The Brands Hatch GP circuit was the latest venue for the 2018 British Superbikes Championship (BSB) over the weekend of the 21st and 22nd July, with this event being recognised as a celebration of the Yamaha R1. The R1 over the years has become a popular production bike for the road and race track, especially with history of wins/championships in the World Superbikes paddock, BSB with Tommy Hill (2011) and Josh Brookes (2015), Road Racing in terms of the TT and North West and lastly the Endurance series. Celebrating the event on track at Brands was the McAMS Yamaha squad as the No.25 of Josh Brookes and No.95 of Tarran MacKenzie would carry the iconic red and white livery, with pressure on the riders to take the team’s first win of the season. Brookes in the recent rounds found the form from last year since switching from the Anvil Tag Hire team and is now a championship contender with Leon Haslam in his sights. Since April when Bradley Ray and Shane Byrne were the main title contenders, the title race was thrown wide open as Ray began slipping down the order whilst going through a patch of poor form and Byrne unfortunately ended on the side-lines following a horrific crash at the Snetterton test which has left the career of the six times champion in doubt. Victories at Oulton Park and Snetterton propelled the JG Speedfit Kawasaki of Leon Haslam to the top of the standings and coming into a circuit where he lost the 2017 title, Haslam was ready to remove any demons and push towards his first BSB crown, backed up by team mate Luke Mossey. As the championship is missing the presence of Shane Byrne and we wish him well with his recovery, the Paul Bird squad continue to shine as Glenn Irwin takes the team forward in the fight for a showdown position and the overall title. Irwin was joined in the team by younger brother Andrew who stepped up to a superbike from a few years at Supersport level to replace Shane Byrne from Snetterton onwards.
Be Wiser on Pole with a first for an Irwin
Conditions were perfect for the Brands Hatch GP with a packed-out crowd, the atmosphere was going to heat the venue up even more. Track temperature was hotter than normal for qualifying and the tricky conditions were affecting the tyres. Q1 and Q2 showed this with some riders leaving it very late to make it into the next stage of qualifying and some of the big hitters lost out, with Dan Linfoot and James Ellison not making it out of Q1. Into Q2 and more casualties as Bradley Ray could only go fourteenth quickest, Danny Buchan twelfth after a run of good form at previous rounds and Jason O’Halloran tenth whilst recovering from injury. The quickest of the bunch so far had been Jake Dixon and Josh Brookes, with Glenn Irwin snapping at their heels. For Q3 the lap times finally fell below the 1:25 mark with all three challenging for pole and also under attack from Tarran MacKenzie and Leon Haslam. The early part of Q3 saw the five dice for a front row position, but in the end a time of 1:24.628 was enough to see Glenn Irwin take his first ever BSB pole position. Irwin would be joined on the front row by Josh Brookes and Jake Dixon, with the three separated by 0.140 seconds. Towards the end of the sessions time couldn’t be improved as Glenn’s brother and team mate Andrew Irwin slipped off at Paddock Hill Bend at slow speeds. Row two for the opening race would see Tarran MacKenzie after his best ever qualifying session, Leon Haslam fifth and the second JG Speedfit Kawasaki of Luke Mossey sixth. Christian Iddon, Andrew Irwin and Richard Cooper made up the final finishers of Q3 in positions seventh, eighth and ninth.
Brookes opens Account at Celebration of R1
The opening race on Sunday morning would see riders tackling twenty laps in what felt like extremely uncomfortable conditions, but nothing seemed to be fazing Josh Brookes. When the lights went green Brookes got a better start than Irwin to lead into Paddock Hill Bend but the Be Wiser Ducati was hot on the tails of the Yamaha. It became a Yamaha 1-3 in the early stages as Tarran MacKenzie would join Brookes in a podium position, climbing from row two ahead of Jake Dixon and Leon Haslam, who were battling for position with Christian Iddon.
Throughout majority of the race the top would remain unchallenged as Irwin kept Brookes in his sight, meaning any mistake by the Aussie would likely hand Irwin victory, but Brookes held firm to record his first win of the 2018 BSB season. It was behind though that the action heated up with Iddon the most dangerous to MacKenzie’s third spot. The Tyco BMW did make his move but MacKenzie showed character to fight back and then begin to hold off a threat from Leon Haslam. With MacKenzie on for a maiden podium in BSB and join his McAMS team mate in what would be a remarkable result for the team, a mistake on the penultimate lap cost MacKenzie as the rookie hit the deck and crashed out. The mistake handed Leon Haslam the final podium position.
The battle for fourth was constantly between Christian Iddon and Leon Haslam but when Haslam broke clear in what was looking like a fourth-place finish, Jake Dixon had climbed onto the rear of Christian Iddon’s BMW. With only a few laps remaining Dixon charged up the inside of Iddon into Graham Hill Bend, forcing the BMW rider to run wide. Dixon broke clear to a small margin of a second to inherit fourth once MacKenzie crashed. Iddon would end up completing the top five.
The rest of the top ten charged a few times within the race as riders fought to climb up the order after a difficult qualifying session. Peter Hickman would end up just outside the top five after starting eleventh on the Smiths Racing BMW, just ahead of Richard Cooper on the Buildbase Suzuki. Danny Buchan had a decent race to climb from twelfth to finish eighth, ahead of the second Be Wiser Ducati of Andrew Irwin. The other Tyco BMW made it into the top ten as Michael Laverty climbed from thirteenth to challenge Irwin late on.
