CORNISH CONQUERS KENT
After an absence of 5 years the British Supermoto Championship rocked up at Lydden Hill, just a few miles from Dover. The long drive didn’t deter many riders and a large field turned up for a crack at this fabulous circuit, which is renowned as the shortest permanent racetrack in the UK. Since being sold by McLaren to the present owners, significant improvements have taken place and every competitor was amazed at the fantastic facilities that were on hand. Significant local pressure over noise meant that only on day was available so a packed race schedule was put in place, with many classes running dual races.
After the last round at Teesside the points had really closed up in the Elite classes and at one stage it looke like Matt Winstanley would walk the championship easily however he was now coming under real pressure from reigning Open Champion Chris Hodgson, Lewis Cornish and Jay Smith who were all closing in on the Wigan ace, who was also beginning to suffer reliability problems campaining his ageing Honda against state of the art brand new bikes.
Both the 450 and Open Elite races were combined in one with riders scoring points in both championships, with Lewis Cornish only contesting the 450 title he would be eligible for points in that but not count in the Open results. The usual suspects were joined by southern-based BSB riders Rob McNealy and Ryan Dixon and the ultra fast circuit looked like it would suit the more tarmac biased riders.
Qualifying A heavy persistent drizzle greeted riders first thing in the morning and the fast track with its two flat out gravel sections looked like it would be tricky, however the top Elite riders made light of the conditions. In fact in one of the closest qualifying sessions ever in the sport, Matt Winstanley (Honda) edged out Chris Hodgson (Husqvarna) by the incredible margin of 5 thousandths of a second! Norfolk’s Lewis Cornish put his TM into third position and Jay Smith (KTM) completed the front row, less than a second separating the four riders.
Race 1 For the start of racing the weather changed totally and the sun came out and the track was perfectly dry. Winstanley took his usual holeshot and was chased hard by Cornish, Hodgson, Smith and Scott Murray on his TM. On Lap 4 Cornish slipped past Winstanley, followed two laps later by Hodgson. It appeared that Winstanley was having trouble as his normally fast Honda was struggling to keep up with his rivals; it was later revealed he had lost fifth gear. At the flag it was Lewis Cornish three seconds ahead of Hodgson, then Winstanley, Jay Smith, Scott Murray and Richard Blakeman in sixth.
Race 2 Many riders who have done as much as Winstanley in their chosen sport would have put their bike in the van and driven home but showing just how much it still means the Wigan warrior changed his gearing and ran the bike as a four speeder, surely a big disadvantage at a circuit as fast as this? A look at the lap times in the first race showed that only 1 tenth of a second differentiated the top four riders best times! The holeshot went to Hodgson but he could only hang on for a lap before Cornish pushed past in a brilliant move entering the back dirt section. Many expected him to pull away but instead a thrilling freight train was created with Hodgson, Winstanley and Smith in close pursuit. On lap eleven showing his new found confidence by continuously running at the front in this company Smith passed Winstanley in an audacious pass, he then lined Hodgson up at the same point on the penultimate lap, this move also let the wily Winstanley through relegating Hodgson to fourth. Could Smith now catch Cornish? In an epic last lap he pushed as hard as possible but Lewis hung on to win by one tenth of a second! Winstanley got a great third and fastest lap to boot, Hodgson was fourth, Murray again fifth and Richard Sharp won the Richards battle by beating Blakeman to sixth.
Race 3 With the meeting running ahead of schedule an extra two laps were added to the final race, giving 16 hectic laps of the fast and flowing track. If race two was good, race three was epic. Cornish hit the front from the start closely followed by Smith, Hodgson and Winstanley. The Cumbrian Hodgson wanted revenge and moved into second on lap two before hitting the front a lap later. Cornish soon responded and was back in front the next time round with Smith slipping through into second. Winstanley was watching the fun from fourth. On lap six Smith made his bid for the front and took the lead, for the next ten laps a small blanket could have covered the front four riders as they put on an exhibition of outstanding bike control. As the last lap flag was shown the pressure was on Smith but he hung on for the victory, much to the delight of his vociferous local fans. Cornish got second, Winstanley forced his way past Hodgson for third, Scott Murray was fifth and Richard Sharp (KTM) sixth.
Overall As competitors and spectator’s got their collective breaths back it was widely agreed that this was one of the best meetings of the year and the third race in particular was as good a race as anyone could ever remember seeing. Lewis Cornish took a well-deserved podium from the delighted Jay Smith with Matt Winstanley third, Chris Hodgson fourth, Scott Murray fifth and the excellent Richard Sharp sixth.
NPS GIAG/Novice Cup
With runaway series leader George Jarvis electing to ride in the National series at this meeting it left the gates open to the chasing pack for a new winner to emerge. Lincoln Husvarna rider Max Wybrow grasped the nettle and won all three races in impressive style. Owen Bygrave (TM) was a close second from another podium regular Ashley Middleton (Honda). Whitstable newcomer Ian Hardy made the short journey worthwhile with fourth from Mike Porter in fifth.
Showing that anything the Elites could do the second tier could match, Andy Mitchell and Charlie Light made their own version of the Little and Large show with three breath-taking races where the lead changed not lap by lap but corner by corner. These two riders are a diametrically opposite ends of their careers in Supermoto with Andy Mitchell contesting the veterans class after a long and distinguished career and Charlie Light riding his second full year in the sport. Their physical looks couldn’t be more different with the burly Yorkshireman Mitchell being probably three times bigger than the Wiltshire young farmer. This power to weight ratio was seen in action as Mitchell took a quicker line through the dirt to constantly pass the youngster before he sped past on the steep uphill climb that gives the circuit its name. Not that Charlie was a one trick pony and showed incredible bravery to squeeze past Mitchell at every opportunity. At the end of three pulsating races Charlie gained the overall win from Mitchell (both KTM’s), the returning South African Paul Smith was third on his ex Jay Smith KTM. Veterans David Blanks (KTM) and Andre Craddock (TM) were fourth and fifth respectively from the consistent Chris Lambourne having his first race of the year on his Honda in sixth.
Elite 1st Lewis Cornish (TM) 102pts – 2nd Jay Smith (KTM) 95pts -3rd Matt Winstanley (Honda) 90pts – 4th Chris Hodgson (Husqvarna) 88pts – 5th Scott Murray (TM) 78pts – 6th Richard Sharp (KTM) 74pts – 7th Oliver Kemp (TM) 68pts – 8th Kayla Barrington (KTM) 63pts – 9th Jordan Bannon (KTM) 61pts -10th Tim Johnson (Husqvarna) 58pts.
Michelin Cup 1st Charlie Light (TM) 105pts – 2nd Paul Smith (KTM) 94pts -3rd David Blanks (KTM) 90pts – 4th Andre Craddock (TM) 86pts – 5th Darren Lee (KTM) 77pts
Novice Cup 1st Max Wybrow (Husqvarna) 105pts – 2nd Owen Bygrave (TM) 96pts – 3rd Ashley Middleton (Honda) 88pts – 4th Ian Hardy (KTM) 86pts – 5th Mike Porter (Husaberg) 76pts
Open National 1st Charlie Light (KTM) 102pts – 2nd Andy Mitchell (KTM) 99pts -3rd Paul Smith (KTM) 94pts – 4th David Blanks (KTM) 90pts – 5th Andre Craddock (TM) 86pts