Crendon FASTRACK Honda 2021 MX British Champions Season Review
Starting the season with the all-new Honda CRF450R and the backing of a brand new sponsor, Dave Thorpe’s team battled through tough times and injuries in 2021 but still ended up lifting the greatest prize in UK motocross – the official ACU British MX1 championship. The team, backed by brand new title sponsor Crendon Fastrack, once again had the services of British champ Tommy Searle and Jake Nicholls returning in the MX1 class, and newcomer Jay Hague joining the team for an MX2 championship assault. The plan was to target the UK’s two highest-level series, the new-look Revo British championship and MX Nationals. Derbyshire-based Searle joined the squad in 2020 just before the pandemic hit. He went on to win the only professional championship to run in the UK, the four-round MX Nationals, as the major ACU series was axed. For Suffolk man Nicholls, who narrowly missed clinching the British title by a handful of points in 2018 after an injury, it was his fourth year with the squad.
Everything was in place for the squad to start the British championship in top form, until disaster hit days before the first gate drop. Nicholls had crashed while testing, but was quickly back on the bike despite shoulder pain. Then an 11th hour visit to a medical specialist ruled him out of the opening round at Culham due to muscle and nerve damage to the shoulder. It eventually turned out to be a broken shoulder.
But there was good news, as a day later the first official race outing for the Crendon Fastrack Honda team ended with a podium place for Searle, who came within a few bike lengths of winning the final race. And Hague consistently ran in the top three in both races, although crashes in both motos saw him drop down the leaderboard.
Searle set the fastest time in qualifying around the tough, hillside circuit on the banks of the river Thames. Although he didn’t quite snatch the holeshot in the opening moto, he came around the first lap in fourth and set his sights on the men in front. He battled past former champ Shaun Simpson but couldn’t quite reel in fast-starting Evgeny Bobryshev and Dylan Walsh so took third.
Second time out Searle was quickly in third, and battled hard with Walsh over runner-up spot. The pair fought long and hard, with Searle eventually making the pass. Searle caught up to leader Bobryshev on the final lap and came tantalisingly close to stealing the win, but it wasn’t to be. Second place gave him second overall on the day.
Searle said: “I feel good. It’s a naughty track – very tricky – but I really enjoyed it. I could have done with better starts but I felt good in both races. “Bobryshev was just flawless all day and I know what we need to do for the next round.”
In the MX2s, Hague was struggling with a chest infection but made a great start in the opening race and was in third until it was red-flagged due to a crash. The re-start saw the gritty northerner get caught in the pack, but he charged through the field until he slipped off. He got back on and battled to ninth. The second race saw Hague get another great start and round the first lap in second. But he crashed heavily down on of the track’s rutted hills and he was lucky to escape serious injury.
It was a great prophesy, as at the very round Searle moved into the lead of the British championship and Hague took a third place in the MX2 class – one of the best rides of his career.
The MX1 opener saw Searle bunched up in the first corner and round the first lap in seventh. He worked hard and took an eventual fifth place as the GP regulars battle for the win.
In race two, Searle was quickly on the tail of leaders Herlings and Watson. He rode with maturity to follow them home third, good enough for third overall on the day and take the lead in the championship.
The MX2 opening race started with Hague being wiped out in a spectacular multi-bike pile up in the circuit’s fearsome bombhole when one rider went down and took several others with him, including the Crendon Fastrack Honda rookie. Hague remounted virtually last and rounded the first lap near the back of the field but put on a terrific charge, finishing 11th.
The second race was a stunner. Hague didn’t have the best reaction as the gate fell, but used the power of his Honda CRF250R to quickly make up ground on the long start straight and exited the first corner third. He pushed hard to take second place but couldn’t quite make the move and ended third.
After the highs of the British championship came a low at the very next race, as Searle launched the defence of his MX Nationals MX1 crown at the sandy Fatcat Motoparc circuit near Doncaster.
Searle had a fever yet tried to race, but the heat and strength-sapping sand were just too much. He retired for the day, essentially turning all the team’s focus onto the higher-profile ACU British series. Then in a double blow for the team, Hague crashed out hard and was hospitalised for checks. He was lucky not to be very seriously injured, but still spent five days in bed.
As a massive testament to their determination, both riders battled against the odds to race in round three of the ACU British motocross championship at Canada Heights in Kent the very next weekend. Both toughed it out in steamy, hot conditions which ended with Searle on the podium and keeping firm hold of the red plate and Hague scoring valuable championship points.
When the gate dropped for the MX1 class, Searle moved straight into second and kept the leader in sight. It seemed like the win was within his grasp until a collision with another rider caused him to go down. He remounted and took fourth. Still feeling drained of energy in the hot second moto, Searle went one better! He finished a determined third to take the final spot on the podium.
Hague took a last-minute decision to race and despite still being in pain with injured ribs which limited his movement on the bike, he gave it his all. In the opening race he gated in the top three and held onto fourth for most of the race, until the pain set in and he dropped to tenth. In the second race he mistimed the start and rounded lap one at the back of the field then put on a charge to pull through to 18th and score some championship points. It was a show of bravery against the odds.
