2019 Hawkstone Park Cross-Country Race Report

Nathan Watson wins in his home country.

Nathan Watson claimed a popular win in front of a hometown crowd at Hawkstone Park.
Nathan Watson claimed a popular win in front of a hometown crowd at Hawkstone Park.Courtesy of Future7Media

Nathan Watson took a popular win at round 6 of the World Enduro Super Series (WESS) in front of a partisan crowd at the Hawkstone Park Cross-Country in the UK, his home country. The Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider delivered a solid performance on the demanding Shropshire circuit, finishing ahead of fellow KTM teammates Manuel Lettenbichler and Jonny Walker to take the victory.

GasGas’ Alex Snow claimed the holeshot as riders blasted off the Hawkstone Park start line. Jonny Walker and the rest of the pack followed Snow into the opening leg of the race.
GasGas’ Alex Snow claimed the holeshot as riders blasted off the Hawkstone Park start line. Jonny Walker and the rest of the pack followed Snow into the opening leg of the race.Courtesy of Future7Media

After Saturday’s qualifying session wrapped up under gorgeous weather, the Original Fast Eddy Cross-Country race took place with scattered showers dominating the conditions on Sunday. GasGas’ Alex Snow kicked things off by grabbing the holeshot to start Sunday’s race, while Walker followed not far behind in second. Meanwhile, Watson and 2018 race winner Josep García (KTM) got off to slow starts. After a couple of quick moves, Watson had quickly moved his way up into mid-pack, while García was left mired further back.

Happy with his third place finish, which elevates him to fourth in the WESS provisional standings, Jonny Walker now looks ahead to round 7.
Happy with his third place finish, which elevates him to fourth in the WESS provisional standings, Jonny Walker now looks ahead to round 7.Courtesy of Future7Media

After one lap, Walker held the lead, while Watson had moved spectacularly up into second. Lettenbichler, Taddy Blazusiak (KTM), and Snow rounded out the top five. García was still a ways behind the leaders but was closing in on the top 10. On lap 2, Watson moved into the lead and by the mid-race fuel stop had extended his lead to one minute over Lettenbichler, with Walker not far behind in third. Keeping his head down, Watson managed a solid and consistent race to hold his lead until the finish.

“I felt a lot of pressure coming into this weekend because it seems everyone expected me to win,” Watson said. “Obviously, I got second here last year, so I was extra motivated this weekend. Winning the Sprint Enduro gave me some confidence for today, but then I got a bad start and was near last. I made some aggressive passes early on to fight my way back up to the front. Once I got into the lead, I felt so comfortable and was able to control the pace. I’m feeling pretty confident now going into BR2 Enduro Solsona.”

Manuel Lettenbichler extended his lead in the provisional World Enduro Super Series standings with his runner-up finish at Hawkstone and now holds a 500-point advantage with two rounds remaining on the schedule.
Manuel Lettenbichler extended his lead in the provisional World Enduro Super Series standings with his runner-up finish at Hawkstone and now holds a 500-point advantage with two rounds remaining on the schedule.Courtesy of Future7Media

Lettenbichler specializes in the more extreme, hard enduro-type races, but was able to finish in the runner-up spot on the faster-paced Hawkstone course.

“I came into this round with no expectations at all, but the plan was to collect as many points as possible for the overall standings,” Lettenbichler explained. “I thought if I could do a little better than last year and get inside the top five, it would be amazing because there are so many fast guys out there. I got a really good start and managed to find a good rhythm, so the whole race went really well. I surprised myself a little. Although my result here gives me quite a confidence boost going into the next round, it’s going to be really different racing in Spain. I’ll give it my best as always and if we can get a good result, it will be a boost heading to GetzenRodeo.”

Jonny Walker, another rider who specializes in extreme racing, rounded out the podium.

“It’s been great to finish on the podium at home,” Walker said. “The race went great from the off. I started perfectly and got into the lead pretty early on the opening lap. It made a difference to have a clear track on lap 1 and it helped me find the flow easier. After that I just settled into things and rode smart in the traffic. This result feels like it’s been a long time coming. I’m looking forward to BR2 Enduro Solsona now. We’ve got a two-week break to rest a little, then hopefully come back strong in Spain and challenge for the podium again.”

Taddy Blazusiak put on a strong surge, which moved the KTM rider into fifth. Unfortunately, severely blistered hands put a stop to his charge and Blazusiak had to settle for fourth.
Taddy Blazusiak put on a strong surge, which moved the KTM rider into fifth. Unfortunately, severely blistered hands put a stop to his charge and Blazusiak had to settle for fourth.Courtesy of Future7Media

Blazusiak came on strong in the closing stages of the race to claim fourth.

“I really enjoyed the race today,” Blazusiak said. “I’m a little disappointed not to have finished on the podium again, but all in all the race went well. I tried to settle into things early on and my speed was good. Manni [Lettenbichler] got past me, but then I could see I was closing in on Jonny for third. I got within about 10 seconds, but then made a mistake and lost everything I had gained. Toward the end, I still felt strong enough to push again, but after one lap I really started to suffer with the blisters on my hand and decided to settle for fourth. The next round in Spain is like a second home race for me, so I’m going to try and heal my hand over the next two weeks then head to Solsona and give it all I have.”

After getting off to a slow start, Josep García managed to work his way up into fifth at the finish.
After getting off to a slow start, Josep García managed to work his way up into fifth at the finish.Courtesy of Future7Media

García managed a fifth place result after charging through the pack.

“It was a really tough race for me today,” García admitted. “I knew it would be hard coming into today so close after hurting my hand, but yesterday went really well and I felt quite confident. Unfortunately, I had trouble at the start and set off right at the back. It wasn’t too bad, but I knew I would have to push hard to make my way to the front. I made a few mistakes then and ended up crashing a few times, which knocked my confidence. Each time I felt comfortable to push again I ended up making another mistake. I’m not too happy with fifth, but I’m looking forward to the next round in Spain now and hopefully come out of that one on top.”

The World Enduro Super Series continues with round 7 in Spain for the BR2 Enduro Solsona on October 4–6.

2019 Hawkstone Park Overall Results

Position Rider Brand
1 Nathan Watson KTM
2 Manuel Lettenbichler KTM
3 Jonny Walker KTM
4 Taddy Blazusiak KTM
5 Josep García KTM
6 Alex Snow GG
7 Will Hoare KTM
8 Alfredo Gómez HSQ
9 Graham Jarvis HSQ
10 Suff Sela KTM

2019 World Enduro Super Series Point Standings

Position Rider Brand Points
1 Manuel Lettenbichler KTM 4,420
2 Graham Jarvis Husqvarna 3,920
3 Alfredo Gómez Husqvarna 3,654
4 Jonny Walker KTM 3,470
5 Taddy Blazusiak KTM 3,280
6 Josep García KTM 3,165
7 Mario Roman Sherco 3,070
8 Nathan Watson KTM 3,031
9 Billy Bolt Husqvarna 2,725
10 Pol Tarrés Husqvarna 2,270