Suzuki sensation Ken Roczen laid a marker for the start of the season at Hawkstone on Sunday - the teenage tearaway was the absolute class of the MX2 field, leading from the start and just clearing off into the distance.
The good news is that Shaun Simpson had the pace to do to Roczen what Roczen did to everyone else - the bad news is that the Scottish KTM star suffered a horrendous crash tailing Roczen's Suzuki early in race one, cutting his face and finder badly, and a trip to the hospital brought his day to a sadly premature end, although the cut to his finger appears to be the biggest problem, which hopefully shouldn't be too long mending.
Other British riders also suffered - reigning British MX1 champion Brad Anderson ended his day after a moto one crash, whilst PAR Honda's Ray Rowson crashed in practice and took no further part.
With Roczen disappearing into the distance and Simpson disappearing to hospital, Jake Nichols did his best to uphold British honour, running second in moto one before being engulfed by a rolling brawl involving Joel Roelants, Dennis Verbruggen, Mattis Karro, Ceriel Klein Kromhof and Glen Coldenhoff. Roelants would hold on to second, just ahead of Verbruggen, with Karro fourth and Nichols fifth.
Roczen again led from the start of race two, ahead of Nichols and it looked like the young KTM UK rider was destined for a well-earned second place, but Verbruggen was again charging hard, making a last lap pass to snatch the spot and leave Nichols third. It meant the three were on the overall podium, unbeaten Roczen ahead of Verbruggen and Nichols.
In the MX1 class, Tanel Leok was just as dominating as Roczen in the opener. The Estonian Express launched his Honda out of the gate first and never looked like being headed, clearing off to win by over 40econds.
In his wake, former Hawkstone International winner Mark De Reuver and two-times world champion Steve Ramon engaged in their first battle of the day, with De Reuver making the decisive pass just before the two lap board came out - the pair were stalked by the rapidly-closing Max Nagl, who just ran out of time to get among them.
Nagl led the second race as Leok got mired deep in the back - Ramon was into the lead within a lap, De Reuver moving up to challenge for the lead before crashing out of the race. Ramon and Nagl circulated in close proximity as Leok worked his way towards them but, even as the Estonian made his way into second and looked poised to challenge for the win, a last lap crash dropped him down the order to sixth, leaving Ramon to take the win in peace ahead of Nagl and a distant Clement Desaille.
Last race of the day, as ever at the International, was the super final - the top MX2 riders gated a bare handful of seconds ahead of the top MX1 riders, and again it was Roczen who led them away, the youngster desperate to build a gap before the MX1 boys came bursting through the pack.
It looked like he'd done enough, but once Leok made his way into second, there was no way he was going to settle for it. The gap was something in the region of fifteen seconds, but Leok was taking great chunks out of Roczen's lead with every lap, and he finally caught the youngster and made the pass with a couple of laps to go.
Roczen valiantly fought back into first but Leok was not to be denied, retaking the lead to take a glorious win ahead of Roczen, the pair of them miles in front of Steve Ramon in third.
By Paul Harris