Only just two weeks have gone by since the opening round at Brands Hatch and the British Superbikes are already into round two. The famous Cheshire circuit of Oulton Park welcomed the BSB over the May Day Bank Holiday for what would be two more cracking races of the 2014 season. With thirty-one competitors taking to theInternational layout in Cheshire over the weekend of the 3rd, 4th and 5th of May, each rider would be looking to use momentum from round one to close in on Championship leader Shane “Shakey” Byrne, who sat on top of the standings after success on his home circuit. With Byrne taking the double in his back yard and securing a maximum of points, the opening round did showcase plenty of championship contenders, split over four manufactures and seven different teams. One of the dominate teams over both races were Lloyds British GBMoto, who with Chris Walker and James Ellison secured podium places on the Kawasaki and nearly secured the opening win of 2014 with Walker. After securing pole position at Brands Hatch, Japanese star Ryuichi Kiyonari looked quick for Buildbase BMW, but a stall in race one means the triple champion was down on “Shakey” but certainly wasn’t out of being a championship contender. One rider who surely can’t be dismissed as a championship challenger after Brands Hatch was Australia’s Josh Brookes. Even with a crash in race one, the second race from row four showed the potential of the Milwaukee Yamaha, as Brookes worked his way up to second, to finish right on the tail of Byrne. Around the Oulton Park circuit, Brookes was one to look for, who could be a favourite to claim at least one win over the bank holiday. In such a competitive field of riders and racing on one of the best circuits in the country, the bank holiday meeting was expected to be “Fast and Furious” and was surely one not to be missed. With the third and fourth races of 2014 set to be completed in Cheshire, the favourites for the 2014 showdown could be set to emerge after this meeting.
Byrne Looking For More Wins After Record Pole
With the sun beaming down at Oulton Park, the DataTag Qualifying session would be very crucial to all the riders, ahead of the two races on the Bank Holiday Monday. With Shane Byrne looking the fastest of the weekend so far, Australian Josh Brookes had been fighting hard to shift the PBM Kawasaki from top spot and give Milwaukee Yamaha their first pole of 2014. With the first two sessions showing the likely results that fans expected, one rider struggling around Oulton Park was the Brands Hatch pole man. Ryuichi Kiyonari on-board the Buildbase BMW was lacking pace and not matching the performance from round one, but luckily for the triple BSB Champion, he found his way into Q3 and a chance of grabbing pole. Kiyo could only make seventh in the final qualifying session ahead of Richard Cooper, who was excelling on-board the Anvil Hire TAG Kawasaki.
Back at the front, the battle for pole was between three previous race winners at Oulton Park, with James Ellison giving Brookes and Byrne a run for their money. With all riders on new sets of rubber and each having clear track, it was Championship leader “Shakey” Byrne who stood out, setting a blistering time of 1:34.557 to smash the all-time fastest lap around Oulton Park. Brookes pushed the Milwaukee Yamaha to its limit but could only take second by 0.327 seconds, slightly ahead of the Kawasaki of James Ellison. Late on in the session, Ellison was able to find the pace to reject the second PBM Kawasaki to the second row, as early on, Stuart Easton had made it two PBM Kawasakis on the front row. Alongside Easton on row two would be another Kawasaki in the form of Dan Linfoot for Quattro Plant, whilst Tommy Bridewell lined up in sixth for Milwaukee Yamaha. For the second Lloyds British GBMoto Racing Kawasaki, completing Q3 in ninth place was an achievement in itself for Chris Walker after a fireball disaster in Free Practice Three. With a massive crash at Hislops Chicane resulting in the Kawasaki bursting into flames, the team worked tremendously hard to get Chris into qualifying and then the experienced rider navigated Oulton Park well to break into the top ten. Starting ninth meant Walker would have a massive opportunity to overturn what could have been a disastrous weekend into something successful. Completing the top ten for the Millsport Ducati team was Jakub Smrz, with Kawasaki riders Keith Farmer (PR Racing) and Jon Kirkham (Tsingtao) just missing out in a competitive qualifying session. One of the biggest surprises was how badly Tyco Suzuki struggled in qualifying, with the experienced John Hopkins on thirteenth fastest and Josh Waters further down the field. At a track where Suzuki have normally gone well, they would be hoping for better luck in the races, especially after in August of 2013, Josh Brookes recorded a win for the team.
MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship, Oulton Park, Qualifying:
1. Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki) = 1:34.557s
2. Josh Brookes (Milwaukee Yamaha) = +0.327s
3. James Ellison (Lloyds British GBMoto Racing Kawasaki) = +0.381s
4. Stuart Easton (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki) = +0.879s
5. Dan Linfoot (Quattro Plant Kawasaki) = +0.939s
6. Tommy Bridewell (Milwaukee Yamaha) = +0.992s
7. Ryuichi Kiyonari (Buildbase BMW) = +1.069s
8. Richard Cooper (Anvil Hire TAG Kawasaki) = +1.074s
9. Chris Walker (Lloyds British GBMoto Racing Kawasaki) = +1.114s
10. Jakub Smrz (Millsport Ducati) = +1.382s
Byrne goes 3 for 3 in 2014 at Oulton Park
A packed bumper crowd awaited for the first thrilling BSB race at Oulton Park on Bank Holiday Monday and as soon as the lights went green, drama exploded into life heading for Cascades. With Shane Byrne getting away well to lead a near collision between Brookes and Ellison, behind a front to rear wheel moment started a domino effect. With one of the Buildbase BMWs losing their balance, RAF Reserves Honda rider Simon Andrews got caught up in the melee, falling to the ground and creating a lot of debris. With the safety car deployed to tidy up the wreckage, Byrne led Brookes and Ellison.
When the race resumed three laps later, Byrne broke clear, whilst Ellison dive bombed Brookes into Old Hall Corner. With Brookes keeping the second Lloyds British GBMoto Racing Kawasaki at bay, he ended up being free to chase Ellison a few corners later. As Walker kept Brookes in sight and looked ready to pounce on the Milwaukee Yamaha, his luck at Hislop got worse, when the Kawasaki crashed out there for the second time during the weekend on lap seven. With Brookes free to chase Ellison, Stuart Easton was promoted into fourth, closely followed by Dan Linfoot and Tommy Bridewell.
The rider who was on the move after the safety car and lapping the Oulton Park track faster than the rest was Ryuichi Kiyonari. Making up for a shocking qualifying session, Kiyo started moving up the order after lap nine, passing Linfoot and Bridewell and looking very strong for a podium. Unfortunately for Kiyo and the team, lap seventeen saw the race end short of the flag, with a technical failure forcing the Japanese rider to park up at the side of the track.
Back at the front of the field, Shane “Shakey” Byrne found his lead decreasing from lap eleven onwards, after a mistake from Ellison at Hislop Chicane promoted Josh Brookes to second and the Australian was hungry for race wins. As the laps ticked down, the gap between Byrne and Brookes decreased massively, but luckily for “Shakey” it looked like he had a big enough gap to secure win number three of 2014. This was evident on the final lap as even with the two separated by 0.526 seconds when the lap began, Brookes couldn’t get close enough to make a lunge without risking second position. The two crossed the line separated by 0.105 seconds ending what had been a very exciting and tactical race. With James Ellison completing the podium in third, the mistake on lap eleven had surely wrecked his chances of challenging for the race win.
After Kiyonari’s retirement a lap before the finish, Tommy Bridewell reeled in Stuart Easton in the closing stages to claim fourth, whilst Dan Linfoot and Richard Cooper secured a strong top ten finish in sixth and seventh on their respective Kawasakis. The rest of the top ten at the chequered flag was completed by the other Buildbase BMW of James Westmoreland in eighth, with Jon Kirkham securing ninth for Tsingtao WK Kawasaki ahead of Jakub Smrz for Millsport Ducati in tenth. After setting the fastest lap in this race, Josh Brookes would line up in pole position for race two, alongside main rival Shane Byrne.
MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship, Oulton Park, race one result:
1. Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki) = 18 Laps = 30:15.190
2. Josh Brookes (Milwaukee Yamaha) = +0.105s
3. James Ellison (Lloyds British GBMoto Racing Kawasaki) = +6.183s
4. Tommy Bridewell (Milwaukee Yamaha) = +8.781s
5. Stuart Easton (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki) = +13.285s
6. Dan Linfoot (Quattro Plant Kawasaki) = +19.139s
7. Richard Cooper (Anvil Hire TAG Kawasaki) = +19.226s
8. James Westmoreland (Buildbase BMW) = +23.030s
9. Jon Kirkham (Tsingtao WK Kawasaki) = +23.878s
10. Jakub Smrz (Millsport Ducati) = +25.509s
Brookes Breaks 2014 Duck with Milwaukee Yamaha
After sitting on pole position for race two, Josh Brookes made the most of his starting position, to lead into turn one ahead of a chasing Shane Byrne and team mates Chris Walker and James Ellison. With roles reversed from race one, Byrne put the Aussie under pressure straight away, with the two closely banging shoulders at the Britten Chicane and briefly swapping positions on the run into Clay Hill. Behind the leading two on the opening laps, Ellison and Walker swapped over third and fourth, before Ellison got the breakaway and started to close on the leading two.
