Words: Vets MXdN and Pics: Nick Haskell
A victorious Team Belgium celebrated a sensational double victory at this year’s Vets MXdN at Farleigh Castle in Wiltshire on September 3-4, as they claimed top honours in both Twinshock and EVO MXdN team events.
An elated Jan Geboers, clutching the prestigious Georges Jobe Trophy, made the most of his presence on the top step as he milked the support of the crowd. “I’ve been waiting 10 years for this,” joked the jovial Belgian.
The infamous Grand Prix circuit, which has been the scene of many a memorable race, including two home wins in as many years, was not a happy hunting ground for team GB this year.
A disastrous opening race in appalling conditions left team GB well down the order, with a bleak outlook of attaining any kind of podium placing.
Torrential rain halfway through day one saw the cancellation of the rest of the opening day’s programme, but with an outlook of better weather on day two, the organisers had no option but to reduce the programme of events to three blocks.
The EVO MXdN, the weekend’s main event, again attracted a world class entry with newcomers, Britain’s Kurt Nicoll and American Jeff Emig, topping the bill, alongside Jeff’s fellow Americans John Dowd, Doug Dubach and Todd Dehoop.
But, just as the riders came to the line for the first EVO MXdN race, the heavens opened, making conditions treacherous for the 60 or so riders.
As the gate dropped it was the all too familiar sight of the Kawasaki of Ryan Voase who led into turn one. But Voase’s advantage was short-lived as the North Easterner, who was just returning from injury, was quickly overhauled by the Honda of Brian Jorgenson.
Ex-British champion Jorgenson, who was riding for the Northern Ireland team, led the chasing pack into the woods and out of sight.
The 41-year-old surprised everyone by taking a well-deserved victory ahead of crowd favourite Dowd and ex-MX3 World Champion Sven Breugelmans.
Fellow Belgians Werner DeWitt, Jurgen Van Nooten and David Cools packed out the remaining top six positions, putting the Belgian team in a commanding position from the outset.
It was not a happy return to the former Grand Prix circuit for Kurt Nicoll, after gating in sixth spot he slipped back to 15th on the opening lap.
The 51-year-old former world number two pulled his way back to ninth spot in the space of two laps before his CR 250 Honda ground to a halt with water in the electrics.
There was further bad news for Team GB as Voase slipped back to fifth spot behind Dowd, Grant Langston and Sven Breugelmans.
With two laps to go, Voase stalled and was unable to restart his machine, due to the mud on his boots.
And with James Dobb coming home in 18th spot and Jon Barfoot in 29th, it didn’t look good for Team GB. With Jorgenson a runaway winner, Gordon Crockard’s 10th spot followed by Stephen Kelly’s 25th spot put Team Northern Ireland into contention.
But things were not going well for team USA either.
Dubach was back in 15th spot with Emig and Dehoop 20th and 21st respectively.
South Africa also suffered a major blow as Langston was disqualified for receiving outside assistance after he stalled his machine on the line.
Again, due to the mud on his boots, he was unable to kick-start his machine. Talking after the race a furious Langston said: “It’s so ridiculous it is not a GP. It is supposed to be a bit of fun.”
Conditions first thing Sunday morning remained treacherous despite the efforts of the organisers.
“The damage has already been done,” quoted Brian Higgins, the ACU aficionado and clerk of the course.
Although conditions remained very challenging, it was the same for everyone and Team GB put their woes behind them and came out fighting for the start of race two.
But it was the Kawasaki of Mark Jones who snatched the holeshot ahead of Voase, Dewitt and Dowd, but the Englishman was in no mood to hang around and quickly forged ahead on the opening lap.
The Welshman lost a further two places as Jorgenson, who gated in fifth spot, moved through to second by the end of lap one followed by American Greg Crater on the Yamaha one lap later.
Jones maintained a creditable fourth spot to the flag ahead of the Junkyard dog, Dowd and Van Nooten.
Belgians Breugelmans and DeWitt finished in seventh and eighth places, the former having to carve his way through the field after a poor start.
Nicoll, who was at a distinct disadvantage on his smaller 250 machine, had managed to pull his way through the field to claim ninth spot at the flag.
