If you think riding an enduro is hard, then try organising one. The tranquiity of the parc ferme on Friday night in no way illustrates the Herculean effort it took to get the bikes there.
Before the start Clerk of the Course Paul Hearne made the following announcement. "At 16:51 on Thursday we lost the majority of the land we intended to use. This was due to circumstances beyond our control and despite a considerable effort on our behalf. Rather than cancel we have done our best to reach a compromise to give the ACU a Championship final. We can only apologize and ask for your understanding and appreciation of the position we're in. Thank you."
Over the years the events of the previous few days will pass into legend but - against all the odds - for the SEEC team this will be their finest hour.
Saturday morning dawned cold but clear. Thursday's heavy ran ensured that dust would not be an issue. With only 4 rounds in this year's Championship series there were no clear leaders and for most of the classes there was more than one serious contender.
The big news was the return of David Knight after a stomach operation and the good news is that he has lost none of his guts. The Special test was 100 yards from the start and the big man from the Isle of Man devoured it on a KTM500exc. His first test time was 8 seconds faster than Alex Rockwell who set the second fastest time.
Jack Lee's new 450 looked a cracker but sounded like a fire cracker as it's banging echoed through the trees. Fortunately for Jack the problem cleared itself. Jack Rowland was less fortunate with his rattling motor and he was soon headed for the pits of disappointment with the consolation that he already clinched the E1.4 class. With a packed season of British and European events behind them, this was the MPS Racing teams only breakdown in 2012. An enviable record of reliability. MPS's Jamie Lewis appeared to have dropped 2 minutes on the going but this was the result of a time card error in the pits. The boys have been working hard on their joined up writing but they need to concentrate on their numbers.
Paul Edmondson was busy with one of his own events this weekend so he was unable to attend but in a tribute to the ISDE hero Mike Rees has decal-ed his new Enduro News Tip Top Toilets Wayne Mounter KTM in a set of 1988 stickers and he was setting an "almost as Fast as Eddy" pace.
Despite the hastily re-gigged format, everyone soon settled into their rhythm with the exception of series leader Tom Sagar who retired after a recurrence of a fuel problem he had at the ISDE.
At 12 noon a heavy shower passed over and a second heavier shower passed over an hour later. The temperature dropped. From the pits the flat Hampshire landscape seemed to offer few challenges but in the woods there were plenty of difficult obstacles. On the out check a steam crossing began to cut up. The top boys launched themselves over the abyss but for the sportsmen it was a place to "abandon hope all ye who enter here". Aaron Smith was on hand to pull the weary out of the mud after he broke his clutch perch. The ditch soon filled up with marshals passing the time - between pulling out stranded riders - by directing their mates into the deep stuff. Veteran Chris Stanger (right) was left stranded on the far back when his KTM made a bolt for home. According to the results the bike finished 6th but it is unclear whether Chris had caught up with it by then.
Midwest's Alex Rockwell was pushing hard and he came within one second of David Knight's time on test 6 but - despite being surrounded by pools of water - Alex cruelly suffered a sudden and severe shortage of reeds.
The combination of the short laps and the tightened times led to some hold outs at the test so the Clerk of the course made the sensible decision to scrub the last check. David Knight won the overall by 43 seconds from Danny McCanney. Jamie McCanney was 3rd - best E1.2 - and Daryl Bolter was 4th - best E2. There were no E1.4 finishers in the Championship class.
The Humphrey's brothers Gethin and Owain were split by HM moto's Richard Ely at the top of the Experts leader board. Richard was looking like the class winner until he dropped 20 seconds on his 4th test. 16 year old Luke Flack was 4th. Rob Johnson retired when he lost his exhaust.
Brad Freeman was the best Clubman, Aled Price was the runner up and Keelan Hancock was 3rd. All three finished clean on time. The Veterans class went to Richard Hay. Fellow Scot Derek Little was 2nd and Paul Sagar was 3rd. Mark Hillier Rees needed A&E when a stone hit him in the face and injured his eye. All the best Mark for a speedy recovery.
