Leon Haslam (JG-Speedfit Kawasaki) made it two wins in a row this weekend, as Bradley Ray (Buildbase Suzuki) secured his place in this year’s championship Showdown.
Following a small delay after a red flag in the Superstock1000 class, the middle instalment of the Silverstone triple-header began at 1.40pm.
It was the young Suzuki rider who seized the initiative. Hooking up the engine revs and killing the wheelspin as the clutch was released, he made the holeshot at Copse and for a time threatened to pull clear of the field. After crashing out of yesterday’s race, Ray promised to make amends today. Indeed, for 20 of the 30 laps, the 21-year old made good on that vow holding a solid position inside the top three.
Behind him, battle raged in almost identical fashion to yesterday. Jake Dixon (RAF Regular and Reserves Kawasaki), Haslam and Tarran MacKenzie (McAms-Yamaha) formed the main chasing pack to Ray. The quartet steadily distancing themselves from the rest of the competition. Having scored his first podium finish during Saturday’s race, the young MacKenzie was intent on tasting the winner’s champagne this afternoon. Once he’d established his rhythm on the bike, the Yamaha rider forced his way past the Suzuki on the tight switchback which links Becketts and the Wellington Straight. Despite regular attempts from his rivals at taking the lead from him, MacKenzie stood firm. At times, it is hard to believe this is his rookie year in the British Superbike championship. Composed under pressure, and able to lead from the front and absorb pressure – it is easy to see why he completely dominated the Supersport class back in 2016.
However it was not to last. On lap 13 Ray and Haslam finally found a way by at Copse. Just a few moments later Haslam attempted to force Ray out wide at Luffield, but mistimed his braking and the pair made heavy contact at the apex. Amazingly, neither rider hit the tarmac, though Ray was forced onto the grass. By the time he rejoined, he was swamped amongst the midfield runners.
Haslam, for his error, was ordered by race control to yield his track position to the rider behind. There then followed a brief period of chaos in the pitlane, as both race control and the JG-Speedfit Kawasaki team frantically tried to inform him of this – yet neither was able to get their message across. Unlike MotoGP, the superbikes do not have a dashboard message system. The confusion was understandable as there was no way Haslam (or any rider for that matter) could have seen the penalty board at its position on the pit wall, from where he was as he thundered through Woodcote. A solution was eventually found by hanging another penalty board at Brooklands corner.
Once the positions had been ceded, Haslam immediately fought back for the lead. Dixon and MacKenzie had been joined at the front by Josh Brookes (McAms-Yamaha). Such was the commitment of the pocket-rocket, none of the named three could offer any resistance when Haslam roared back through. Unfortunately, neither Dixon or MacKenzie made it to the chequered flag as on the final lap, both riders lost the front end of their machines becoming the latest riders to fall on the drop into Brooklands. Both riders will be extremely keen to make amends in the final race of the weekend, later this afternoon.
Brookes and Glenn Irwin (BeWiser Ducati) rounded out the podium places. It was a solid (if quiet) race for the Ulsterman, but its precious podium credits secured for the Showdown opener next week at Oulton Park. Behind them in P4 and P5 came Jason O’Halloran (Honda Racing BSB) and Christian Iddon (Tyco-BMW) respectively. The latter keeping his hopes of a place in the championship showdown alive, whilst competing with a broken collarbone. If there was a ‘Man of Steel’ award for this series, Iddon would be the hands-down winner.
Despite Ray only just finishing in the points (P14), it was enough to secure his place in the showdown. This means there is just one place left on the table, and any of Iddon, O’Halloran, Danny Buchan (FS-3 Kawasaki) and Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW) can still qualify. Two races down, one to go – the would be showdown contenders will race off in ‘The Decider’.