Jamie Dobb was a non-starter having injured himself in an earlier race, which put the pressure on fourth team member John Barfoot.
Things didn’t look hopeful for Team GB, particularly as the Essex man was on the deck having been brought down in turn one.
Picking himself up dead last, Barfoot carved his way through the field to secure 29th spot at the flag.
Team USA fared little better, as Dehoop was wallowing mid-pack throughout the race to claim 22nd spot and Emig scraped home in 35th spot.
Dubach was credited with 41st place having only completed one lap.
The Northern Irish team were looking strong with Crockard backing up Jorgenson in 13th spot and Kelly in 18th, but there was to be no catching the runaway Belgians who now held a commanding lead.
Despite their lowly position, the members of Team GB were desperate to make amends, but they faced an uphill task.
The start of race three saw Mark Jones once again grab the holeshot, with Dowd in his wheeltracks.
Voase was in the mix until a stone from the American’s rear wheel penetrated his goggles hindering his vision and causing him to lose places as the race wore on.
The 37-year-old from Hornsea in the East Riding of Yorkshire struggled and eventually came home in 10th spot.
Jorgenson had moved into second and was hunting down the leader Dowd, but it was all to no avail, as the 51-year-old American cruised over the line with his arms aloft to take another memorable victory.
South African Ryan Hunt grabbed third place ahead of David Cools and Jones. With Belgium clear overall winners and Northern Ireland securing a safe second spot thanks to the efforts of Kelly in ninth and Crockard in 12th, all eyes were on the fight for the final podium placing.
With Dowd taking victory the focus was on Dubach and Dehoop’s placings as Nicoll, Dobb and Voase were all in the top 10. The two Americans were well down the field in the early stages but were charging hard to get back on terms.
Meanwhile, Nicoll had hauled his way through to sixth one lap from home, passing Van Nooten and Voase, while a terrific effort through the pain barrier from Jamie Dobb saw him snatch eighth spot in the dying moments to put the GB team in with a shout.
Dubach managed to bring his machine home in 15th spot with a visibly annoyed Dehoop thumping the tank as he crossed the line a further four places back.
Confusion surrounded the finish as both Team UK and Team USA were uncertain whether they had done enough. It was a painful few minutes before the realisation kicked in – Team GB had snuck it by a two-point margin.
Nicoll was clearly elated having defeated his old foe Dubach for the final podium spot, the duo having clashed several times back in the States in the Vet classes.
Dane Jorgenson was the overall individual winner with his 1-2-2 score narrowly edging Dowd, who had 2-5-1 finishes.
A special mention for the ex-factory Honda rider Mark Jones, who claimed a brilliant and well deserved fifth overall with three strong rides against some serious competition.
But it was the earlier Twinshock MXdN that kicked off the first of the two team events with the highly disciplined Team Germany Husqvarna squad grabbing the early initiative.
A convincing second, third and fourth places behind the Suzuki of Belgian Bengt Laeremans by Laurent Lacasse, Jurgen Kuppers and Frank Jansen-Teitz put them in a commanding position ahead of the Belgian Geboers Suzuki squad.
But a disappointing opening race on day two saw their early advantage slip away as the Geboers team maintained top six positions with Laeremans again taking the win.
It was to go from bad to worse for the Germans in the third and final heat though, as both Kuppers and Jansen-Teitz finished outside of the top 30, and with Laeremans completing a clean sweep and the rest of the squad all inside the top 10 it was all over bar the shouting.
Some strong rides from Terry House, Wayne Butt, Peter Mathia and Ewan Johnson saw Team Twinshock UK claim third spot overall. American Jeff Emig on a Husqvarna secured third spot in the overall standings behind Laeremans and Lacasse.
In the weekend’s other classes there were wins for Jordan Booker (EVO 250), Paul Kirby (Twinshock Under 50), Kurt Nicoll (EVO Over 50), Bjorn Verdoodt (Pre 85 Fourstroke), Dean Warren (Pre 85), John Dowd (Twinshock Over 50), John May (EVO 125) and Ben Lamay (EVO 500).