Positions eleven and twelve raised a few eyebrows in the paddock as rookie Chrissy Rouse on the Movuno Halsall Suzuki defeated their previous rider Tommy Bridewell by 0.173 seconds. At Snetterton in June Bridewell departed the team prior to qualifying and since then replaced Taylor MacKenzie at the MotoRapido Ducati squad. Quite away back from Bridewell at the chequered flag in thirteenth was Bradley Ray, with the Buildbase Suzuki rider only moving up by one place from qualifying after struggling again with front end grip. The result was costing Ray vital championship points against his rivals. Another two riders who had disastrous races to sum up their season so far were the Honda duo of Dan Linfoot and Jason O’Halloran as whilst O’Halloran came home fourteenth behind Ray, Dan Linfoot crashed out of 15th place on lap six, sustaining a broken left scaphoid and ruling himself out of race two. Luke Mossey on the other JG Speedfit was another casualty of the race, crashing out of a top six position into Stirlings on lap nine, in a season where he had been affected by injury.
BSB, Brands Hatch GP – Race 1 top five:
1. Josh Brookes (No.25 – McAMS Yamaha) = 20 Laps = 28:49.695
2. Glenn Irwin (No.2 – Be Wiser Ducati) = +0.227s
3. Leon Haslam (No.91 – JG Speedfit Kawasaki) = +3.114s
4. Jake Dixon (No.27 – RAF Regular & Reserves Kawasaki) = +7.937s
5. Christian Iddon (No.21 – Tyco BMW Motorrad) = +8.830s
Brookes Completes the Double
The second race would see the same front two and in a repeat of race one it was Australian Josh Brookes who broke away into an early lead on the McAMS Yamaha, chased close by Glenn Irwin and Leon Haslam. This race was different to race one in that the front three were spread enough for each rider to seem comfortable, even though a mistake could have easily thrown the race wide open. As temperatures were slightly cooler than race one this made tyre life easier to manage and it was only in the final stages that Brookes had to hold off a charge from Irwin. In what a dominant ride, Josh Brookes recorded his second win of the season and with that his first BSB double since 2015, when he last rode the Milwaukee Yamaha to the BSB title. Haslam rode well to record a crucial podium and take another podium credit towards the showdown.
Outside the podium places positions were changing similar to how race one unfolded and after finishing in the top ten in race one, Richard Cooper was looking like the rider to finish fourth. Cooper did look to challenge Haslam in the early stages but crashed out at Paddock Hill Bend early on; ending what seemed a troubled weekend for the Buildbase Suzuki squad, especially as Bradley Ray could only manage sixteenth. The rider who inherited positions due to others misfortunes was Jake Dixon, as the RAF Reserves Kawasaki rider climbed the order in the early stages, recovering from a disappointing start. Dixon was under pressure from Tarran MacKenzie in the later stages due to loss of front tyre grip but held on for another fourth-place finish. Just outside the top five was Christian Iddon on the Tyco BMW, slightly ahead of Tommy Bridewell, who looked back at his best on the MotoRapido Ducati. Completing the rest of the top ten was Danny Buchan eighth of the FS-3 Kawasaki squad, James Ellison ninth after a difficult race one and lastly Peter Hickman tenth on the Smiths Racing BMW.
BSB, Brands Hatch GP – Race 2 top five:
1. Josh Brookes (No.25 – McAMS Yamaha) = 20 Laps = 28:40.671
2. Glenn Irwin (No.2 – Be Wiser Ducati) = +0.090s
3. Leon Haslam (No.91 – JG Speedfit Kawasaki) = +5.658s
4. Jake Dixon (No.27 – RAF Regular & Reserves Kawasaki) = +6.419s
5. Tarran MacKenzie (No.95 – McAMS Yamaha) = +7.684s
With the dust settled at Brands Hatch the BSB now moved south to Thruxton, on the weekend of the 4th and 5th August. Leon Haslam remained the rider to overhaul with the Kawasaki rider now eighty points ahead of closest challenger Jake Dixon, but more importantly Haslam collected two more podium credits over Dixon and now holds twenty-two more than the RAF Reserves Kawasaki rider. Podiums for Glenn Irwin at Brands Hatch moved the Be Wiser Ducati rider into third spot in the standings, fifteen points ahead of his race rival Josh Brookes. The Australian had been outside the top six Showdown positions coming into Brands Hatch but two victories promoted him ahead of Bradley Ray and Danny Buchan. Disappointing weekends for both meant they were losing ground on the four ahead who continue to challenge for podiums and credits, but currently Buchan’s position of sixth wasn’t under huge threat from Christian Iddon who lies eighth, just behind Shane Byrne, who is a doubt for the rest of the 2018 season.
BSB Top Six Championship standings:
1. Leon Haslam (No.91 – JG Speedfit Kawasaki) = 242 Pts
2. Jake Dixon (No.27 – RAF Regular & Reserves Kawasaki) = 162 Pts
3. Glenn Irwin (No.2 – Be Wiser Ducati) = 145 Pts
4. Josh Brookes (No.25 – McAMS Yamaha) = 130 Pts
5. Bradley Ray (No.28 – Buildbase Suzuki) = 115 Pts
6. Danny Buchan (No.83 – FS-3 Kawasaki) = 111 Pts
For a full photo album from the BSB action at Brands Hatch including support action, please click here.
Written and Produced by Chris Collier and Cheryl Closs.