With several AMCA British Championship titles and an 2017 IMBA European MX1 Championship success already on his roll of honour, Luke Burton (Marsh MX/Geartec Husqvarna) made it a full set by snatching the IMBA European MX2 crown on Sunday in a dramatic final round held at Kleinhau in Germany.
Going into the event, Burton had trailed fellow Brit and series leader Ray Rowson (Geartec KTM) by 27 points whilst Lewis King (LDR TMC Kawasaki) was also in with a shout of glory thus ensuring it would be an exciting but nerve tingling 2018 finale!
Whilst Burton went onto to score 1-1-2 on the day, Rowson who was suffering from a very painful ACL knee ligament injury could only manage two moto’s. Rowson though did remarkably sill go home with the IMBA series bronze as King cruelly picked up punctures in both wheels during the closing stages of moto three! Also on duty in sunny Germany were Jack Gardner who eventually took a great 3rd overall on the day, 2T 125cc Yamaha rider Ricky Roberts and IMBA debutants Macauley Edgerton and Aaron Collins.
Right from the off on Sunday, Luke Burton was in a very determined and totally focussed mood, starting the day with the fastest qualifying time. For IMBA MX2 defending Champion Rowson though who had delayed planned surgery on his injured knee in an attempt to retain his title there was to be an unwanted early scare. During timed practice, Ray suffered a big off although he did quickly regain his composure to still record a lap time which earned him the fifth gate pick, one place behind his relative Lewis King.
So with formalities completed it was now time for the all-important race action to start as Burton right on the gas pulled out a perfect moto one holeshot. Quickly though he had Rowson on his tail and the title rivals were locking horns in the battle for glory. Going into Sunday’s event, there was high hopes that just like the very successful AMCA Team Great Britain MX1 lads, the MX2 team would and certainly could follow suit and brag the eventual final IMBA top three series positions. The only rider who was realistically positioned to stop more GB dominance in MX2 was Belgian Glenn Bielen but importantly in the early stages King appeared to have the better of the fast Yamaha rider. Unfortunately though, King suffering from the dreaded arm-pump on a dry, hard-pack and stony surface eventually dropped down to 6th as medal rival Bielen got up to 3rd. Rowson was also to be overhauled by Bielen and had to settle for 4th as Burton scored a very important win, nearly 8 seconds clear of home favourite Lukas Platt. In this opener, Gardner started with an 8th following a tough race-long battle with German Julian Hagemeier and Italian Christian Bisogni. Brit IMBA debutants Edgerton and Collins started with 18th and 29th places respectively as Roberts got the tiny 2T Yamaha home for 22nd.
Going into moto two, Rowson’s lead in the IMBA MX2 standings was down to just 12 points and Burton was on a mission! When the gate dropped though for that second clash, it was Rowson displaying true grit who led the charge with Burton and King for close company. After just one lap of this clash it was all change as Burton had already hit the front with both Platt and Bielen moving up to thus push Brits Rowson and King back down the leaderboard. As Bielen then came through to challenge Burton at the front in a classic encounter, lap eight was to produce the ultimately decisive moment in the race for the 2018 IMBA title. In a high speed incident, Rowson went off the track and although somehow remaining on-board his machine the Shropshire ace lost vital ground and so decide to retire. Up at the top of the battle, Bielen briefly passed Burton before the British pilot came storming back to take the win with two laps remaining. King gave it his all to get home in 5th with Gardner 8th, Collins 15th, Roberts 19th and Edgerton 21st.
With Rowson deciding not to compete in the last clash of the series, he sportingly shook the hand of rival and new Champion Burton, handing over the coveted yellow IMBA leader's shirt in the process. Going into that final clash, Burton the Marsh MX/Geartec Husqvarna ace was sitting now on a total of 581 points with Rowson still 2nd on 546, Bielen in 3rd on 510 and King 506. With the title destination now known, all eyes now focussed on the tussle for the silver and bronze IMBA medals. Right from the off though Bielen ensured that he would be the man bagging that IMBA runner-up position, leading moto three from start to finish as Champion Burton sat in a very safe 2nd with King also looking to have done more than enough to secure the bronze. Proving though just what a cruel sport motocross can be and with just two laps remaining, King then incredibly picked up punctures in both his front and rear tyres, dropping him down to an eventual 18th place finish in the moto, a result that instead meant it would be the injured Rowson who secured 3rd in the IMBA standings.
In this last clash, Gardner enjoying an extremely productive season which as saw him take 3rd in the home AMCA British Championship got home in 4th spot, enough to earn the final podium spot on the day. Collins finished the event with a 13th place finish as Edgerton took 24th and Roberts 25th. So as the unlucky Rowson prepares for knee surgery and King rues those late, deflating tyres we must say many congratulations to the 2018 IMBA and AMCA MX2 Champion Luke Burton, it doesn’t get much better than that!
Mike Wood http://www.offroad-action.co.uk/
The results of the event are below.