For the first race of the ‘Big Brands Bash’ weekend, Glenn Irwin started from his first pole position scored in qualifying, with Josh Brookes and Jake Dixon alongside him on the front row of the grid.
However, it was Brookes who took the holeshot ahead of Irwin and Tarran Mackenzie who came through from the second row of the grid to third place.
The next few laps saw a lot of position changes at the front, especially between the top two of Brookes and Irwin, and this helped keep the field together, with a group of about twelve riders all covered by only a couple of seconds.
By half-distance, though, it was clear who the contenders were. Brookes led a breakaway group including Irwin, Mackenzie, Iddon and Haslam with Dixon just off the back.
But it was Brookes who led to the flag. Apart from a few exchanges between himself and Irwin in the first few laps of the race, it was pretty much a lights-to-flag win for the 2015 champion. It was Brookes’ first win of the season, and allowed him back into the top six after a difficult Knockhill round a couple of weeks ago. This race was an important step for Brookes in this season, as he made the step he needed to return to the top step.
The second place of Irwin was both impressive and slightly disappointing. Glenn was in the mix for the whole race and despite Brookes squeezing out a small advantage in the closing stages, the Irishman was able to erase that on the final lap to come back into contention, but he just couldn’t get close enough into Clearways for a final corner move. Either way, Glenn once again proved that he is capable of stepping into the shoes of the absent Shane Byrne, even if the situation is a far-from-ideal one. Whilst he didn’t manage his first victory, he certainly proved himself capable of achieving that very soon, and considering the team he has behind him, it would be unfair to rule him out of title contention at this stage.
Leon Haslam lucked into third place after Tarran Mackenzie crashed on the penultimate lap at Hawthorn’s. Ultimately, such a result for Leon is a good one, on a track he hasn’t tasted victory at since 2006, and fundamentally struggled at since his BSB return in 2016. Critically, he also beat Jake Dixon, so extended both his points lead in the general standing, and his lead on podium points. A performance like this might prove pretty ominous for the rest of the season, and should stand him in good stead for the final round in October, where he has struggled in the past.
Jake Dixon’s fourth place was a disappointing result for him, no doubt about it. It is possible to say that, like Haslam, Jake doesn’t go so well in Brands Hatch, but this weekend he had been stunningly fast, and finally it was a surprise that he did not take the pole position. But his race looked in jeopardy from that start, where he made a poor start and dropped from third on the grid to about seventh place, leaving himself a lot of work to do for the twenty-lap race. Furthermore, the incidents in the front group seemed to happen at the wrong time for him, costing him time and Mackenzie’s crash cost him a point in the podium points to Haslam. Anyway, when Dixon had clear space he was quite fast, which is important because it shows that Snetterton and Knockhill were not flukes for him, in terms of pace, and that he has some consistency this season which hopefully, for him, will last the entirety of the season in 2018.
Fifth place went to Christian Iddon, who seemed to suffer in the opposite way to usual. Normally, Iddon suffers in the beginning, and comes stronger towards the end of the race when the tyre goes away. However, in this race, it was the opposite, as Christian went extremely well at the start, fighting strongly at the very front of the race but towards the end fell away, presumably with rear tyre issues.
Peter Hickman had his best ride of the year in sixth place, ahead of Richard Cooper who similarly has his best performance of 2018 in seventh place. Danny Buchan came home in eighth place, although he looked better than that over the course of the weekend. Ninth place went to Andrew Irwin, who continues to be incredibly impressive on the Be Wiser PBM Ducati – since he cleaned out half the pack in Snetterton race one he has been sublime and the potential for this kid is immense. The top ten was rounded out by Michael Laverty.
Tommy Bridewell’s replacement at Halsall Suzuki, Chrissy Rouse, had a remarkable ride to eleventh place. Was it not for Andy Irwin’s current form, Rouse would be seeing a lot more attention for this result.
Bridewell himself was twelfth over the line on his Moto Rapido Ducati debut, ahead of round one double winner Bradley Ray. The Buildbase Suzuki rider has been struggling recently because he has to use the hard front – which isn’t giving the grip he wants – because the softer compound front tyres are overheating in the atypically warm British summer. In fourteenth was Jason O’Halloran, presumably still suffering with the ankle injury he picked up replacing Leon Camier in the Red Bull Honda Team for the Imola World Superbike round, and Mason Law rounded out the points for WD40 Kawasaki.
Sixteenth place went to Gino Rea, who was ahead of Dean Harrison, Luke Hedger, Fraser Rogers and Shaun Winfield who was the last of the twenty finishers.
The retirements were Sylvain Barrier – who was out on the sighting lap – Dan Linfoot who broke a scaphoid putting him out until Thruxton; Luke Mossey who bashed an elbow up fairly bad; Martin Jessopp, James Ellison who had brake problems early on but re-joined the race a few laps down; Aaron Zanotti and final Taz Mackenzie who crashed out of a potential first BSB podium on the penultimate lap.
Featured Image courtesy of Ducati media