This is an incredible time to be a fan of the sport. The Motocross of Nations is not too far away at this point and consequently the various debates are raging on across the globe. There are some discussions that are fierier than others, as most have now realised, and one of those revolves around the riders who will represent Team Great Britain.
This particular debate is one that typically causes the industry to descend into chaos and this year has been no different. One could argue that things have been even more explosive this time around, as it took a very long time for an announcement to be made and therefore speculation kept getting crazier by the day. It is hilarious that so many people are outraged that Tommy Searle, Ben Watson and Max Anstie were revealed as the three riders who will travel to RedBud. It has always been fairly obvious that those riders would be on the team. Admittedly, there were a handful of sticking points behind the scenes that meant that the formation almost ended up being different. This is the strongest trio on paper from the outside looking in though.
There are a considerable amount of negative comments floating around, too many to read, but it seems as though everyone is fine with Max Anstie and Ben Watson being on the team. Anstie is the best 450F rider in Great Britain and Watson is the greatest 250F rider. Those two thoroughly deserve their spots and should have been locked in back at Matterley Basin. If either rider struggles on the day, which is extremely unlikely, there is still no way that anyone can say that someone else should have been picked in their place. It is that simple and it seems as though most agree. It is quite good that everyone agrees on those points, as things turn ugly when the third rider is mentioned.
The hate comments towards Tommy Searle are not justified in the slightest though! Searle has been inside of the top five in practice sessions at various rounds of the FIM Motocross World Championship, so raw bursts of speed are not a problem, and hovered around the top ten consistently. If that is not enough of a reason to select him, he was fifth overall at the Grand Prix of Asia two months ago. The statistics do not lie at this point. Add in the fact that he has competed at the Motocross of Nations more than any other active British rider and been the highest finisher on the team more often than not. There are so many facts to fall back on to justify why he is on the team.
Outlining those facts was not done in an attempt to state that he should have been picked instead of Shaun Simpson or Jake Nicholls, but it just means that it is not as ludicrous as some seem to believe. There is just no way that anyone can state the Searle is not the right person for the job or be outraged by the pick. The fact that the announcement was delayed for so long actually made this thing a lot worse. Searle had solid rides in Bulgaria, even in qualifying when he ended eighteenth, but struggled in Switzerland for reasons that he openly explained elsewhere. The naysayers have taken that as ammo and then, at the same time, Simpson has really come into his own and started to chuck his hat into the ring.
Had Team Great Britain been announced on Saturday evening at the Grand Prix of Belgium, like some other nations, Shaun Simpson would not have been as much of a factor. The extra time allowed him to record many solid results and remind fans what he is really capable of, which meant that he became a potential pick in the eyes of both informed and naïve fans. It is only right that he had a chance to prove himself and he almost made it onto the squad, according to rumours in the paddock, but it has just made the debate a little more complicated as there is now a third party involved. Remember that he has an army in his corner!
Jake Nicholls has had more support than anyone else over the last six months, even more than he has ever had throughout his career, which is hardly surprising. The way that he has stepped up and dominated the premier class in the Maxxis British Championship justifies that and that alone should be the reason why people want to see him on the team, rather than some of the other factors. No one can argue with his results there. In comparison, making a case that he has experience at RedBud does not hold up quite as well. Tommy Searle and Max Anstie have also ridden and enjoyed success at RedBud, although admittedly that may not be as relevant now as it was almost ten years ago. Great results were acquired though.
When Jake Nicholls posted his statement about not being picked, he mentioned that he felt he had earned his place on the team. There is no doubt that everyone would agree with that. The problem is, however, that both Tommy Searle and Shaun Simpson have also done things this year that mean they have earned a spot. There can only be three riders though. There is no doubt that all of those riders wanted to and believed that they should be on the team, but at the same time they undoubtedly acknowledge the fact that a very strong squad is heading across to the United States. Having so many guys to pick from is a luxury that Team Great Britain have not always had and therefore it should be embraced.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Monster Energy Media/Ray Archer