Schwalbe British 4X Series Round 2, Harthill

Harthill’s Hales Bike Park played host to round two of the British 4x Series just over a month after the first round at Chicksands. Harthill has hosted European 4X and many national championship events and is a venue renowned for enabling great racing while also throwing up some shock results such as in 2011 when Luke Limbrick despite having never won a race before beat the countries best to a national championship title.

The tracks full of overtaking opportunities, big wide corners with multiple berms (turn 2 has four!), multiple line choices and adjacent pro and novice jump sections give racers lots of attack and defensive choices, no race is certain with riders having to keep their guard up until the finish line. Bike choice varied across the board, many riders are now packing short travel trail bikes and there is a strong case to their speed in all areas.

The race day starts with two hours of open practice which is plenty as the push back to the top is only a few minutes, with two 30 minute gate practice sessions. After practice the motos kick in, these are three races where your opponents and start positions are picked at random, win a moto and you get 4 points, 4th gets you 1 point, don’t finish or get disqualified? That’s zero for you. Tie breaks are decided by having an extra race called a runoff. Moto points count towards series overall points as well as the highest scorers advancing to the finals with preferential gate choice ahead of lower qualifiers. So everything has to be given. Just before the motos began the British summer came right on schedule to dampen the track and raise the nerves of the racers who would now be diving into unknown conditions after riding a dry dusty track all morning. The rain stopped just before racing started, the track dried quickly but would be peppered with slippery patches to catch out any unaware riders. Through the motos, it was a shame to see Ripper’s category (10-12) Jordi Hart leaving the competition after a fall in moto1. He looked sensational in practice and had some of the Elite cat riders in envy of his cornering prowess!

4x is the best form of racing out there, it’s such a laugh racing in a pack of four. I love enduro and downhill but they just don’t have the excitement of chasing after another racer or being hounded yourself! If you fancy trying it but don’t fancy going against some of the more weapons based riders in the licensed categories the fun categories are for you, just simple racing. Taking 3rd in fun was Andrew Cross while riding a cracked trail bike, Angus Child took 2nd behind Elite racer Ben Jones’ younger brother Scott Jones.

Into the aged categories the Rippers start things off, this is for kids aged 10-12 and has some of the most competitive racers I have ever seen, George Madley won the first round but this time out would see him finish 5th. The top 4 was completely different to the previous round with only one rider maintaining consistency, Reuben Mills would finish 4th in a tight final that would see Charlie Palmer and Jack Skinner take 3rd and 2nd with George’s brother Luke Madley taking the win.

Juveniles (13-14) is a mix of the prepubescent versus the growth spurts, bigger is better it seems as the much taller Zac Hudson and William Chater took 1st and 2nd ahead of the much smaller Louie Partridge in 3rd and Cameron Roberts in 4th.

Youth (15-16) would see RD1 winner, Dec Willicome struggle in motos 2 and 3 preventing him from making the top 4 A final so he had to settle for a best possible 5th place podium spot. The A final was a slug match of closely matched abilities, Will Fuell hasn’t managed to match his string of wins from the Juveniles but 4th is him heading in the right direction. The smooth riding style of Jay Fairbank slotted into 3rd with the powerhouse Will Mills picking up 2nd and Tom Bell taking the win three spots higher than his last time out.

The Juniors (17-18) are going to get well acquainted with each other’s elbows over the course of the year! So far it’s domination by 417 Project local Oscar Powell, having a 4x track at his Saturday job is paying dividends. The next three spots were populated by the cornish contingent of Finlay Keogh, Matt O’Brien and Alex Piper while Matt Griffin was left feeling disappointed with his airtime abilities in 5th.

The seniors (19-29) is a category full of differing abilities currently with all the racers enjoying motos that really mixed their positions around with no consistent favourite shining through. The A final was a hot ticket with Dan Marshall in 4th, last round’s winner Joe Prestwood had to settle for 3rd as the Scotsman, Jordan Winning in 2nd and the lairy kit of winner Cameron Edwards proved insurmountable.

In the Masters (30-39) Alastair Keen would finish 5th for the second time in a row. The A final was a shocker with David Sibley crashing out while attempting an overtaking move on leader Lee Feery who would get tangled up on the fallen Sibley relegating them to 4th and 3rd. This allowed the closely following series co-commentator Mop Head and Richard Dobson to dive through to take 1st and 2nd respectively.

Obliterating the Veterans (40+) category was squat rack enthusiast Jason Jessop who took victory at every opportunity, Neil ‘Hitman’ Harbour would take 2nd closely followed by Michael Dewsnap freshly returning from injury. 4th was Tristan Nunn returning after a few years away and Chris Ames would win the B final for fifth.

The Women’s cat lived up to its reputation as the best category to watch, lots of close racing, plentiful overtaking and some good ol’ elbow rubbing! Hannah Escott rounded off the podium with 5th after spending the entire day making moves on track. Promoting themselves from 6th and 5th at Chicksands; Ami Grindley and Rona Strivens finished 4th and 3rd. No change at the top though for Megan Wherry and Tyde D’Souza who would once again finish 2nd and 1st. Both girls racing with class and styling the pro line to boot! I’m looking forward to watching that rivalry develop over this season.

Onto the Pro Elites, there is never an inch given and that’s why we love it! Alex Metcalfe after a tough time in the motos would manage a top to bottom lead in the B final to net him 5th place. In the A final, fresh off the plane from building a new pump track in South Africa DMR Bikes, Duncan Ferris would take to the outside of the corners trying to overtake Luke Cryer but to no avail, as the pair would finish 4th and 3rd. At the front the biceps on legs Connor Hudson had a great start but it wasn’t enough to get him into 1st and it would be a close 2nd place for him behind Will Evans who blitzed the start and made use of the tracks inside lines to defend his lead at the start and from then on victory was his.

So that was round two all wrapped up, a fantastic day of racing, 4x has a real camaraderie about it. All the competitors just want to race, the pits are a hive of parts sharing, food sharing and having fun, a real family atmosphere. Next up the series heads to Afan on May 7th. Where other disciplines are getting more serious 4x is just getting more fun! You have to try it for yourself!

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