There was a lot of excitement heading into Round 9 of the MXGP championship at Matterley Basin for the Hitachi ASA KTM UK motocross team. The ‘home’ race of the world championship for the squad saw it back to full strength with Graeme Irwin returning to premier class after recovering from injury to join his MX2 teammate, Conrad Mewse.
At 1950 metres, the Winchester circuit is one of the longest on the calendar and creates a stadium-like atmosphere for the fans. With blue skies, sunny conditions and a packed crowd, the action on track did not disappoint.
In such hot conditions and with the world’s best riders in fine form, it was always going to be tough for Irwin to come back with a bang having almost three weeks off the bike as he recovered from serious burns to his back following a crash while defending his no.1 plate in the British championship.
After setting the 16th fastest time in timed practice, the Carrickfergus rider took his KTM 450 SX-F to eighteenth in the qualifying race, just three seconds down on fellow Brit, Shaun Simpson.
Feeling the support from the home crowd, Irwin made a storing start in Race 1 to sit 14th at the end of the opening lap. After making up another position the following time round, the 26-year old sat in thirteenth until lap 10 when clearly the effect of bike fitness came into play. Shuffling down the order, the #55 would eventually cross the line in nineteenth, behind Gautier Paulin.
The final race of the day didn’t see a repeat start from Irwin, rounding out the first lap in 23rd place behind José Butrón. It would be the back of the #17 machine that would be the feature for Graeme’s race as he chased the Spaniard through the entire encounter, eventually making up a couple more places but disappointingly out of a points-scoring finish.
Graeme Irwin #55: “It’s great to be back after four weeks off. It’s fair to say I’ve missed my KTM and racing! The whole weekend started really good and in the first race I was 13th right up until last four laps and then just tightened up. Having spent over two weeks in a bed and on a sofa I could feel it a little bit today but the bike was working amazing and I couldn’t complain!
“For the second race I gave it everything I had. Not helping was a really bad start but I just couldn’t make the pass on Butrón on the last lap. So, I was really disappointed not to get a point after pushing so hard. But it’s good to be back and everyone around me has been so amazing I just need to get my head down for France next weekend.”
Despite such a strong start to the season, Conrad Mewse is still struggling to recover that blistering form that he is capable of on the KTM 250 SX-F. Saturday’s qualifying race saw the Shepton Mallet rider finish the ten laps 36 seconds back from Jorge Prado and just over a second away from tenth place.
The opening MX2 race saw Mewse not able to make the best of his gate pick, rounding out the first lap in 22nd on the #426 machine while the two Red Bull KTMs of Pauls Jonass and Jorge Prado ran away at the front and didn’t look back.
After making up a couple more positions the following lap, it would only be from lap seven that Conrad would start ascending the order after massively increasing his lap times and eventually crossing the line in 14th place after 14 laps.
Looking to start as strong as he finished in the opening moto, Race 2 would go on to deliver little reward for the #426.
Team manager, Roger Magee, said: “Obviously the ‘home’ race on the GP circuit is great for us as a team so a lot of our many sponsors, such as Hitachi, Milwaukee and CI Sport, can see how professional our set-up is and the way the team is working.
“Arguably, another mixed weekend in terms of results, but on the upside was Graeme’s performance. Despite being sidelined for a few weeks he started the first race how we’ve wanted to all season – fast out of the blocks and up to speed straight away. His stamina wasn’t there at the end because of the injury lay off, but that’s to be expected. But with a track Graeme is familiar with, we could see his speed.
“In MX2, Conrad had a tough start to the opening Moto and knuckled down to pass a lot of riders to grab some points. The second race he got a bad start and then just didn’t seem to get in the fight from there. There’s nobody more frustrated than himself as to what he’s not on the pace right now.”
The team travels to Saint Jean d’Angely, France, for Round 10 of the MXGP championship this weekend (June 9-10).
MXGP WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS – ROUND 9 of 19
MX2 Race 1
14. Conrad Mewse
MX2 Race 2
22. Conrad Mewse
MX2 STANDINGS AFTER ROUND 9
1.Pauls Jonass 401
2.Jorge Prado 373
3.Thomas Kjer-Olsen 288
13. Conrad Mewse 133
MXGP Race 1
19. Graeme Irwin
MXGP Race 2
21. Graeme Irwin
MXGP STANDINGS AFTER ROUND 9
MXGP Race 1
1.Jeffrey Herlings 436
2.Antonio Cairoli 382
3.Clement Desalle 314
24. Graeme Irwin 19