As one of the leading support championships to the British Superbike Championship, the 2016 Dickies British Supersport Championship had so far showcased some of the best riding on the planet and when the series rolled into Snetterton for rounds eight and nine, there had already been four different race winners and ten riders capable of securing the title. With a grid packed full of talent, top teams such as Gearlink Kawasaki, Keith Flint’s CAME BPT Yamaha, WD-40 and Quattro Plant Kawasaki were all fighting to end the season as the number one team, with CAME BPT Yamaha currently the team to beat. Returning to the Supersport class after a few seasons in the BSB was James Westmoreland and “Westy” had adapted well back on a 600cc bike, taking a win on the Brands Hatch Indy circuit in May to lead the way, ahead of Team WD-40’s third generation rider Tarran MacKenzie. For Tarran, he was following in the footsteps of his Father, Neil and Brother, Taylor and searching for wins in the category, since switching from the Superstock 600 championship. Whilst Tarran was hot on the trail of Westmoreland, race winner Andy Reid was watching in the shadows on the Quattro Plant Kawasaki, after taking two victories so far since leaving Keith Flint’s team at the end of 2015. A very hard racer is Reid and he was hungry to develop from a title challenging 2015, which was plagued by Injury from a high-side at Oulton Park. For Reid’s former team, his 2015 team mate had also developed, as Joe Francis has been coming on stronger over previous rounds on the CAME BPT Yamaha and looks set to become a title rival to Westmoreland, as Joe collected his first Supersport win at Brands Hatch. The last team we haven’t mentioned yet is Gearlink Kawasaki and even though their riders haven’t won in 2016 so far, the returning Luke Hedger and the reigning Superstock 600 champion Mason Law have been near the sharp end and have the pace for victories. Hedger has unfortunately in the past suffered with budget or injury, but with a strong team mate in Law, the team look set to be on the podium more times as the season progressed.
With fireworks expected for Snetterton within the grid, the riders had an additional challenge in the form of a very fast and competitive wildcard, as reigning champions Profile Racing and Luke Stapleford returned to the grid for a one off outing. With a gap in the schedule of the World Supersport championship, Stapleford would be returning to the class and one of the venues where he recorded victory, in a run of fourteen that secured his the British Supersport title ahead of Kyle Ryde. With the championship so competitive, it was going to be interesting to see how Stapleford’s pace would match and whether the reigning champion could secure a victory on his return.
A Wildcard Win for Stapleford
With qualifying on Saturday lunchtime taking place in appalling conditions, most riders only completed an average of three laps, which seriously shuffled the grid for the opening race of the Snetterton weekend. When the session got underway, there was a light spit over the Norfolk venue and the early pace setters took advantage, with Tarran Mackenzie clinching pole position on his third lap just before the rain worsen and flooded the circuit. With the time to beat being 2:10.488, the closest too Mackenzie was the Came BPT Yamaha of Joe Francis with a 2:11.946, however it was the front row start of Draper Racing’s Tommy Philip that surprised a lot of people, as he made the most of the rain to secure his debut front row start at Supersport level. A lot of the championship challengers got caught out by the conditions in the second half of the session, as CF Motorsport’s Ben Currie could only make row three, whilst James Westmoreland was on row four and Andy Reid down in 20th position. The one rider who seemed to enjoy the wet circuit was the reigning champion, as Luke Stapleford climbed to the top of row two in fourth once the circuit was mostly under water., making for an exciting race.
The afternoon at Snetterton was certainly a lot better than the morning and when race one was about to get underway, the circuit had completely dried out. With Mackenzie on pole position it was no surprise that the WD-40 Kawasaki got the holeshot and when the field reached Montreal hairpin, the first firework had exploded. Being within the pack can always be dangerous into a tight turn and unfortunately the championship leader bit the bullet, as brake failure caused James Westmoreland to run on into the grass and hit the deck, scoring a DNF and no points, opening the door for the championship standings to close right up. With “Westy” being the first to drop it, Gearlink Kawasaki’s Luke Hedger, Ryan Dixon and Matt Paulo also got caught up in incidents, deploying the Nissan GT-R Safety car at the end of lap one.
With Mackenzie holding the race lead ahead of Benjamin Currie, Luke Stapleford was ready to pounce; pulling the pin on the restart and moving into the race lead after a well-executed overtake on both Currie and Mackenzie. Showing why he was the 2015 Supersport champion, Stapleford broke clear of Mackenzie, setting the fastest lap and securing a brilliant victory on his return to a British paddock, taking the flag by 3.832 seconds.
