There were smiles all round in the Rob Hooper Racing camp on Sunday as Tony Craig finished a fantastic fifth overall in the final Michelin MX Nationals round of 2019 at the famous Foxhill venue in Wiltshire.
Pictures by Warren Kee
Craig has been a breath of fresh air for RHR since his introduction to the team with his never say die attitude to racing and life, coupled with his work ethic and desire to learn from every moto, and every situation the sport throws at him.
The track was tricky in practice and qualifying and with most of the riders feeling their way around the circuit times were tight, so seventh in qualifying was a good start to the day for Tony.
Although he had a good launch from the mesh grid in moto one, a clash with another rider on the start straight meant he was down the order as they circulated on the opening lap.
Digging deep Tony pulled in positions as the race progressed and was up to 10th with the sixth place rider in view as they passed the chequered flag.
Some bike amendments to aid the start were made before race two, and they certainly worked as Tony got superb drive to hit the first bend at the front, only to drift wide on the first bend, in turn losing several positions, but he was still at the sharp end of the field.
By lap seven he was up into 5th position, and piling in good laps, starting for a time to close in on those ahead of him. With fifth being his highest ever MX Nationals race finish Tony was determined to keep hold of it, and he had to use every ounce of his track craft to maintain it and fend off the advances of John Meara, with the two passing each other back and forth in a great race which eventually went to TC57.
With the result sheet in, and fifth overall confirmed it was Ice creams all round in the RHR pit area. That points haul elevated Tony to eighth in the final Championship.
A beaming Rob Hooper was over the moon with the day saying “It was a good day from Tony in two very hard races. The first one from a very poor start, he really had to battle to make up just one or two places, which is just the nature of the Foxhill circuit.
“The second race he made an absolutely stunning start, he just couldn’t quite get it stopped to get around the first turn. It looked like at one minute he was going to be in the lead, but he was down in tenth, but he just worked his way through. He rode the whole race with someone always on the back of him. Admittedly he was a little bit out of shape a couple of times, and he had us all at the edge of our seats, but it was a fantastic ride, that’s the only way I can describe it. It was a really really good ride for someone who is so committed and works so hard to get a result, and he fully deserved the fifth in the race and overall on the day. Great stuff.”
Rob’s smile was matched by Tony who said about his day “I wasn’t overly keen on the track in the morning, but we got on with it. It was quite sketchy in practice and qualifying, but I kept my head and didn’t do anything silly and seemed to put in quite a good lap for seventh.
“We made a few changes in the first race to make the start. I was thinking about it all of the way, and I totally messed it up. I worked really hard to make some passes on a hard track. I was happy with how I went to finish tenth, and I caught the guys in front.
“In the last moto I knew I had to get a good start. I was really focussed, and we nailed it, getting to the first bend first, but I drifted wide a bit and kind of messed it up a bit. Again I rode hard all moto, and had a really good race and had a good clean battle with John Meara, which kept me pushing. It was so enjoyable to race like that and to get my first top 5 finish at the MX Nationals. I am mega happy, I made some changes with Rob, and they worked perfectly. I cannot express how happy I am to end the series so strong.”
Tony now has a well-earned weeks holiday with his family in the West Country before he finishes the 2019 season off at Landrake in Cornwall at the final round of the Maxxis British Motocross Championships. Craig should be joined under the RHR awning by Taylor Hammal who will be returning from injury to pick up the mantle in the MX2 class.