Atrocious weather conditions greeted the riders as the ‘showdown’ officially got under way in earnest at Oulton Park this afternoon.
There was drama just before the lights went out, with Glenn Irwin (BeWiser Ducati) being forced to start the race from the back of the grid, after developing a problem on the grid following the warm up lap. A disastrous start to his showdown campaign.
The subsequent delay meant that the race was reduced in distance from 18 to 16 laps. Riders were additionally allowed two further warm up laps to assess the track conditions.
When the race finally got underway it was Tommy Bridewell (Moto-Rapido Ducati) who made the holeshot from polesitter Jake Dixon (RAF Regular and Reserve Kawasaki). The pair visibly much more comfortable with the conditions, pulled away from the rest of the field. For the first half of the race it was Bridewell who led the way. The 30-year old has looked a very assured presence on board the Panigale-R since joining the team mid-season, and today was the only Ducati rider to look even remotely in control on track.
However it was Dixon who ultimately took the spoils in the rain, calmly sliding his ZX-10R machine underneath the Ducati on the inside of Old Hall corner. From then on, he worked to build a manageable gap to his rival, and controlled the rest of the race. Job done, race win secured and crucially it closes the gap to the top in the showdown standings.
Behind, the battle for the final podium place was frantic. Jason O’Halloran (Honda Racing BSB) was joined in the closing laps by Leon Haslam (JG Speedfit Kawasaki). It was an incredible ride by the championship leader just to make it so far up the field, after a disastrous qualifying session on Saturday saw him start the race in P23. Even on a sodden track, the difference in speed between the two motorcycles ws clear. Haslam could afford to sit behind the Australian, and pick his spot to snatch third place.
It was a classy performance from the ‘pocket rocket’, carving his way through the pack which, in a series as competitive as British Superbikes, is no small feat. As damage limitation rides go, this result is about as good as it gets.
O’Halloran was eventually forced to settle for a sixth place finish, after being passed by a duo of Ulstermen – Andrew Irwin (BeWiser Ducati) and Michael Laverty (Tyco BMW) respectively. In the final laps, it looked as though tyre wear was the reason behind the sudden decline in the pace of the Honda rider. Irwin meanwhile muscled his Panigale machine into fourth place – literally clinging on for dear life in places as the Ducati regularly attempted to launch its rider into orbit.
Coming home just behind them was Tarran MacKenzie on his McAms Yamaha. No doubt buoyed by a brilliant showing last time out at Silverstone, the youngster kept the pace of those around him, and brought the bike home in a very solid seventh place. However it was championship disaster for his teammate Josh Brookes, who crashed out of the race. Although he will be fine to ride again later today, his title ambitions are now firmly backed up against the proverbial wall.
Bradley Ray (Buildbase Suzuki) was forced into making perhaps the save of the season, on lap 13. On the run down to the famous Lodge corner, the 21-year old was forced to abort his braking as the back end of the bike violently stepped out from underneath him. Fortunately, despite running into the gravel run-off, he was able to rejoin the circuit and score a few points for the showdown.
Showdown Standings (after Race 1)
Leon Haslam – 584
Jake Dixon – 548
Bradley Ray – 524
Glenn Irwin – 520
Josh Brookes – 519
Peter Hickman – 512