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Images from MXGP UK at Matterley Basin

England Expects: 2017 Motocross of Nations starts to get real

Sep 282017

Twelve years ago it was a case of ‘build it, and they will come’. A vast sunken ‘dip’ in the green English landscape outside the ancient capital city of the country was the site chosen for a racing circuit that could take one of the oldest motorcycle sports into a new era. Matterley ‘Basin’ was born in 2006 for the British Grand Prix and just over three months later a crowd of almost 80,000 people found space across the panoramic space for the Motocross of Nations: the biggest, historic, most celebrated and unique contest in the world.

For the 71st edition of the annual event Matterley is readying the grassy slopes once more for the wonderfully eclectic gathering and the only one-day bike racing team event in the FIM canon. This week thirty-nine countries will bring their three fastest athletes and a slew of patriotic supporters to Winchester to vie for the Chamberlain Cup and to try and dethrone the French who have ruled in the last three incarnations in Latvia, France and Italy.

The premise of each nation’s best competing in three races, amassing six results and all the drama this entails mixed with the carnival-esque celebration of this season-closing behemoth has turned the ‘MXoN’ into a bucket list fixture for many, and especially those interested in any form of two-wheels with an engine.


As the expectation builds Team France will start to feel the weight of the 1, 2, 3 number plates and the almost desperate urge from the likes of the Dutch, Belgians, British, Swiss and Americans to remove the tricolour from the top of the podium. The Gallic gathering will again count on former MXGP World Champion Romain Febvre to lead the line: #461 already a double winner in his county’s colours. Monster Energy Yamaha teammate Jeremy Van Horebeek and brandmate Brent Van Doninck will push Belgium’s interests in conquering the field for the first time since 2013.


“The 2012 British Grand Prix was one of the best days of my life,” he says. “The memories I have are amazing and from the crowd all being behind me. It was one of those days that I will never be able to forget.”


Coming out of injury woe in 2017 Searle was the last of the British trio to be picked for the October 1st spectacle but knows he can do a job for his flag in the MX2 class: similar to his starling performance in Latvia three years ago. “Racing in front of the home crowd is so special: having them all there behind you…you really feel it when the gate drops,” he reveals. “They give you that encouragement and just little bit more that you need in the battle. You want to do it for them just as much as yourself.”


The MXoN is even something that captures attention outside of the MX community. Expect a few MotoGP and road racing stars to be making their way to Winchester. “I like this kind of team race; it’s nice,” said Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider Johann Zarco. “I can see that the [French] riders are very competitive and have many titles. I hope they can keep the place [win]. To maybe do something like this race with the MotoGP? I don't know. It would have to be with a road bike but let’s see because I think these kinds of races are interesting and good for the country.”


The swooping curves and speed of the Matterley layout means the track is regarded as one of the very best in Europe. Motocross and dirt bike fans will already been feeling the oncoming sense of excitement and ‘unknown’ that the Nations carries as well as that celebratory party atmosphere. Brands, manufacturers and industry people will also be turning their efforts and eyes to England for the most important date of them all.


Now, if only that notorious UK climate could behave…