Local riders go head-to-head at Arenacross

Paul Atkinson ready for All-Ireland AX Cup challenge at SSE Arena.
Paul Atkinson ready for All-Ireland AX Cup challenge at SSE Arena.

It’s only a matter of days now until Crescent Yamaha’s Martin Barr and Unique Fit Out Husqvarna rider Glenn McCormick go head to head at the SSE Arena against the best International riders ever to race in the Belfast event.

For the first time ever in Arenacross 450s will meet the 250s head on.

Annalong rider Lindsay Newell aiming for podium in All-Ireland Cup at Belfast Arenacross.

Annalong rider Lindsay Newell aiming for podium in All-Ireland Cup at Belfast Arenacross.

The top six Pros and Lites - combined scores from each class - will be seeded through to the AX Super Main Final. The winners of the fans favourite Head-to-Head and the winner of the Last Chance Qualifier, will complete the final line-up. Certainly promises to be an exciting two night of action.

Martin Barr returns from testing in the Spanish sunshine while Glenn McCormick has been putting in the miles around Magilligan MotoPark. Both men plus many of the local arenacross competitors will have a days practice at the new indoor E-Trax NI facility just outside Moira, today Tuesday, where a special track will be set up to help familiarise the riders with some of the conditions they can expect come Belfast.

“I sat down with owners Gareth and Kyle a few weeks ago to try and put something together to help to give the home riders a little taste of indoor riding before the event,” explained Martin. “They have done a great job building a set of ‘whoops’ something unique to arenacross and there will also be a mesh start pad to practice on.”

The All-Ireland AX Cup races will see a return to the SSE Arena for the Ulster Shredders/HTM Husqvarna rider Paul Atkinson. The County Antrim man last raced in AX back in 2011 and like everyone else is looking forward to the event.

“When I last raced in Belfast I had only returned to racing after 12 year’s away so I wasn’t maybe in the best of shape to tackle the demands of arenacross,” he said. “This time I am better prepared and although it won’t be easy I feel I can certainly get inside the top six and maybe a podium, if it all goes to plan.”

The 27-year-old is coming off a great end to the 2018 MX1 Irish championship taking a season best result of third overall at Cork.

He said: “Yes that was a great way to end the year and hopefully I can carry that form into the SSE Arena. Like a lot of riders there is not really anywhere to practice arenacross racing at home, so it really is a lucky dip right now. As it gets closer to the first night on Friday I am as ready as I can be and I’m certainly looking forward to getting stuck in. It will be great fun racing in front of the home crowd.”

Joining him in the All-Ireland AX Cup will be Lindsay Newell, from Annalong, Co.Down. The Suitor Auto Fix 450 KTM rider will be returning to the event after a 14-year break. He said: “I raced arenacross back in 2002, 2003 and 2005 with my best finish coming in ‘03’ when I finished fourth overall in the pro class after leading for most of the race. I won in ‘05’ but it was the amateur class on the Sunday where I won four out of the five races.”

The 32-year-old brick layer only returned to racing a couple of seasons ago after recovering from a long illness and regained his best form in the latter part of the 2018 season when he finished third overall in the final Ulster championship meeting at Tinker Hill.

“It was a good to end the season on a high after some big crashes and broken ribs during the year,” said Lindsay. “It’s great that they created this All-Ireland class for Belfast as it means the racing will be competitive without having the pressure of racing against the Pro riders. There will still be plenty of bumping, banging and spills in the races. As for myself I am definitely expecting a podium and anything else will be a bonus. Should be good fun and to race in front of the home crowd will make it all the more special.”