The Trail Bike and Enduro Club of Great Britain (TBEC) held the fifth round of their 2023 Enduro Championship at Houghton Conquest, Bedfordshire on Sunday. Once again, the TBEC team stringed together a brilliant 6 mile lap comprising of fast wide-open sections, nadgery corners, steep hills and descents, jumps, mud holes and, typical of all TBEC enduros – dense woodland. Much of the old, original Houghton sandy motocross track was incorporated into the circuit lap, providing some scintillating action for the spectators.
With four consecutive wins out of four already tucked under his belt, defending TBEC champion Toby Bailey made it five in a row, completing a total of 9 laps in each of the morning and afternoon sessions. In near perfect conditions, he scorched his #1 Wright-Racing KTM XC300 to victory in each of the 2 hour hare-and-hound enduro races, capturing the overall win by over seven and a half minutes. The Cheltenham flyer started off the morning enduro in his usual guise, trailing behind fast-starting top Elite riders Paul Field and Dan Smith, and seemingly content to let them blaze the trail. On lap two, however, the reigning champion breezed past both to open up a comfortable lead. Bailey was due for a surprise though, as on lap eight, veteran seven-time past TBEC champion James Berrill, who had craftily started on the next row a minute behind the Cheltonian, caught up and passed him, although Bailey soon passed him back by. The experienced Honda rider was coming off a class win at the recent Welsh 2 day Enduro and had obviously lost none of his speed.
Bailey explained during the lunch interval – “I was just in cruise mode and my Dad was signalling the gap back to Dan and Paul, but he obviously couldn’t notice James charging up. All of a sudden I heard a four stroke coming up behind me! I didn’t look back but then this red flash belted past! Only then did I realise that it was James on a new Honda. I had no idea he was even entered, but it’s nice to have him back because he keeps me on my toes! My dad advised me to pull my finger out for the afternoon enduro so I took his advice and just let it rip!”
Bailey certainly did ‘let it rip’ in the afternoon session, and in doing so set the fastest lap time of the day on the opening lap at 12′.03″, leaving Berrill trailing in his wake some 10 seconds adrift. On lap 2 disaster struck. Trying to stay in touch with the leader, Berrill suffered the most horrendous crash! While traversing a fast 5th gear woodland section, his handlebar clipped a tree and sent him flying off the Honda, leaving the former champ concussed and physically unable to continue. His retirement left Bailey virtually unchallenged for the remainder of the 2 hours, and, when the total times were added up, he had romped home more than seven and a half minutes ahead of second place man #8 Dan Smith.
By this time previous front-runner Paul Field had retired his #25 GasGas, but further back, Ryan Crisp was circulating well on his #170 Fantic, eventually bringing it home to a fine 3rd place overall in the Elite class. Aaron Keeble topped the E1 class on his #49 KTM, with the Peacock brothers Dan and Jamie finishing second and third on their Yamahas. The E2 class was headed by #19 Ryan Brown on his KTM, with Kel Silvain and Sam Levitt finishing second and third. Matt Willis raced his Husky#20 to top of the E3 class, a clear two laps ahead of 2nd and 3rd place Gary Shaw and John Paul Bowering, who each completed 16 laps. The Legends class saw Tommy Batts completing 17 laps on his #22 Yamaha, while the Beta of #180 Darren Brooker brought him a good second place. In third was Graham Coker on his #246 Husqvarna.
King of the Vets this time was Warren Burbage, who managed 17 laps but picked up 5 penalty points for going over time. Consistent Eagan Bruley finished second in class on his #58 KTM, just ahead of the #245 KTM of John Evans. The Under 21 class was a shoot-out between the #308 four stroke KTM of Finlay Woods and the two stroke KTM of #80 Josh Watson, with Woods edging it. Behind them #29 Joe Jefferies and Lewis Callaby #17 were fighting their own battle finishing 3rd and 4th respectively in the U21 class.
The SV class saw #302 Keith Townsend top the group with Jon Foxley keeping his KTM one lap ahead of third man Sean Macdonald, also on a KTM. The Trail class was won by Simon Densham on his #32 KTM while not far behind, and still with 15 laps to her credit, Emily Davey brought her #64 Beta Xtrainer home in front of similarly mounted Richard Martin.
At the end of the day though it was Toby Bailey who tightened his grip of the 2023 TBEC Championship. With five rounds gone and four still to go – who can stop him? Find out in the next eport from the Abbotsley Arena on 6th August. See ya, RA.
Race Report and Pictures by Roger Allen