The Annual Hawkstone International Motocross

Hawkstone has a rich history in motocross, as a GP circuit stretching all the way back into the 50’s. Before World War II, the local riders used the famous Hawkstone Hill for competitive hillclimbing. After the war it was reworked into a track, though it faded out for a few years before a great revival in the 70’s brought the track back to glory.

Hawkstone has held countless GPs, but the lack of a British GP round and the widespread popularity of the World Grand Prix riders have led Dave Williams and Gary Ford from the Salop MC to organize the Hawkstone International. The annual event draws around 8,000 spectators each year and grows from strength to strength and has seen figures as high as 15,000 for a race in memory of a local racer whose family was wiped out in a car accident.

Dave Williams has not ruled out the possibility of the World Grand Prix returning to Hawkstone if the opportunity presents itself. The event is held under the auspices of the Auto Cycle Union (ACU), Great Britain’s FIM affiliate.

The day started off with a 15-minute practice session and then 30 minutes of qualifying laps for each the 125 and Open classes. The riders got an hour-long break before the 125 class went to the starting line. This year’s event was also the first at which it wasn’t pouring with rain, although it had rained enough the previous night to necessitate some frantic track work to clear some of the mud and improve track conditions sufficiently for racing. Riders, mechanics and spectators alike slid around the grass and pathways that made up the pits.

The lead in the first 125 Moto went to Champs KTM rider Steve Ramon, but his teammate, the Dutch sensation Marc de Reuver, took over the lead soon after and lapped all the way to 10th place. Ramon held his second place, and fellow team rider Erik Eggens took the third spot. The threesome ended the race a full minute and six seconds ahead of the next contender, Tom Church, also on a KTM. In fact, KTM made up eight of the top ten spots, the other two spots going to Adam Lyons on Suzuki and Jamie Law on a Kawasaki. Current 125cc British Champion Stephen Sword was 5th behind teammate Tom Church, and ahead of teammate Matt Winstanley. American Jeff Dement suffered a terrible start on his Yamaha and fought his way through the pack, making up nine spots in the fourth lap and holding steady in 14th position.

In a short interview after the first race, de Reuver stated that his only real competition in the 125 class would be his teammates Ramon and Eggens, but that he would not discount current 125 World Champion Mickael Maschio or any other rider as upsets were to be expected as the GP season progressed. When asked whether he would move up to the Open class after the season, the reply was, “It’s too early to tell.”

[IMAGE 1]

The first Open class start went to Jussi Vehvilainen from Finland on a Honda CRF450. Jussi led the field for nine out of 13 laps, closely shadowed by current World Champion Mickael Pichon. Pichon passed Vehvilainen in the ninth lap, but was soon passed himself by current 500cc World Champion Stefan Everts on a Yamaha YZ450F, who gained third after Kenneth Gundersen from Norway crashed out his KX250. Gundersen’s teammate Andrew McFarlane also pulled out of the race on lap four, visibly nursing his left arm and shoulder after a hard crash on lap two.

German Pit Beirer had won the Ken Winstanley MX challenge in Matchams Park the weekend before, but he languished in the back of the top ten, finishing behind British 250cc National Champion Paul Cooper who had started in eighth and made his way to sixth position, where he remained for the most of the race. Everts’ teammate Marnicq Bervoets started in fifth and managed to gain a position for six laps before he had to concede to Belgian Joel Smets, who fought his way through the field from th and gained seven positions in one lap alone. The average gap between the podium contenders was six seconds.

[IMAGE 2]

The second 125 moto turned out to be an indication to de Reuver’s blistering speed. De Reuver led the field up Hawkstone Hill, crashed hard and lost the lead to teammate Ramon. Ramon steadily increased the gap between himself and Eggens in third. De Reuver made up two-and-a-half seconds per lap and doggedly reeled in Ramon. Time ran out for him as Ramon took the finish 1.6 seconds ahead of him and a full 27 seconds ahead of Eggens. Tom Church once again held on to fourth position 45 seconds behind the leader, followed by Wayne Smith and Stephen Sword. Jeff Dement improved his performance dramatically in the second moto where he was able to start in 14th position and end seventh. He was rewarded with a ninth spot overall.

