PR- The Hitachi ASA KTM UK team travelled to Italy for Round 4 of the MXGP championship full of confidence after riders Graeme Irwin and Conrad Mewse left the recent opening round of the British MX1 and MX2 championship with the respective red plates.
Shadowed by the Dolomites, the picturesque but demanding Pietramurata circuit is a technical challenge for all the riders. The team’s MX2 representative, Mewse, was familiar with the track but for Irwin in his first full season in the MXGP class, it was another track to learn.
Mewse and his KTM 250 SX-F were instantly at home on the hard pack course, posting competitive times in all practice sessions. After 13 laps of Saturday’s qualifying race, Conrad placed in fifth – 16 seconds back after from pole man and factory KTM rider, Jorge Prado.
In the first race, Conrad on the #426 KTM wasn’t able to make the best of his gate pick after coming into contact with another rider at the first corner, dropping him back in the pack. Struggling to find a rhythm, he would go on to finish a disappointing 20th position – his worst of the season, but still good enough for a precious championship point.
The second moto would deliver better results with the Shepton Mallet rider getting a much better start, rounding the first corner in third before dropping a position before the end of lap 1. Riding a consistent and fast race, Mewse was also able to take advantage of the misfortune of others when reigning champion, Pauls Jonass, and Husqvarna’s Henry Jacobi came together on lap 11. Conrad went on to take the chequered flag in fourth place, enough for eleventh place overall from the GP with 19 points collected from his 20-4 performance.
Conrad Mewse #426: “It’s been an up and down weekend for me. We screwed up the first moto with a bad start with someone got caught in the back wheel. From there it was tough to come through the pack all the way from the back. The track was quite tough to pass but I didn’t find my rhythm; I wasn’t riding that great and it was a bit of a disaster really.
“The second moto was a lot better – helped to get a good start and managed to stay up at the sharp end and bag fourth. Overall, we’ve managed to maintain 5th in the world championship and hopefully we can have a good few rounds and jump up to that fourth place.”
Reigning British champion, Graeme Irwin, continues his steady start to his first full MXGP season. The #55 rider worked his way up the order from the practice sessions as he got to grips with the demanding circuit.
Placing 22nd in Saturday’s qualifying race ahead of Husqvarna riders Tanel Leok and Max Anstie, Irwin was determined to not let a poor gate pick effect his chances but after 19 arduous laps, he would gain one place more.
The second moto saw a change in set-up to the #55 KTM 450 SX-F that would make the world-beating machine an easier ride; evident by his speed and consistency in the second half of the lap.
The 26-year old from Carrickfergus would eventually cross the line in 19th for two world championship points, taking his tally to 15 and now 21st in the overall standings in arguably the toughest season for the premier class.
Graeme Irwin #55: “Well two points is better than no points! Another tough weekend and I suppose that’s as positive I can be. Scraping low amounts of points is not where I expect to be after four rounds in, but I believe in myself and the people and team around me believe me I know what I need to do.
“I’m comfortable with the amount of riding now at a GP weekend and by Sunday I know the track – so that’s no excuse. But the pace at the start of the races is so hot – it’s not like a British championship race where you kind of let the race settle and then get up to speed. Here you have to come straight out of the blocks and smash it; with speed and rhythm.
“Despite these hard rounds, my riding is improving and my lap times in the second half of the race match that of the top 10. I just need to make the starts count and pull the pin from the off.”
The team now moves to Agueda for the MXGP of Portugal on April 15.
Team manager Roger Magee: “Conrad continues to make good progress in the 2018 MX2 World Championship. Despite a mediocre first race, where he got tagged in the first corner and didn’t really find his true speed throughout the moto, he redeemed himself in the second moto with a good start resulting in a brilliant fourth place which keeps him in fifth overall position, only five points off the next spot.
“Over on the MXGP side of the awning, in what was his first visit to the undulating, technical course at Trentino, Graeme struggled with traction in the first moto leaving him just outside the points. After a few modifications during the interval, Graeme had a good, steady ride to finish in p18 for 2 valuable points in what is the most competitive MXGP class for years.”
Words: KTM UK. Photos by Ray Archer