Before the crowds, tension and anticipation of MXGP rolls into the vast bowl of Matterley Basin this weekend for the British Grand Prix, one of the heroes of the event past and present – Tommy Searle – faced a different kind of challenge.
Luke Woodham was in a feisty mood with the raw power and grunt of his V8 and fancied ripped up some of the Winchester soil at the epic venue that has been a popular draw for FIM World Championship motocross for almost fifteen years.
For 28 year old Kawasaki racer Tommy Searle this was a mean duel. The Brit has spine-tingling recollections of success at Matterley: his maiden Grand Prix podium finish as a sixteen year old, emphatic MX2 victory in 2012 and a rostrum appearance in his country’s colours at the 2017 Motocross of Nations…but this was another kind of Matterley experience.
The torque and speed of his BOS Factory Kawasaki KX450F seemed slight opposition to Woodham’s crazed collection of horses under the V8’s bodywork but Searle had the knowledge and the right tools for the face-off. Unused to such a snarling and potent rival the sight of the V8 on the Matterley course was initially unnerving. “I was worried I’d get taken-out by the car!” Searle grinned. “It was amazing to watch it spinning sideways everywhere and it was so loud that I couldn’t even hear my own bike.”
The traction and poise of the Kawasaki eventually proved to be the difference. Searle not only had the ideal weapon for the fight but also the skills: the same combination that he hopes will make the thousands and thousands of British fans go bananas for what will be the second round of nineteen in the 2019 MXGP calendar.
“The V8 looks good and sounds good and was impressive to watch but for all that power there was not much of a contest,” he said. “A motocross circuit is such a special kind of track and with special kinds of demands and nothing is going to beat a bike that it is built for it. I reckon I could do three laps in the time it takes to do one!”
Former Gymkhana Grid Champion and Drift expert Woodham hammered the V8 around the slopes and curves but Searle bagged the bragging rights. Now he wants more. For more than ten years the #100 has been the reference for British followers of motocross and he knows Matterley Basin is the best and biggest stage to shine for his fans. “I’m feeling good,” he says.“I’m healthy and happy with my bike, and I’m heading to an event that I always look forward to and have good memories of.”
Woodham and Searle enjoyed a dry and fine English day for their ‘tête-à-tête’. The British Grand Prix is the first European stop for the FIM World Championship after the opening salvo in Argentina two weeks ago and there will be many eyeing the skies for the biggest fixture on the UK dirt bike schedule come Friday. “There is some doubt about the weather with this race being so early this year but if the forecast holds as it is then it will be a big weekend,” Searle said.
Four wheels or two, a pack of revving MXGP bikes or the din of thousands of cheers and fans’ airhorns: Matterley will again feel the noise of first-class motorsport in a matter of days and hours.
Words: Adam Wheeler Pics: Monster Energy