One of the local riders that will be competing at the Arenacross UK series coming to Belfast on the 18th and 19th of January will be James Mackrel.

Mackrel is coming off a good motocross season and wants to have a go at Arenacross once again – something he hasn’t experienced since his 85cc days!

He’ll be contesting in the pro lites class which has some top supercross names in the class such as Cyrille Coulon, Adrien Escoffier, Joe Clayton and Nique Thury just to name a few but it’s a challenge Mackrel is ready for.

We caught up with Mackrel at the recent Arenacross UK press day to get his thoughts on the event coming up in the new year.

Gatedrop: James, it’s been confirmed that you’ll compete at the Belfast Arenacross taking place in January. How did the opportunity come about for you to do it and you’ll be against a lot of experienced SX guys in the Pro Lites class. Are you looking forward to that?

James Mackrel: The opportunity came when I applied for it. I heard back this week that I got accepted so that was how I got into it. I’m excited to get started, I haven’t raced Supercross since I was on an 85cc BW so it’s quite a long time ago. I will just try to get a good start and see how I get on with some of the top riders in Arenacross.

Gatedrop: You mentioned you haven’t done Supercross since being on a 85cc, what’s your memory of it and is it something you enjoyed?

James Mackrel: Yeah, I did enjoy it very much but the event didn’t come back for a while after that so I never really got the chance to do it again. It’s intense and a lot different to Motocross, it’s not as quick but it’s harder on you or just as hard. Hopefully come to the time of racing, Belfast will be ready for it.

Gatedrop: I’m sure you’ve been a spectator at the event for the past few years. Just as a spectator what’s your thoughts on the Arenacross series?

James Mackrel:  From the spectator point of view, it looks enjoyable. It looks like you get a good race out there so hopefully on the 18th and 19th January, it’s the same way it is from the spectator point of view. This time I will be on track instead of watching.

Gatedrop: It’s always good to see the local riders do well and I’m sure you’ve supported them in the past. Are you looking forward to racing in front of your home crowd and have them get behind you?

James Mackrel: Yeah, it will be enjoyable. We will just see how we get on. We’ll see what the outcome is by the end of it.

Gatedrop: Just on your motocross season. I feel like you stepped up this year in the British Championship, you were pushing for some top ten results at times but then crashes and mistakes hindered you. On the whole you must be pleased with your speed though?

James Mackrel: Yeah, well up until Canada Heights, I kind of struggled with the bike and just getting comfortable with it. A broken wrist ruled me out of one of the rounds as well so I didn’t get a full chance to do a whole season. Towards the end of the season we moved to the new 2019 Yamaha 250cc. It was a far better bike and it seemed to gel with me a lot more. It was just stock so hopefully we really get it going now and we’ll see how we get on next year.

Gatedrop: In terms of your plans for 2019, is it much the same as this year?

James Mackrel: Yeah, I will do the Maxxis British Championship hopefully again next year. I’m also going to do the Bridgestone Masters as well.

Gatedop: Have you ever thought about doing a few rounds of the EMX250 championship rounds? The U23 age rule might make it easier to qualify straight through now? Before it might have been harder to qualify with some more of the older riders doing it..

James Mackrel: Yeah, it would be interesting. Maybe at the closer ones, I think Matterley Basin or something like that would be good. I won’t be going too far away though like Russia! We will see how the winter goes, if i feel good and fit I will maybe give it a go.

Gatedrop: Just on your winter, have you any plans to go away or will you just stay at home?

James Mackrel: I’m not too sure on what I’m going to do this winter yet. I went to Spain a few years ago but the ground is very hard, it’s not really similar to what we ride at home. Never say never though, the weather is a bit rubbish at home at the minute so we’ll see.

Gatedrop:  You ended the year on a real high by winning the Coupe de l’Avenir U23 Des Nations for Ireland. How did all that go for you? It must have been an awesome weekend!

James Mackrel: Yeah, it was just great. The experience of winning it was just brilliant and being on the podium. In previous years before we done it, we weren’t even close. This year we finally got it so it was a great experience and we had a great team with me as well. I’m just glad I was able to do it in my last year of the class.

Gatedrop: What’s your expectations for the 2019 British Championship?

James Mackrel: I would like to be pushing for top ten results. At the end of the season there in Lyng, I wasn’t far off it,  just a few silly mistakes and crashes cost me. Coming at the start of next year hopefully I will be up there.

Gatedrop: You done Hawkstone International this year, are you planning on doing it again at the start of next year? It’s good to do against plenty of GP riders!

James Mackrel: Actually I have my entry form filled out so I will get it sent away here and hopefully get word back that I will get accepted for it.

Interview: Andy McKinstry

Pic: Ian Cairns

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