[IMAGE 3]

The second Open moto was led for two laps by Norwegian Gundersen until he once again pulled out of the race. Finn Vehvilainen took the lead and was soon chased down by Everts in the fifth lap. Pichon had a slow start but worked his way to third before he returned to the pits due to exhaustion. Marnicq Bervoets stayed ahead of Pichon until he crashed hard in lap eight and subsequently pulled off. Pit Beirer also improved in the second moto and moved into third. Spaniard Javier Garcia Vico steered his Yamaha to fourth, improving on his first moto performance of 11th. Japanese rider Yoshitaka Atsuta was fifth, a vast improvement over his paltry performance in the first moto. Smets crashed hard, pulled out in lap nine and subsequently also did not race the Grand Final. Former 125cc World Champion Jamie Dobb had fought his way up to eighth and seventh respectively, in the Open class motos, but ended a disappointing 16th overall. He admitted afterwards that his recently sustained injury had been on his mind and he had not been concentrating. He also said he would work on changing that.

[IMAGE 4]

The Grand Final combined the top 16 125 class riders with the top 20 Open class riders and 4 sponsors’ choices. The 125 riders received the benefit of a head start of five seconds. Nonetheless, Marc de Reuver once again showed off his blistering speed and led the rest of the riders by 12.3 seconds. His teammates were not as lucky, as they were steadily reeled in by Vehvilainen and the Irish Gordon Crockard. Crockard showed that he also had championship material and improved on his eighth overall in the Open Class.

[IMAGE 5]

Marnicq Bervoets bit down and followed in fourth with a seven-second lead over Stefan Everts, followed by Cooper, Ramon, Garcia Vico and Gundersen who was finally able to overcome problems and finish his race. Jeff Dement was 12th behind Stephen Sword and Carl Nunn, and was followed by Pit Beirer and Tom Church. Erik Eggens crashed out in lap seven. Both Dobb and Pichon pulled out of the Grand Final due to injury concerns.

Overall, the round was an exciting look into the near future. It proves that de Reuver is for real, it also shows that Stefan Everts is not nearly done yet. Both Everts and Pichon mentioned each other as being their greatest competition and biggest threat. All international racers interviewed were very happy with the overall outcome and also enjoyed the much-improved weather.

[IMAGE 6]

Hawkstone definitely is a place where you can size the competition up, and identify possible threats in the season ahead. We wish every racer good luck with the upcoming season and we hope to see each and every one back at Hawkstone in 2004.

For more interviews from the race, check out the related links on the right side.

Class Results

125 Class
Pos., Name, Bike, Country, Points:

  1. Marc de Reuver, KTM, NED, 87
  2. Steve Ramon, KTM, BEL, 74
  3. Tom Church, KTM, GBR, 53
  4. Stephen Sword, KTM, GBR, 51
  5. Erik Eggens, KTM, NED, 50
  6. Wayne Smith, KTM, GBR, 45
  7. Jeff Dement, YAM, USA, 33
  8. Ben Saunders, KTM, GBR, 32
  9. Adam Lyons, SUZ, GBR, 26
  10. Marcus Norlen, KTM, SWE, 23

Open Class
Pos., Name, Bike, Country, Points:

  1. Stefan Everts, YAM, BEL, 81
  2. Jussi Vehvilainen, HON, FIN, 77
  3. Gordon Crockard, HON, GBR, 58
  4. Paul Cooper, HON, GBR, 57
  5. Pit Beirer, KTM, GER, 50
  6. Javier Garcia Vico, KTM, ESP, 49
  7. Marnicq Bervoets, YAM, BEL, 44
  8. Carl Nunn, KAW, GBR, 33
  9. Mickael Pichon, SUZ, FRA, 27
  10. Yoshitaka Atsuta, HON, JPN, 25

ch, KTM, GBR, 53

  • Stephen Sword, KTM, GBR, 51
  • Erik Eggens, KTM, NED, 50
  • Wayne Smith, KTM, GBR, 45
  • Jeff Dement, YAM, USA, 33
  • Ben Saunders, KTM, GBR, 32
  • Adam Lyons, SUZ, GBR, 26
  • Marcus Norlen, KTM, SWE, 23
  • Open Class
    Pos., Name, Bike, Country, Points:

    1. Stefan Everts, YAM, BEL, 81
    2. Jussi Vehvilainen, HON, FIN, 77
    3. Gordon Crockard, HON, GBR, 58
    4. Paul Cooper, HON, GBR, 57
    5. Pit Beirer, KTM, GER, 50
    6. Javier Garcia Vico, KTM, ESP, 49
    7. Marnicq Bervoets, YAM, BEL, 44
    8. Carl Nunn, KAW, GBR, 33
    9. Mickael Pichon, SUZ, FRA, 27
    10. Yoshitaka Atsuta, HON, JPN, 25