Buildbase Honda’s Jake Nicholls got his 2018 Maxxis ACU British Motocross Championship campaign off to a storming start with a fighting third overall in MX1 at a rough and rutted Culham Moto Park on Sunday.
In MX2 new Kiwi signing Josiah Natzke showed incredible fortitude to bounce back from his huge crash at the European 250cc opener in Spain last weekend to run near the front in both motos and end the day a solid seventh.
And there was further positive news for team boss Dave Thorpe with Josh Gilbert – who races for his satellite Honda Adventure Centre team – taking a pair of runner-up finishes in MX2 for a career-best second overall.
Starting the day with third in qualification, just half-a-second off pole, Jake gated inside the top 10 in the opening 25-minute plus two lap moto and then strung together a series of passes to carve his way up to second despite an ongoing mechanical problem.
In race two a small mistake while pushing for second place which would have given him the overall victory dropped him down the order but he fought back for fourth at the flag.
“It’s been a pretty good day all round but a tough one,” said Jake. “We had a problem with the clutch in the first race – a rock got jammed underneath the arm so it was slipping after 10 minutes because it was under pressure without me even using it and it burned out.
“To be honest I was riding around just to get a finish because I was thinking the bike was going to break and then I ended up catching the two riders in front which was a surprise as I was just nursing it home.
“Race two was going all right and then I made a bad choice of lines, got cross-rutted and tipped over which I think cost me the win. My fitness is good and I think because I like my bike and I’m enjoying riding it I’m not using half the energy. I’m much more relaxed. I know I can win this!”
Josiah was still feeling the effects of a huge crash seven days earlier and after starting his opening race near the front suffered arm-pump which caused him to slip down the order to 10th. The 19-year-old then holeshot moto two and led for three laps before, clearly in considerable discomfort, fading back to fifth.
“In the first moto I got bad arm-pump and that really messed me up – I got a good start so that was disappointing – but in the second moto I holeshot,” he said. “My back was very uncomfortable but I did what I could to score as many points as possible.
“It’s a long season so I just did what I could with what I had. I haven’t ridden all week and I’ve been pretty stiff – it sort of settled down but now that I’ve pushed it a bit I’m quite sore.”
Josh led the first race and then settled into a solid second which he held to the flag and the 20-year-old proved this was no fluke with another runner-up finish second time out.
“That’s a career-best by miles,” said Josh. “I’ve had a good off-season and I’m feeling strong but to come out and have two seconds has surprised me. I need to keep this consistency going for the rest of the season.”
Dave, a three-time world 500cc champion, was delighted with the way all three riders performed.
“It’s been a really good day for Jake,” he said. “He’ll be disappointed that he didn’t win but that’s racing and a small mistake in the second moto cost him dearly. I’m also really pleased for Josiah – after last week for him to come back and go 10-5 was brilliant – and Josh was just amazing today.”
//Gilbert caption//Josh Gilbert scored a career-best second overall in MX2 for the Honda Adventure Centre satellite team Picture: Nuno Laranjeira