Hague was still far from his best at the next round at Foxhill. He tried to race and despite a poor start and feeling sapped of energy, fought to 15th. A decision was taken to withdraw him from the event to let him recover.
But Searle was back on form and extended his lead in championship with a gritty ride to second overall. With heavy rain the day before the event turning the valley circuit into a tricky track, Searle had a calculated performance, where many of his rivals hit trouble.
In the opener, he quickly got into third place and chased down title rivals Harri Kullas and Dylan Walsh. When Walsh crashed out, Searle inherited second but with the demanding circuit causing him some arm pump, he couldn’t fight for the win.
As the circuit had become even more rutted for the second race, Searle was quickly in contention after overtaking Bobryshev, and then he tried to attack the leading duo. He came within three seconds of the winner, bringing the Honda home third for second overall as he extended his series lead to ten points.
The very next day Searle headed north to Hawkstone Park for the MX Nationals where he challenged for podium places all day, taking fourth then third place finishes. And in the next round of that series, it was a historic one for the Crendon Fastrack Honda team. Nicholls finally made his race return, and all three riders ended up on the podium in the two days of hectic racing.
Searle took two race wins from four starts to clinch the overall in the MX1 class, with Nicholls a stunning second overall. And in the MX2 class, Hague took third overall despite not finishing one race due to a spill that damaged his bike, and going down in another moto in a clash with a slower rider.
The event was a great team-building exercise as the whole squad headed to the next round of the ACU British championship at Blaxhall. It wasn’t the glorious day everyone had hoped for, although Searle did stay at the top of the table despite a tough day in worsening conditions.
Despite not having the best start in the opening moto, he showed real determination and pulled through to a hard-fought third. But in race two, a deluge hit the track which made the conditions treacherous. Searle struggled for vision and decided to not risk the championship for the sake of one moto and brought the CRF450R home sixth place. He ended up just three points off second overall, and left the circuit tied for the series lead with Kullas.
But it was disappointment for Nicholls, despite a promising eighth place in the opener. In race two he was wiped out by another rider who made a mistake and went down hard. He remounted and put on an incredible ride through the pack to but as the rain poured hard, he fell again. His recently-repaired shoulder took some impact, so it was decided the best plan was for him to stop racing and focus on getting ready for 2022.
It was also a difficult day for Hague who had made a decisive overtake and moved up to fifth in the opener when the race was red-flagged so medics could attend to an injured rider. But as the results were taken from the previous lap, he was credited with sixth.
Race two began with a great start but Hague was brought down hard on the opening lap, injuring his leg and stomach. He bravely remounted and tried his best to catch back up but the pain was too great and he had to retire.
A week later Searle and Hague raced to second place finishes on the MX Nationals podium in the penultimate round of the series at a showery Landrake in Cornwall. Searle took a pair of seconds in the MX1 class after coming tantalisingly close to victory both times out. And Hague took his first national-level race win for the team in the opening race then backed it up with a fourth in race two for second overall – just one point off the top step of the podium.
The penultimate round of the ACU British series was slated for Duns in Scotland, so Searle spent a week north of the border testing and making sure the bike was totally dialled in for the circuit. But a tragedy on the day before the race saw one of the top youth riders lose his life in a freak accident. The paddock was in shock, and the event abandoned.
The cloud of this awful day still hung over the final round of the British championship, two weeks later at Landrake in Cornwall where there was a touching tribute from all the riders to their fallen comrade.
It was an emotional day all round, and a crucial one for the series as Searle had the exact same number of points as rival Kullas. The pressure was truly on, and both Searle and Hague had great rides. It was a best-ever finish for Hague who signed off the year with a second overall thanks to fantastic second and fourth places.
But all eyes were on the blue riband MX1 class. Searle knew the opening moto would be crucial and the confident Honda man was in dominant form, taking the lead on the very first lap and pulling away to an emphatic win on what is one of his favourite tracks. It was the perfect time to clinch his first moto victory of the series.
In the second moto Searle once again put his Honda CRF450R in contention near the front of the pack, then rode a controlled race to stay out of trouble and safely bring the Crendon Fastrack machine home third. That gave him and the team the ACU British championship crown, winning by ten points from Kullas. The 32-year-old Searle wheelied across the finish line and was mobbed his team and fans at the end of a thrilling season.
Searle said: “I knew it was going to be a big race as Harri has ridden well all year. But I’d worked really hard for the past four weeks to get ready and was a lot more confident than I’d been all season.
“It started off well as I got first British championship race win this year, then I knew all I had to do to clinch the title was to finish right behind Harri. I was third and knew it was enough to get the job done. I’d like to say a big thanks to the whole Crendon Fastrack Honda team. Everyone has been so great and this is a brilliant end to a great year.”
And perhaps most worryingly for the team’s rivals, the same three riders have once again signed to the squad for next season where they will be armed with the revised Honda CRF450R and all-new CRF250R. Roll on 2022!