The first major enduro event of the New Year certainly lived up to expectations as the Husqvarna sponsored second round of Eddy’s Xtreme Enduro drew in massive crowds yet again at Tong near Bradford. Twelve months after the initial Eddy’s Xtreme event this awesome venue pulled in thousands of spectators, all eager to see the battle between Farioli KTM’s David Knight, KORR’s Jonny Walker and Flite Husaberg’s Graham Jarvis continue in their race to become the first official ACU British Extreme Enduro Champion. They were not disappointed.
Walker’s outstanding win at Buxton in the opening round of the series posed a massive question – had Knighter finally met his match or was it simply a blip on the radar.
All eyes were on the big Manxman and he answered many questions with two flying laps during timed qualifying that put him nearly a minute ahead of Graham Jarvis, his closest competitor with a slightly below par Walker down in third.
The course at Parkwood Offroad, Tong, provided all elements necessary for an event of this type. Steep ravines, ditches, streams and rocks with plenty of slippery mud in places, plus several very fast woodland sections between the extreme bits made for a truly fantastic course.The added attraction of Tong is that spectators have a roadway running around the whole venue with the course crossing and running alongside it in several places.
The format for the second round of the series was very different to the first round. Instead of two one-hour races, there was a single two-hour race with the added twist that qualifying times counted as Championship places and winner’s points were awarded for the fastest two laps, with points awards going down through the places.
Two sessions of qualifying saw the Clubman and Veteran riders take to the track first for 40 minutes, followed by a separate session for the Expert and Pro riders. With points awarded for finishing positions this was virtually another round of the Championship, albeit 40 minutes in length.
Clubman Aled Price topped the first session but the ongoing battle between Veterans Craig Parkes and Mark Houson continued throughout qualifying with Parkes just beating Houson, on his home course, by six seconds over a combined time of each rider’s best two laps with Justin Carter taking third place in the Vets. Zak Sherwin and Josh Law joined Price as top three in Clubman qualification.
The Pro and Expert qualifiers saw David Knight lead the field out onto the course and he went balls-out for three laps to post 8.24 and 8.34 followed by Jarvis on 8.52 and 8.57 with Walker in third place on 8.51 and 9.31. Walkers team boss Julian Stevens was absent but his place was ably filled by KTM Off road School boss Ady Smith, who admitted that the last time he had spannered for anyone was for Fast Eddy at a WEC round back in 1993.
Knight’s determination to silence his critics was obvious as he hit the massive ditch, four metres across, that had logs and rocks on the leading edge. He hit hard and flew long to virtually a dead stop on landing before tuning and hammering off up the course. The tricky rock wall near the end of the lap saw him ride feet up as many others struggled to paddle to the top. According to Knight, jumping the ditch didn’t really gain much time but it was spectacular and that is why people flock to see him perform. After three laps he had posted the two fastest times of qualifying and exited the course even though there was plenty of qualifying time left.
Graham Jarvis used every ounce of his Trials skills to edge into second place with Jonny Walker close behind in third. Tom Sagar was suffering from flu and did well to take fourth with Paul Bolton putting in an excellent performance in fifth place as Ben Hemingway and Gave Houson took fifth and sixth. Jack Lee topped the Expert ranks from Tom Howe, Mark Jackson, Luke Copestake and Tom Healy.
Before the main event began the Youth riders were given the chance to try the course although many of the tougher sections were avoided. The front row of the pack contained Mike Gilby, Brad Freeman, Jack Staines, Andrew Bull and Jack Edmondson and it was a battle between these five riders for supremacy in the Youth ranks.Gilby, Staines and Freeman soon pulled a lead on the rest of the field with Freeman desperate to take a win following his disappointing performance at Buxton. The hour long race saw Freeman and Gilby never giving an inch for 50 minutes but eventually Freeman pulled a minute and a half lead to take the win ahead of Gilby with Jack Staines in third, Jack Edmondson in fourth and Andrew Bull in fifth.
The tension mounted as the start line slowly filled under the huge Husqvarna arch, each rider in a specific slot depending on their qualify time. The front row consisted of Knight, Jarvis, Walker, Sagar and Bolton with Ben Hemingway, Gav Houson, Jack Lee, Jamie Lewis and Danny McCanney on the second row.The charge for the first corner saw Jarvis leave the line a yard ahead of Knighter but within seconds they were bar to bar as Knighter took the faster inside line.
Row after row of riders left the start at five-second intervals and by the time the last row left Jarvis had the lead from Knight a quarter of the way around the course, such was the speed of the leading pair.The Flite Husaberg rider seemed to have the measure of his KTM mounted rival but opted to ride through the massive ditch three-quarters of the way around the lap as Knight closed the gap by jumping it and landing alongside him (a feat he performed on nine out of twelve laps). Jarvis got away slightly earlier than Knight. With a ravine and the rock wall still to come it was anyone’s guess who would lead by the end of the first lap.
Knight’s determination saw him cross the line ahead of Jarvis but only by a couple of seconds and these two riders were in a race of their own from this point onwards.Knight put the hammer down and pulled away at a terrific pace as Jarvis maintained his calm, both riders lapping back markers on only their second lap. Knight continued to extend his lead and took the chequered flag four and a half minutes ahead of Jarvis, the only rider he had not lapped.
Jonny Walker was slightly out of sorts but put in a great performance to stay in third place ahead of a pack of Pro’s, all eager to overtake him. Paul Bolton continually pressed him early on, eventually taking fourth as MPS Husqvarna rider Jamie Lewis, on a brand new 310 Husky, surprisingly held fifth place in his first extreme event.
In the Expert ranks Jack Lee lead the class, just outside of the overall top ten, and built a significant lead initially until fatigue made the going very hard and he struggled his way to the top of the rock wall which he had ridden feet-up previously but still maintained a lap advantage over the other Expert riders.
Forty-seven year old Mark Jackson, more than qualified to ride in the Vets class, opted for the Expert class and rode magnificently to second place ahead of riders half his age, Luke Copestake being one of them in third position.James Dent followed in fourth place with Tom Healy grabbing fifth.Josh Law was top Clubman rider, nine minutes ahead of Ben Winston-Howard in second with Lee Sealy in third. Aled Price couldn’t match his qualifying performance and eventually took fourth, a lap adrift of the leading three riders, with last year’s winner Jane Daniels in fifth.
The Veterans battle rage from start to finish. Oakland International’s Craig Parkes held a clear lead for 90 minutes but was rocked on his heels as Mark Houson appeared from nowhere and overtook him. Parkes had enough energy reserves left to battle back and the pair swapped places a dozen times over the closing few laps, crossing the line just four seconds apart with a lap to go. Houson followed Parkes for half of the course until a mistake and fall on a steep hill gave Parkes the advantage, which he seized and rode on to victory as Houson tailed into second place a minute and a half adrift. Two laps down on the leading Vets pair was Chris Ball in third place, three minutes ahead of Scott Stephenson with Kriega’s Chris Salt taking fifth in class.
An indication of an events success is always indicated by the number of people who stay for the presentation ceremony. There were hundreds of folks and dozens of photographers packed around the rock podium as all four classes were presented with their trophies.Knighter was beaming as he took the premiere award, overall race winner and top Pro rider on the day. Husqvarna’s Dave Plummer presented the trophies and the final line up of Pro’s were joined by Fast Eddy who thoroughly deserves the many plaudits he received for putting on a fantastic show for both riders and the masses of spectators who attended. The atmosphere was electric, the setting superb and the race enthralling. An excellent event, deserving of ACU British Championship status.