When Dale, Styke and Cachia took the MX Nationals down to the wire.
With a meager three points separating the top two racers – Jay Wilson and Luke Clout – in the 2015 MX Nationals MX2 points chase, the quarter-litre class is shaping up to be the closest-run title fight in years.
The last time a handful of points separated the top racers was the drama-filled 2012 season that saw the championship turned on its head over the final four rounds. The last two stops in particular at Moree and Coolum proved to be absolute barnstormers.
Hands down, the first half of the season belonged to Serco Yamaha’s new recruit Luke Styke. Coming into the mid-season break he’d already amassed a comfortable 42-point lead over Honda’s Ford Dale and a 78-point lead over third-placed KTM’s Josh Cachia. The trophy was as good as his.
However, on a chopped-up Horsham track at round seven, Styke suddenly looked a little vulnerable as he scrambled his way to fifth overall. In contrast, Cachia looked to find another gear as he tore his way to the round win, while Dale scampered home in third.
Despite being eager to turn his fortunes around at round eight at Appin, Styke again was forced to watch from behind as Dale and Cachia split the points, Mosig third and Styke fourth. Still, with just two rounds remaining and a 31-point buffer, there was no reason for Styke to panic just yet.
But then, at the penultimate round at Moree, NSW, the Serco Yamaha racer had quite probably the worst day of his entire racing career. Styke was forced to settle for 13th overall after suffering a flat tyre in moto one, stalling out of the gate in moto two, then having a mechanical DNF in the final moto.
In stark contrast, Dale was hauling and went three for three, turning a 31-point deficit into a 21-point advantage going into his home round at Coolum. The title then became his to lose: “I came into the last few rounds just hoping to win races and let the rest fall into place behind me,” Dale reflected. “It’s all gone to plan. I feel for Styke, but that’s racing.”
Despite the final round being held in his backyard and qualifying fastest, Dale was a nervous wreck at Coolum. On the other side of the coin, Styke and Cachia were hungry for vengeance and left absolutely nothing on the table over the three races.
In trademark style, Cachia tore off the gate in the first race and led wire-to-wire while Styke finished second and Dale sixth. The second moto yielded similar results with Dale sixth, but with Styke getting the upper hand on Cachia for the win.
It all came down to the final moto with just 11 points separating the trio; Dale clung onto a slender four-point lead over Styke, with Cachia just seven points in arrears.
The gate dropped and Styke rocketed into the lead with Cachia second, Kade Mosig third and Dale fourth. If positions stayed that way, Styke would win the championship. However, Dale managed to squeeze past Mosig for third, then Cachia cemented Styke’s fate (as well as gifting the title to Dale) by hunting down and passing the Yamaha racer for the win.
In the final wash-up, Dale won the championship by two points over Styke, with Cachia just another four points back – six points separated the top three after 10 rounds of fierce racing.
“I am totally overwhelmed,” Dale said afterward. “I’ve had my fair share of ups and downs but if feels so good to finally claim this title. It has been an incredible journey and I couldn’t have gotten here without the support of such an amazing team.”
Styke was gracious in defeat: “I gave it my all today and did all that I could do,” he said. “Hats off to Ford, he rode really well, but I just have to keep positive and keep training hard. The results will eventually come.”
The following year, 2013, Styke went on to dominate and win the MX2 championship with a round in hand, wrapping up the title at Toowoomba; a feat that might be replicated this weekend by Kirk Gibbs in the MX1 championship.
I terms of the current MX2 battle, every point will count for Wilson and defending champion Clout from this moment to determine who will be crowned the 2015 champion.