The 2019 IMBA Ladies European Motocross Championship kicked off at the AMCA Cannock Clubs Lower Drayton track on Sunday 30th June. The Cannock Club did a fantastic job preparing the track to encourage top quality action from the 31 competitiors from across Europe. As always the track became demanding fit for an International championship and hopes were high that Britain could deliver some great results on the back of a strong domestic championship.

As the home nation Britain was allowed to field a strong team of 11 riders all qualifying for their position through the BWMA Westermans International Pro-Ladies Class Championships with reserves drafted in from the BWMA National Championship. Unable to make this round was No.11 Charlotte Hall as she was injured and No.12 Cath King, but the remaining team of Chelsea Gowland, Marni Saunders, Kayleigh Durston, Jaymee Garrood, Bethany Allison, Lily Moreland, Vicky Marriott, Chloe Richards, Georgie Potter, Hannah Jones and Esme King were fired up to put on a great performance.

Some of the girls were competing in their first International event and were clearly nervous but this was going to be an incredible experience racing for their country and the BWMA, however all eyes were on the current British Womens Motocross Champion and current leader Redline Hondas Chelsea Gowland. Gowland proved last year she was quick enough by claiming 3 out of 4 pole positions, but her impatience to prove she can win on the International stage forced her into making too many mistakes costing her the championship and only securing 2 race wins leaving Belgium power house Brenda Wagemans to take the title with an almost faultless season. 

In the domestic championship Gowland is running a perfect season with four pole positions and every race win, could she maintain that composure or would her impatience betray her again? Qualifying and Gowland was running fastest with a 2min 17sec lap a second ahead of Wagemans, then Wagemans put in a 2:16.376 but Gowland banged in her best last lap with a 2:16.224 taking the pole by the slimest of margins. Nothing new there, we know she can qualify. Behind her the team were putting in some strong performances, Kayleigh Durston was running 8th until the last lap but 11th was a brilliant result within a second of 7th, behind young Chloe Richards was 13th with a great time just ahead of Marni Saunders who admits she isn't the best qualifier in 14th. Jaymee Garrood in 16th was a solid time for her, just ahead of 16 year old Bethany Allison in 17th. The two youngest members of the team 15 year olds Hannah Jones and Georgie Potter were 20th and 21st, Lily Moreland 24th and Esme King 26th but were better than that and would improve in the races. Last member of the team Vicky Marriott crashed out of practice cracking her ribs putting her out of the event.

As the girls lined up for race 1 all eyes were on Belgium Wagemans and Britains Gowland but Netherlands Brit Jans-Beken could prove to be the dark horse after her qualifying time less than a second behind Gowland. As the gate dropped it was Wagemans who took the holeshot, Jans-Beken second and Gowland third, Gowland quickly moved into second but how would she play the battle with Wagemans? As it turned out with incredible maturity, she hounded Wagemans letting her know she was there and as Wagemans tried to gap Gowland she just stayed with her, showed her a wheel occasionally but stayed comfortably behind, she did this for three laps until she knew Wagemans didn't have the explosive energy to chase and on lap four Wagemans left the door open and Gowland stepped in immediately gapped her with a four second lead and from then on kept a steady pace and despite running 2 seconds a lap faster was riding within herself to win with a comfortable 16 second margin. If that was a demonstration of control behind them the battle for the top ten positions was more closely fought. Britains Marni Saunders gated well in the top 10 and battled her way up to an incredible sixth place with huge energy and determination to fight her way to the top, next was Kayleigh Durston for Britain who was looking incredibly strong finishing 12th and after struggling to break into the top 20 last year she was battling with the best finishing ahead of young Chloe Richards on her International debut who looked at home in this company with a 13th place. Britains next two International debutants Hannah Jones and Georgie Potter rode solid races, Jones had the speed but she felt the tough track conditions and dropped back to 18th ahead of the Brtiish Convoy of Georgie Potter 19th, Lily Moreland 20th, Jaymee Garrood 21st who recovered from a crash with team mate Bethany Allison 23rd just behind young Esme King 22nd. For many the nerves got to them not allowing them to relax and race their usual race but the experience would help them improve, race 1 under the belt.

British Womens Motocross had just hit a new milestone and another historic event. For the first time in MX history a British Woman would race with the yellow IMBA leaders jersey. An occasion that could phase some riders but Chelsea Gowland took it in her stride with the professionalism of a true champion. If you missed race 1 though race 2 wasn't far off a straight reply. Again Wagemans and Jans-Beken stormed into the lead with Gowland rounding the first corner in 5th but quickly got up to the back wheel of Jans-Beken and passing her a few more corners in, it was Wagemans she was after and again settled in a just rode her tail, this time however the opportunity took a while longer and in the end Gowland grabbed her chance passing a back marker through the gap Wagemans left, it was close and Wagemans wasn't happy giving chase, this time Gowland put in her 4 second gap but controlled the race despite Wagemans not letting her get too far away but the 6 second lead was enough and another Intelligent race won by the Brit. Behind her again the racing was close Saunders was in the thick of it racing hard finishing in another 6th place, Kayleigh Durston was so close to breaking in the top ten but just couldn't improve but happy with another solid 12th place ahead of Chloe Richards again in 13th. Two super performances by the Brit newcomers Georgie Potter and Lily Moreland breaking right into the top 20 with Potter taking 17th and Moreland 19th, Jaymee Garrood who has been strong in the domestic championship all year was really struggling to find her usual smooth rythmn finished in 21st ahead of Hannah Jones who burnt herself out running the first half of the race in the top 10, the speed is there the results will come. Esme King who again has the speed was struggling to find a rythmn on the tough challenging track came home in good 24th following a fall in the early stages of the race but poor Bethany Allison broke a gear lever and took a dnf.

By now the track was getting rough and gnarly, Gowland had two wins and fastest race laps could she maintain her perfect season? As the gate dropped she struggled again to match the speed of the top runners on her standard Honda into the first corner but again she quickly got into second and shadowed Wagemans this time Netherlands Amber Simons was ahead of Jans-Beken and made a race with to 2, Gowland again put a determined move on Wagemans for the lead and again controlled the race enough but Wagemans now had Simons to occupy her who found a new lease of life finishing in third only a few seconds behind. Saunders again put in another brilliant race dropping one position to 7th but after a carrying an injury to two fingers from race one Kayleigh Durston was struggling to hold on finishing in 19th place, disappointing for her after two strong rides but happy that she has improved greatly since last year. Again Chloe Richards was super consistent finishing in 14th place an amazing day for her first International race, behind her Georgie Potter again improved with an superb performance for the 15 year old in 16th place, Bethany Allison was still struggling to find her rythmn all day but salvaged a solid 17th place, Lily Moreland was consistent in 20th behind Durston and another rider who was just struggling to gel but rode a brave race was Jaymee Garrood 21st. The two youngsters Esme King and Hannah Jones were a bit battered both demonstrating they had the speed but the event and the challenging track got the better of them on this day. 

">It was a historic day in many ways for the British girls. The first time a Brit has wore the Yellow Leaders Jersey and the first time a Brit has raced the perfect race taking pole and every fastest race lap to lead an IMBA European Ladies Motocross Championship and maintain her perfect race record. Massive congratulations to Redline Hondas Chelsea Gowland and all the British team for some some brilliant racing.

Words by Howard Marriott  Image by Howard Marriott and Mike Wood

The results of the event are below.