Photos & Musings: British Championships

Go Back Go Back

Opening British Championship, Matchams Park, 1989

This has to be one of my favourite photos, purely because it documents one of my best races, beating David Thorpe fair and square!

I hadn't had a fantastic year in 1988 with Kawasaki, and for 1989 I had switched to Honda, with the freedom to arrange all my own sponsors. I had always wanted to do something with Yoko clothing as it was great quality stuff, and the boss Juha Tirinen was just a really nice guy. I also really wanted to wear JT helmets because they were just the coolest things out there. I ended up meeting John Gregory at the Paris supercross and worked something out. So, coming into 1989 I felt good.

The first British Championship round was at Matchams Park in Hampshire, and Matchams, as anyone who has ridden it will know, is one of the toughest tracks there is. It's deep gravelly sand and gets seriously rough. Sand is never really a British rider's speciality and I was no different. I could ride it, but not outstandingly.

So, for a couple of weeks prior to the Matchams championship round I just hid myself away in Belgium, with training partner Dai Smith. We went to the roughest, most horrible track we could find, and rode it every day. This practice track was deep yellow sand, worn out and I'd swear had never been graded. The whoops were so big you could crash and nobody would see you! Dai and I rode this track until we hated it. Then we rode it some more.

When I got to Matchams I just did my own thing. I didn't think I was going particularly fast, but I was smooth.

In the first race I finished a comfortable third behind Thorpe and Nicoll. That was a great way to start the British championship season but better was to come.

I holeshot the second moto and led for 20 minutes, with Kurt Nicoll and Thorpe behind me. Like it always seemed to be when I had a good race, I found myself wondering what was up with the other guys? Why weren't they coming past?

Eventually Kurt found a way through but I held off David easily to the flag claiming a pleasing second place.

The Burnicle photo of me all clean, and David completely filthy kind of says it all!

I didn't do quite so well in the third moto, claiming fifth but still came away in 3rd overall.

David of course went on to win his third 500cc world championship that year so I don't think he lost too much sleep over me beating him in one early season race. However, it meant a lot to me though to have beaten such a great rider fair and square, and on such a tough track too.

Even Dai did well that day, winning the support championship if I remember correctly so the hard work paid off for both of us.

A filthy DT gets filled in during the second moto at Matchams, March 1989 Enlarge image

This was my all-time favourite gear combination. Enlarge image

I wish every race day would have felt as easy as this one! Enlarge image