UK Moto Gymkhana Championship 2017
Round 5 - Donington Park (Tarmac lake)
Wow, what a fantastic end to what's been the closest MotoGymkhana season in the UK. Two of the three classes were still up for grabs on the final round as riders faced an open fast track on the Donington Park tarmac lake.
Once riders had figured out that the complex circuit diagram was simpler than it looked the Novice class got the day underway with three riders in with a chance of the title. A surprising number got wrong courses on run 1, mistakes happening all over the course, not just on any single obstacle.
Usual novice front runner Steve Laughton made a rare mistake costing him several seconds going back to do the obstacle correctly. A fine run put Beth Price-Williams in a provisional 3rd place, the first woman to get to this position in the UK and a sign of things to come.
As usual the expert class ran last and the pressure was really on, both Mark Wraith and Rob Fox within touching distance of the championship. However other experts were quite capable of putting a spanner in the works. And that's exactly what happened on the first attack;
Rob Fox blitzed it though with a time 4 seconds faster than anyone else. So if the positions didn't change after the second run Rob was champion and Mark was runner up yet again. No pressure then!
And so to the second run. By some miracle the rain held off so it was maximum attack in both undecided classes. At the top of the Novice class it was Ian Handley again, really going for it and improving his time to take the class win by nearly 5 seconds. Even better for Ian was that final elusive ranking point which now promotes him to the expert green bib class. Congratulations to Ian who has really stepped up his game this season. In 2nd and making his first visit to the podium was Iain Suggett using Gary Davies' old GSXR, a fitting tribute and a fine aggressive run by Iain.
It was close though, Beth Price-Williams missed out on her first podium by 0.08 seconds. Next season will surely see a woman make it onto the podium, which one gets there first, we'll have to wait and see.
In the final Novice championship standings it was Ian Handley who took it by just 4 points from Steve Laughton with Paul 'Noddy' Brown taking 3rd just 3 points further back.
2 seconds behind was Joanne Noble-Finch and third again was Pauline Thornton.
So first ever UK Women's champion is Joanne, 3 points ahead of Beth, a great reward for her determination and dedication. Next year in this class is going to be VERY close.
And so to the big one, the overall championship. With Rob Fox having put in such a strong run in the morning Mark Wraith had to do a stunning run to win the championship outright, not only did he need to beat Rob but he had to get in front of Ian Ashford. Of the top three Ian was out first, he improved his time by almost 2 ½ seconds heaping even more pressure on Mark who was next up. All the spectators were holding their breath watching the digital timer display.
As he tripped the timing lights the time came up, 1 second slower than Rob but crucially for him 2 seconds faster than Ian. Final results for the final round had Rob Fox 1st on his 250 2 stroke Honda, 1 second ahead of Mark Wraith on the DRZ400 and Ian Ashford making his first, and certainly not last visit to the overall podium on his CBR600 just 2 seconds in arrears.
So after a gripping season it was a tie, Rob and Mark were declared joint champions, the first time we've had a dead heat and a fair result with both riders winning the same number of rounds. In third was the consistent Andrew Rayfield on the MT09.
And so that finishes the 2017 season, and what a season it has been. Some things have helped make it such a good year, the weather gods smiled on every event with no rain all year, the courses this year have been a little different, a little faster and more open than previous years, but the thing that has made it the best UK season ever is the standard of riding, throughout the field it's been great to see the progress so many riders have made. Yellow bib novices are mixing it with the experts, women riders pushing for podium places, there's a lot to look forward to next year.
Keep checking the website for details of the 2018 championship and for club contacts around the country if you fancy having a go at this challenging all inclusive bike sport.