After the 15 minutes of work time the bikes were safely locked away in a fenced parc ferme under the protection of a couple of very capable looking Ghurkas.
Sunday The crystal clear night sky lightened into a cloudless day. The first four riders - minus Tom Sagar - were flagged away at 9.00am. The Indian summer sun and sandy soil of the start area soon created a seaside holiday atmosphere in the pits but out in the woods it was another working day. The course was reversed which came as a relief to anyone whose head was still spinning after Day 1.
David Knight only needed one point to secure the Championship but he still rode to win - for David there is no other plan and the plan seemed to be working when he won the first test from Alex Rockwell by 2 seconds but when Alex took the second test it was a quick return to the drawing board. David came back to take test 3 by setting the fastest time of the day. He looked unstoppable although a stump on the going had other ideas when he drifted wide and clipped it with his rear wheel. The rebound highsided him over the bar but he went on to win and take his 10th overall British Enduro Championship. Alex Rockwell was runner up. Alex rode with the assurance of a man looking to start his own collection of BECs.
Daryl Bolter was on the pace in a comfortable 3rd place until his exhaust snapped on the last test of the day and Danny McCanney slipped passed him. Daryl coaxed the Crescent KTM over the line to post two 4th place finishes for the weekend - an excellent result. McCanney rode two steady days of competition mindful of staying fit and healthy for the upcoming final of the Enduro World Championship this coming weekend in France where he intends to challenge for the runner-up position in the World Junior championship. Nonetheless, McCanney was able to set times close to that of rival, and BEC championship victor, David Knight and take two confident podium finishes for third overall in the championship and second (to Knight) in the E3 class. Jamie McCanney finished 10th. It was good enough to clinch the Ei.2 title but Jamie was also already looking forward to next weekend's EWC final in France.
The Humphrey brothers must have been brought up in a very caring household by the way they share their prizes. On day 2 it was Owain's turn to win the Expert class and Gethin settled for 2nd. MPS Racing's Rob Johnson lit up a new exhaust to finish 3rd. Aaron Smith lashed his clutch reservoir to the bars of his Husaberg with zip ties to start the second day. The Husaberg user's manual recommends 8 zip ties but Aaron went with 6 and he still finished.
Brad Freeman won the Clubman class and Gethin Francombe was the runner up. Aled Price was 3rd.
Richard Hay was the best Veteran ahead of fellow Scot Derek Little. Local hero Neil Bowker was 3rd. Paul Sagar was 4th. After the event he said "It was one of the hardest events I had ridden this year, there was no let up". Danny McCanney agreed " It was like a 5 hour hare and hounds".
Special thanks to Richard and Andrea Snowden for their results service and Andy Greenwood for starting the test and getting splattered with rocks for 2 days.
Gethin Francombe summed up the weekend for me when he wrote "it was weird but it was good". In the face of adversity the SEEC team pulled together and overcame every obstacle thrown in their path with determination and good humour. It was a truly "British" Enduro Championship round. Well done.
Danny McCanney: "This weekend I just wanted to stay safe, get some time on the bike and finish off my British season. It was a shortish course and test and so test times were critical, but at the same time I didn't want to take any risks with so much hanging on the final of the Enduro World Championship this coming weekend.
"I still had a crash on the Sunday morning but recovered to set times within four of five seconds of David so my pace looks good for the EWC.
"I was happy to get third overall for the year as well, the BEC hasn't been my priority this year and having missed a round due to the dates clash with the EWC - and losing two rounds due to weather in the middle of the year - I'm happy to take the number 3 plate into 2013. I'd like to add a big thank you to Steve Plain for this year, we won the Under 23 title and overall top performer at the British Sprint Enduro Championship and now a top three in the BEC, all without one mechanical issue. The Gas Gas EC300 Racing has been excellent as ever."
Steve Plain, Gas Gas UK team manager: "Danny rode a sensible weekend, there was nothing to gain and everything to lose so he rode with his head and took what was available and made sure he's 100% able to do the job at the French GP. It's been a spectacular year with successes in the British Sprints, in the EWC and the ISDE and now the focus is on a big push for a great end to the season next weekend."
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