As Tarran Mackenzie secured a well-deserved second to close the gap on Westmoreland in the title race, the final podium position was up for grabs in the final stages, as David Allingham and Luke Jones worked together to reel in Australian. With the three running as a train on the final lap, Jones went for a move on the run into Agostini, but the momentum carried Jones into the rear wheel of Currie and sent the pair flying into the grass. With both dusting themselves down, this allowed Allingham a free ride to third and his first Supersport podium for the EHA Yamaha squad.
Completing the top five for the opening race of the weekend was FAB Racing’s Bradley Ray in fourth, ahead of the younger of the Irwin brothers, Andrew in fifth, for the Appleyard Macadam Yamaha squad. Behind them in sixth was Championship protagonist Andy Reid, who had a strong ride from 20th on the grid to bag useful championship points and draw closer to James Westmoreland. Ross Twyman for EHA Yamaha was seventh ahead of Lee Johnstone, whilst front row starter Joe Francis was ninth, after struggling early on with the Came BPT Yamaha. Completing the top ten was the Gearlink Kawasaki of Mason Law.
Dickies British Supersport, Snetterton – Round 8 – Top Five:
- Luke Stapleford (No.1 – Profile Racing) = 9 Laps = 18:08.107
- Tarran Mackenzie (No.40 – Team WD.40) = +3.832s
- David Allingham (No. 95 – EHA Racing) = +7.648s
- Bradley Ray (No.28 – FAB Racing) = +9.671s
- Andrew Irwin (No.8 – Team Appleyard Macadam) = +10.575s
Stapleford denied Second Win by Mackenzie.
For the second and final race of the weekend on Sunday afternoon, Tarran Mackenzie repeated his start from Saturday to take another holeshot, ahead of race one winner Luke Stapleford who followed the Kawasaki in second. As Stapleford hounded the rear of Mackenzie at every opportunity, Tarran gave in on lap two and settled for second, however it wasn’t long before the green and yellow WD-40 Kawasaki was back in front. With Stapleford breaking the tow out front, the Triumph rider made a surprise error entering Montreal hairpin as he put the bike into a false neutral and shot onto the grass. As Stapleford luckily held onto the Triumph re-joining eighth, Mackenzie regained the lead ahead of a charging Andy Reid.
As the front two broke clear from the rest of the field, Reid pilled on the pressure, securing the lead when Mackenzie opened the door at the Montreal hairpin by running wide. Determined to challenge for his second win of the season and close on James Westmoreland in the standings, who was just inside the top ten at this stage, Mackenzie fought back laps later to lead into Nelson and Brundle. The two looked set to fight all the way to the flag, however on the Senna Straight the Quattro Plant Kawasaki decided it had had enough, blowing its engine and leaving Mackenzie to disappear, or so everyone thought.
With Bradley Ray now in second place on the FAB Racing Yamaha, a charging Luke Stapleford had recovered well and now found himself on the coattails of Ray. A nice clean pass pushed Stapleford into second and the speed of the Triumph closed him right up on Mackenzie. Unfortunately for the reigning Supersport champion, the lap ran out on him and Mackenzie took the victory by 0.217 seconds. With Bradley Ray securing his first podium for FAB Racing, Mason Law continued to show his pace on the Gearlink Kawasaki with fourth, just ahead of Luke Jones by 0.444 seconds. Completing the top five for Jones made up on his disaster from race one, as he finished over five seconds ahead of David Allingham. Taking seventh place from sixteenth on the grid was James Westmoreland, who had capped off a disappointing weekend for the Came BPT Yamaha rider. With his championship lead slashed to just six points and Tarran Mackenzie now hot on his heels, the second half of the season starting at Thruxton on 22-24th July was definably going to be exciting and not to be missed.
Dickies British Supersport, Snetterton – Round 8 – Top Five:
- Tarran Mackenzie (No.40 – Team WD.40) = 15 Laps = 28:16.042
- Luke Stapleford (No.1 – Profile Racing) = +0.217s
- Bradley Ray (No.28 – FAB Racing) = +2.831s
- Mason Law (No.20 – Gearlink Kawasaki) = +6.238s
- Luke Jones (No.82 – Triumph) = +6.682s
More photos from the British Supersport at Snetterton can be found here.
To keep up to date with the British Supersport championship, please visit http://www.britishsuperbike.com/
Written and Produced by Chris Collier and Cheryl Closs