With the Australian under pressure lap after lap, the speed of the pair allowed them to break from Ellison, meaning the race was certainly between the Milwaukee Yamaha and the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki. With Ellison slipping back, another race mistake ended his chances of improving his podium spot, whilst there was a huge battle for fourth. For much of the race it was Walker fighting with Tommy Bridewell and Stuart Easton, with positions swapping regularly. Come the flag, Easton was the one on top, securing fourth place, with Chris Walker unfortunately falling to eighth and Bridewell in fifth. Just behind Tommy Bridewell ended up being James Westmoreland, who climbed up the order battling with the Kawasakis of Linfoot, Walker and Cooper throughout most of the race.
Back at the front, the final few laps saw Byrne and Brookes separated by the smallest margin, with the Kawasaki looking very strong on making a move.Despite several attempts from Byrne around the Oulton Park circuit, Brookes held his nerve and ended the Shane Byrne win record of 2014. The win for Josh Brookes was fantastic for his team Milwaukee Yamaha and after four races; the win was thoroughly deserved, after Brookes had consistently shown the pace of the Yamaha could match the Kawasaki. As Ellison completed the podium for Lloyds British GBMoto Racing Kawasaki, this had boosted his Championship challenge and kept him in sight of Shane Byrne and the BSB Showdown.
In a race which was as competitive as the first, some big names unfortunately were unable to make the finish. The first to hit the deck tragically ended up being Ryuichi Kiyonari, with the Buildbase BMW rider picking up his second DNF of the weekend on lap two and ending what certainly was a shocker for the triple champion. The next one to unfortunately slip out of the race was TT legend Ian Hutchinson on lap six. Entering Lodge corner at high speed on the FFX Yamaha, Hutchy had a huge off, throwing himself and the bike onto the grass, completely ruining the front end. For a rider who has had multiple injuries and been away from racing for a couple of years, it was great to see him walk away uninjured. The highest placed rider to lose out on a strong result in race two, due to a crash, was newcomer Richard Cooper. After running within the top ten and looking likely to overhaul Dan Linfoot and Chris Walker, Cooper crashed out on lap twelve, giving away ninth place and promoting John Hopkins up a place and bringing Jon Kirkham into the top ten.
MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship, Oulton Park, race two result:
1. Josh Brookes (Milwaukee Yamaha) = 18 Laps = 28:50.237
2. Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki) = +0.118s
3. James Ellison (Lloyds British GBMoto Racing Kawasaki) = +4.892s
4. Stuart Easton (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki) = +11.841s
5. Tommy Bridewell (Milwaukee Yamaha) = +14.145s
6. James Westmoreland (Buildbase BMW) = +20.894s
7. Dan Linfoot (Quattro Plant Kawasaki) = +21.606s
8. Chris Walker (Lloyds British GBMoto Racing Kawasaki) = +23.506s
9. John Hopkins (Tyco Suzuki) = +29.872s
10. Jon Kirkham (Tsingtao WK Kawasaki) = +30.862s
With the run of wins for Shane “Shakey” Byrne now broken in 2014 for now, the riders and team have five weeks until battle will resume, with the Norfolk venue of Snetterton hosting two races for Round Number Three. The weekend of the 13th-15th June will see the riders tackle the tight and fast Snetterton circuit, looking to claim those all important points and podium credits for the end of season Showdown. If the form book is anything to go by, Snetterton could see Kawasaki struggle, as in 2013 Shane Byrne recorded the first win for Kawasaki in ten years; whilst Yamaha, Honda and Suzuki have history of securing multiple victories, before or after the reformation of the circuit. It will be interesting to see whether the form guide will repeat itself in Norfolk or whether Shane Byrne could re-write the history books and start a chain of Kawasaki wins. One thing that is for certain, there are plenty of other Kawasaki riders who could start this winning streak, including James Ellison, Chris Walker and Stuart Easton as the likely favourites.
After four races in the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship, the standings going into Snetterton for the top six look as follows, with four Kawasakis battling the two Milwaukee Yamahas.
1. Shane Byrne (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki) = 95
2. Josh Brookes (Milwaukee Yamaha) = 65
3. James Ellison (Lloyds British GBMoto Racing Kawasaki) = 64
4. Stuart Easton (Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki) = 44
5. Tommy Bridewell (Milwaukee Yamaha) = 40
6. Chris Walker (Lloyds British GBMoto Racing Kawasaki) = 39
Written and Produced by Chris Collier and Cheryl Closs.