THE 2002 British motocross championship will be fought over eight rounds, starting on March 10 at Canada Heights, near Swanley.
Maxxis Tyres has secured title sponsorship of the series for the next three years. And the Far East tyre manufacturer is looking to back two or three top teams in the series as part of a plan to market the company in the UK.
Don Martin of Maxxis UK importers Bickers, said: " We are pleased to be associated with the championship and view this as a great opportunity to establish Maxxis as a premier brand. "
THQ, title sponsor of the series for the past two years, will remain as a second tier sponsor of the televised series.
Series co-ordinator Phil Armes said: " It’s already confirmed that Sky will screen a one hour highlights programme from each round and there will be repeats on Sky’s Max Power programme, plus Men and Motors on Granada. Channel Five will also feature 15-minute slots on Motorsports Max at 7.30pm on Sunday nights. That’s 125s one week followed by the open class the next so it’s 30 minutes from every round. "
There is a slim possibility of an additional round on July 14 but this clashes with the road race British GP at Donington Park.
Provisional 2002 British MX dates
March 10 Canada Heights, Swanley, Kent; April 21 Cadders Hill, Lyng, Norfolk; June 16 Wakes Colne, Essex; July 27 Porter’s Pit, DesertMartin, Northern Ireland; August 25 Waggadon Farm, Torrington, Devon OR Langrish, Petersfield, Hants; September 8 Culham, Oxon; September 22 Hawkstone Park, Salop; October 6 tbc
ASHKENAZI BACK ON THE DIRT
KIM ASHKENAZI will ditch his fledgling road racing career to race in the world 125cc motocross championship on semi-works KTMs.
The Aussie turned his back on off-road sport last year and came to England hoping to establish himself in road racing but after showing great promise in supersport, riding Nick Morgan’s privateer Kawasaki, he was unable to secure a superbike deal for 2002.
The Aussie has now been signed up by Rob Hooper who is managing a new KTM team backed by workshop equipment specialists Bott.
Ashkenazi said: " I’m through with road racing. I proved myself but I can’t cut a deal for 2002 so that’s it. I’m 27 now and I’ve been offered a fantastic opportunity to race GP motocross. It’s the deal I always wanted but could never pull off while I was in Australia.
" I’m really pleased that I came to the UK to road race. It’s been a great year and I’ve met some great people but it does disappointment me that no one in the sport was prepared to give me a go. I tested the Virgin Yamaha superbike the same day as Chris Walker and I was within a second of his lap time but I’ve got no backing to buy a ride so no one is interested.
" But it doesn’t matter now. I’m totally focussed on motocross again and can’t wait for the season to start. "
Ashkenazi was at Dirt Bike Expo, still hobbling around after breaking his ankle in a German supercross meeting two weeks previously.
Hooper mastermined Jamie Dobb’s 125 British title in 2000 with Suzuki but then quit racing due to lack of support from the UK importer. He’s been in the background this past year but has been developing the new team since August. " I’ve seen Kim race several times now and he’s clearly very talented. He’s got good history and I’m sure he can go well in the GPs. "
Hooper will field a two-man team that includes young British prospect Tom Church, who breaks from his father’s MJ Church Kawasaki team for the first time in his career.
Hooper said: " I’ve a lot of faith in Tom. I believe he’s got the ability to develop further and riding for our team will allow him to see the sport a different perspective. "
KTM has three levels of machinery- full factory, the SX-X limited edition kit bikes for semi-factory teams and production machines for customers. The only official KTM team in the UK is the Albion team (Matt Winstanley and Finn Anti Kallonen) but the Bott team will get what Hooper describes as " very competitive " GP machinery.
KALLONEN STOOPS TO CONQUER
FINN Anti Kallonen is so keen to establish himself in the 125 GPs with British-based Albion KTM that he’s moved to Wigan. But even more impressive is that he’s taken a day job to help pay for his racing – picking up litter!
The 21-year-old finished fourth in last year’s European Championship and will race a semi-works KTM SX125X in both GPs and British championships. His team-mate is teenager Matt Winstanley.
MORRIS IN YAMAHA 250 GP BID
JUSTIN MORRIS has signed to ride for Steve Dixon’s works Yamaha motocross team to spearhead their 2002 250cc world championship effort.
Morris is regarded as one of the fastest riders in GP racing – he set pole twice in last year’s series – but he also has something of a playboy reputation that has left previous team bosses questioning his commitment to the sport.
Dixon said: " I’m well aware of what people say about Justin but we’re offering him a great chance to prove everyone wrong. I think he’s one of the most talented racers in the world and ranks as one of the top four in the British 250 championship. Just in case he does stray from giving 100% to the team, we’ve included a couple of clauses into his contract that will help keep him on the straight and narrow. "
One of the clauses is that any time he pulls out of a race for no good reason, his start money will be paid to his mechanics. The other is a deduction from his salary for missing training or testing.
The team has also signed Portsmouth-based 14-year-old Jason Dougan who will be 15 next year, old enough to race in the British championship. Dougan has focussed his youth racing on the French Elite championship which boasts better tracks than in the UK. He finished second in this year’s series and placed sixth overall in the 80cc world championship at Tallevera, Spain.
