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Whatley and Houghton on Culham

Whatley and Houghton on Culham
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The Easter Weekend was a busy affair for the Rob Hooper Racing Yamaha UK Motocross team, who took part in the Mike Browne Memorial on Good Friday before embarking on their 2018 Maxxis British Motocross Championships crusade on Easter Sunday.

With conditions heavy going on the Friday, and with Kristian Whatley’s practice machine still stuck in France team boss Rob Hooper took the decision to stand him down from the first meeting where Ryan Houghton was the lone RHR racer coming home with an excellent third in the Pro Class Huck Cup competition.

All roads then led to Oxfordshire and the fantastic Culham circuit for round one of the British Championships on Easter Sunday. Team Boss Hooper wouldn’t be drawn into any predictions for the meeting saying “I am confident in our boys and Robbie and Ryan having been working very hard, but with Kristian we come into this meeting in the realm of the unknown with him having such an up and down winter and not having raced for nearly a year. I know he feels uncertain himself, but one thing I am certain of is his talent so we shall have to see”.

There wasn’t a huge wait to see how Whatley would perform as a time the 8th fastest in qualifying showed he still had the speed to be towards the front end of the pack. Whatley’s MX1 team mate Houghton qualified in 13th, which he wasn’t best pleased with but as we all know the races are where it counts.

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The gate dropped on the opening MX1 race of the season and both Whatley and Houghton were both right there in the mix, but what shocked everyone was that by the end of the first lap Kristian had moved his way into the lead and looking smooth and in control while he was there. The inevitable race rustiness caught up with him and he eventually dropped back to 5th, one position ahead of Ryan who had a comfortable and great race in 6th.

The RHR MX1 duo weren’t quite so sharp from the traps in Moto two but by the third lap they were filling 7th and 8th place where they remained for the duration of the race with Kristian in 7th and Ryan in 8th, giving them 5th and 6th overall respectively.

Pic: Elliot Spencer

Hooper was understandably delighted with the start his MX1 riders made to the season saying “I am very pleased with the boys, they both showed good speed and stamina, and they have both set themselves up points wise for the rest of the season. The great thing is we know there is a lot more to come from the both of them. Kristian amazed me really, with such a chequered past 12 months to come away with 5th is remarkable, the lad is pure talent. This weekend has shown me how much potential Ryan has too, he rode so well on Good Friday for his third and he has such a positive and determined outlook, it really is refreshing”.

Whatley had plenty to smile about and said “I had a good day yesterday, qualifying didn’t go that well for me, I didn’t really like the set up I had, so we changed the settings in my forks, I came away with 8th which I was ok with but the track was not so good. In the first race I managed to get a good start and I was third round the first turn. Within a quarter of a lap I jumped into the lead, and led it for three laps, and I was loving it. I was loving life to be fair and back to where I want to be. It was nice leading for that three laps but it I was trying to keep calm and not get hot headed as I knew I wasn’t going to win the race, so I concentrated on keeping my rhythm and I drifted back. I kept telling myself I am not going to win this, just ride your own race, and I ended up in 5th. I should have been 4th but I made a mistake and Bobryshev got me with a lap to go, which I wasn’t too happy about, but 5th was good enough for me.

The second race I made an OK jump but I got hit and pushed, but I made a few good turns on the first lap, but I had a few problems with the bike cutting out due to a water problem, which was a bit scary and dangerous over the jumps but amazingly I kept it going for the first three laps and it cleared, but that cost me a bit of time and those three laps are important, but I came through from I think 15th at the start to 7th. All in all I wanted two top sixes, but 5th overall is good result for my first round and a good start to my championship.”

Houghton came away from Culham wanting more saying “6th overall at round one is a start. I didn’t feel amazing all day long, but I’ll keep on working with my team and trainer and I’ll be up at the sharp end in no time”

In the MX2 class it was a tough day at the office for young Robbie Dowson who fell in his first lap of timed practice which cost him his best chance of a good lap, and with fate throwing every problem his way he ended up with the 39th gate pick.

A mid pack start in race one was good damage limitation and he set about improving his position and by lap 7 he was up to 17th spot and recording good lap times, but a fall proved costly and he fell way back to 27th. A charge for the remainder of the race got him back up to 21st place, just one spot outside of the championship points. Another start in the thick of the pack in race 2 followed by some quick passes saw him up to 18th from 24th after two laps but another mistake set him back to 25th and he gradually moved his way to 22nd by the end of the race.

Pic: Elliot Spencer

Hooper was philosophical about Robbie’s day saying “It was just one of those days for Robbie when the harder you try the more goes wrong, but credit to the lad he never gave up and he had some really good lap times so we know his potential is there”.

Dowson admitted himself he was trying too hard commenting “It was a tough weekend for me. A disaster in qualifying left me with last gate pick, so I was having to come through the pack which wasn’t the easiest. I made too many mistakes trying too hard to come through the field. There are a lot of positives to take away, but also a lot that can be learnt so that I can be better for the following rounds”

The team head to the Norfolk circuit of Lyng this weekend in the opening rounds of the MX Nationals where all three Team members race together in the Fastest 40.

Words: Rob Hooper racing

Pics: Elliot Spencer

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