RD1 - Brands Hatch - MCE Insurance British Superbikes
Teams and riders of the MCE Insurance British Superbikes headed to the Brands Hatch Indy circuit for round 1 of the championship this Easter weekend. With a grid of over 30 riders littered with multiple champions, international stars, experienced old timers, road racers and fresh young talent it was poised to be one of the most exciting starts to a season in years, and it did not disappoint!
Sunday's qualifying session was a complete wash out and many riders struggled with the terrible conditions. Favourite Shane 'Shakey' Byrne voiced his concerns after an off in Q1 but proceedings continued and we were left in un-known territory when the 3 times champ dropped out in Q2 only managing to secure 13th on the grid. Other riders did their best to squeeze the best out of a bad situation, Josh Brookes crashed out in each qualifying session but with the help of his Milwaukee Yamaha team he managed to secure the fastest time and pole position. Making up the rest of the international front row was 3 times champion Ryuichi Kiyonari on the Buildbase BMW and returning American star John Hopkins on the Tyco Suzuki.
Easter Monday was a much better day weather-wise and the sun shone down on Brands Hatch as the riders readied themselves for the opening races of the season. All was well as they lined up on the grid for Race 1. Brookes, Kiyo and Hopkins positioned themselves on the front row ready to do battle. The lights turned green and they were away...apart from Kiyo who stalled his BMW on the line. He quickly thrust his hand into the air and 27 superbike riders dodged past him, luckily they all missed him and he was able to bump the bike back into life and get on with his race. Meanwhile at the front Chris 'the stalker' Walker had a fantastic start and dived into first place from the second row with Josh Brookes on the Milwaukee Yamaha on his tail. A lap later Brookes lost the front end at Druids and went down wasting all his hard work in qualifying, his race was over. By lap 4 Shakey had appeared with the front runners after starting in 13th and it wasn't long before he was past Ellison and Hopper and into 2nd. By this time though the Stalker had created quite a gap and Shakey had some catching up to do. Before he had a chance to though James Hillier's engine blew on his Quattro Plant Kawasaki leaving oil all the way down the start finish straight and the race was red flagged.
Having only completed half the scheduled laps the race was restarted as a 12 lap sprint race. Walker started on pole with Shakey and Ellison in spots 2 and 3. Once again the Stalker was quick off the line and took the initial lead followed by Shakey and Ben Wilson who jumped past Ellison. It wasn't long before Shakey was past Walker and building his usual gap at the front. The rest of the race was a bit of a procession with Shakey leading Walker, Ellison, Wilson, Hopkins, Easton and Bridewell till the end. Ellison tried to pass his experienced teammate but the Stalker was having none of it and claimed his first podium in a number of years.
Shakey blasted away from the middle of the front row in race 2 and took the lead straight off. His teammate Stuart Easton followed with Walker, Ellison, Bridewell and Kiyo chasing. Brookes had to start back in tenth on the grid after his off in race 1 but it didn't take him long to get moving through the pack and soon he was up to 8th. Jakub Smrz aboard the only Ducati on the gird was on the pace and moved up to 7th behind Kiyo only to crash out at druids a few laps later. As the race continued the gap made by Shakey initially was starting to wane as the Ellison, Walker, Easton pack started to gain. There was a lot of tussling in this middle pack then Brookes appeared from nowhere and battled his way past Kiyo for 5th. But the Japanese rider was having none of it and charged back past but ran wide letting Brookes and Easton who had fallen back through once again. Ellison meanwhile was pushing hard in second trying to close on Shakey. Brookes from here was the fastest man on track and you could see the Aussie's determination in his style. It wasn't long before he had caught up to Ellison leaving the others behind. Within a lap or two he was past James who had to ease up due to his front tyre going off. Brookes made a real effort to catch Shakey but the 3 times champion was just too far off to be caught and he took the double race win and the 50 points from the opening weekend.
Club MCE members had a great couple of days at Brands Hatch enjoying all sorts of benefits and experiences including, Official Pit Crew with GBmoto Kawasaki, grid walks, VIP hospitality, Pillion Laps and Safety car laps to name a few. Some lucky Club members got to make use of the MCE Superview, watching the racing from pit lane and the Brands Tower. 'Hang out with a rider' took place inside the FFX Yamaha garage with multiple TT winner Ian Hutchinson, giving club members the chance to ask him about coming back from injury, his TT plans and also how he's feeling being back on the short circuits. A number of Club members also took part in the brand new Inside Track Experience, getting to go behind the scenes at Brands Hatch and see things no one else does! A fantastic weekend had by all!
Next time we head north to the picturesque Oulton Park for round 2 of the championship! Will Shakey dominate again? Or will Brookes emulate Tommy Hill on the Yamaha a few years back? We'll find out on the 5th of May!
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23.04.2014 - MCE Insurance