The team also retains the services of teenage prospect Billy Mackenzie who doesn’t turn 18 until April. He’s moved from his parents’ house to live in Southampton to be nearer the team workshops.
JORGENSEN TEAMS UP WITH VERTEMATI IN OPEN GPs
BRITISH 125 motocross champion Brian Jorgensen will race a works Vertemati in next year’s 500 world championship.
The 26-year-old Dane, has never raced a full-blown open class four-stroke but has already spent hours track testing the new Italian bike and is looking forward to the challenge of racing against established stars like Stefan Everts and Joel Smets.
He said: " I see this as a positive career move. The 125 class looks likely to be downgraded to European status and the 250 and 500 class are going to be merged into an Open class. I will take a learning year in 500 next year ready for the changes when they come in 2003. "
Jorgensen, who lives in Spain, reckons the new bike will surprise everyone when he gives it a world championship debut.
He said: " The bike is really good. OK, I don’t have any experience in the class but the bike is fast and the handling is so agile it makes it very easy to ride fast. "
CAS HONDA ANNOUNCE THREE-MAN LINE-UP
CAS Honda will field three riders in the 250GP and British championships next year.
Paul Cooper, British championship runner-up in 1999 and 2000, joins the team replacing Gordon Crockard who is now riding for KTM. CAS have retained the services of Jussi Vehvilainen and will look after 23-year-old Yoshitaka Atsuta.
Atsuta is the All Japan Motocross champion, winning 17 of the 18 races he contested. He also rode in three AMA outdoor nationals, doing enough to finish 17th overall in the points. He brings full factory CR250 machinery with him while Cooper and Vehvilainen ride kitted productions bikes as Crockard did last year when he finished third in the 250cc world championship.
The CAS bikes will be looked after by Belgian Gerrit Zwyzen. He previously worked with Stefan Everts and Fred Bolley when they won world titles on CR250s. Another Belgian, Johan Luyten, will continue to do engine development for the team. He started working with CAS when team owner Harry Ainsworth established the team back in 1998.
British based CAS Honda riders will be Dave Campbell in the British Open and Fourstroke championship aboard one of the new CR450Fs and Neil Prince who will concentrate on the 125 class. Campbell previously raced CR500 two-strokes and other four-stroke machines. He tested the CRF and said: " The new bike is fantastic. It’s got the all out power of the CR500 but it’s got loads of bottom end. "
THE Colin Reed-owned RWJ Honda team is going four-stroke. Their two riders, former 250GP man Mark Jones and up-and-coming James Noble will race CR450Fs. One of the team’s backers is Motorex, replacing their long-term oil contract with Silkolene.
MARK HUCKLEBRIDGE, current leader in the UKSX supercross series on a Kawasaki, will race a works VOR four-stroke next year in the British motocross championship and selected world rounds. The VOR/TM importer confirmed that John Pettit will be Hucklebridge’s team-mate on the four-strokes while Adam Lyons and Jordan Rose will race TM two-strokes in the 125 class.
WORKS-BACKED MJ Church Kawasaki has signed American ace Tallon Vohland to ride their factory KX125s in GPs but has still to finalise the reminder of its roster.
THE official UK Team Green Kawasaki has the accent on youth for 2002. British youth motocross champion Bryan Mackenzie (16) has been signed to ride in the adult British championship while last year’s BYMX 125 runner-up Jamie Law will lead the team effort in the premier youth class in 2002. Team Green’s co-ordinator Steve Gutteridge said: " MJ Church will run factory bikes in GPs and British championship while we’re aiming to develop young British talent of the future with Team Green. " The remainder of the squad is: Josh Waterman (65cc), Tommy Searle and Luke Gallagher (small-wheel 85cc) and Robert Hamilton and Charlie Wood (big-wheel 85cc).
KAWASAKI’S newest off-roader is so new it didn’t even make it in time to Dirt Bike Expo. The KLX110 is another aid in Team Green’s youth policy, with the four-stroke single aimed at newcomers. Team Green’s Steve Gutteridge said: " Our KX65 and 85 two-strokes are race bikes but we wanted something a little less daunting to encourage youngsters into the sport. The KLX110 fulfills that need. " The bike has a three-speed automatic gearbox, a throttle restrictor and drum brakes.
WITH Paul Edmondson switching to Husqvarna to race in World Enduro in 2002 after two years riding Kawasakis in US hare scrambles, Team Green has signed Rob Wrayford as their cross country Fast Eddy rider. He will race a KX250. Last season, Wrayford was running third in the series until he broke his wrist.
KTM race team boss Kurt Nicolll still can’t quit racing. He recently finished third in the Shalke Supermoto and now plans to race in the Guidon d’Or at Bercy on January 19 and then in Vienna on February 17.
WORLD 125 champion Jamie Dobb will not race in the remaining two rounds of the UKSX supercross series. Dobb will attend the FIM award ceremonies on December 15 and he’ll also miss the final round at London Docklands Arena on January 12. He’ll be preparing for his 2002 World 250cc championship campaign with a month’s training in California. New team-mate Gordon Crockard will also be Stateside for two weeks training in January.