. Just as the medical crew were attending to Ferris, the championship leader Todd Waters hit the same kicker; sending him over the bars in a big way.
Todd was not as lucky as Ferris, landing awkwardly on his left shoulder, breaking his collarbone. Billy Mackenzie went on to take another win this threw the series wide open with another moto to go. Cody Cooper looked to be the fastest man on the track in moto 1 but his poor start cost him a shot at the win. In the 2nd moto he came out swinging and took it to Billy for the whole moto. In the end it was not enough and he finished in 2nd.
Tye Simmonds had be racing great all day and had started up the front in each race and was looking to get his first win in the third and final moto. Jay Marmont finally got a good start in the last race and looked to have found the flow he had been missing in the first two races. Up front Billy Mac looked to check out once again but stalled his 450 after coming under heavy fire from Marmont. Jay went on to get a solid win over Simmonds and Dean Ferris who rebounded well after his crash.
Billy Mackenzie's 1-1-6 was good enough for first overall on the day over Tye Simmonds and Jay Marmont. Todd Waters went from a 25+ points lead after moto one to now 19 points back from Marmont in the series overall.
The series once again has a two week break before heading to Raymond Terrance in Newcastle... Stay tuned on MXDaily for an interview with the new series points leader and our behind the scenes video with the Cool Air Kawasaki Race Team...