Ducati rider Jakub Smrz has claimed pole position for the opening MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship race at Thruxton tomorrow (3 August).
In a typically close session around the Hampshire venue’s flat-out curves this afternoon, the Czech rider pipped championship challenger Josh Brookes and in-form Dan Linfoot to top spot.
It’s a first ever pole for both Smrz and the Millsport Ducati Panigale he rides in BSB, and with the top nine riders covered by less than a second, things are set up for two unmissable races tomorrow. Smrz wasn’t the only rider making history at Thruxton though, as it will also be the first ever front row start for Quattro Plant Kawasaki rider Linfoot in the UK’s biggest bike racing championship.
Following a series of heavy rain showers that disrupted proceedings early on today the sun emerged for the afternoon, and following a brace of races from the Eastern Airways British Sidecar Championship and the TriStar R&G Triple Challenge the 28 BSB machines ventured out onto the UK’s fastest circuit for a three-part qualifying showdown.
Brookes’ Yamaha was fastest in the opening gambit before a surprise effort from former MotoGP star John Hopkins saw him top the time sheets in Q2. He couldn’t repeat the performance in the final last-gasp session, however, and a superb time posted with five minutes to go rocketed Smrz to the top.
Brookes fought hard to topple the #96 Ducati machine, but could only get to within 0.116s of pole aboard his Milwaukee Yamaha. Championship leader Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne will start from the second row of the grid on his Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki, while local rider and team-mate to Brookes, Tommy Bridewell, was sixth fastest.
Before anyone at Thruxton had had time to catch their breath there was even more action on show, as the fiercely competitive Supersport class ventured out for a sprint race. The thrilling last lap battle saw no fewer than four riders go into the final chicane with a chance of victory, but Alastair Seeley emerged at the head of the pack aboard his Yamaha.
The day was rounded out with the second of three sidecar races and two qualifying sessions from the National Superstock 600 and 1000 classes.
BSB pole-sitter Smrz said: “It feels really good! Everything this season is new for us – we are working really hard to improve the bike, and it’s always good to have some reward for that. While today is a success we need to be fast in the races tomorrow as well, but we are proving that we are going forward. To have pole with some things still to improve on the Panigale is cool.”
“I really like fast tracks like Thruxton – it suits me and the bike and reminds me a little bit of Phillip Island in Australia which is one of my favourite tracks. Pole is important, my team have found some solutions to our issues getting off the line, so hopefully tomorrow’s start will be good and we can fight for the podium.”
Second placed rider Josh Brookes said:“The last couple of rounds haven’t really gone that well for me, but I’m focussed and we’re in a strong position now. The bike is working really well. I ended the day quite far off yesterday, but overnight we changed the bike and it all worked today. I’m a bit disappointed we didn’t try the SC0 [soft] tyre, but I thought it would be more valuable to get lap times on what we were going to race on, because that’s what I need to do to beat Byrne in the championship – win races.”
Third placed rider Dan Linfoot said: “I’m happy to be on the front row. I’m looking for a strong result tomorrow because the aim for this year is to try and get into the showdown, so if I can keep consistent then hopefully we can achieve that. The bike seems to be working well around Thruxton, it’s fast and when I can use the power of the bike we can put a good lap time together.”
“I’d like to thank the team, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I’ve put myself in a position to race with the front group. If I can stick with them then my confidence will go up another step.”
The combination of the UK’s fastest circuit and the most rapid superbike racing around, BSB at Thruxton always draws in the fans. Huge crowds are expected for tomorrow’s packed out day of racing, with warm-up sessions kicking off proceedings from 08:55 before the racing starts at at 11:40. The two BSB races are at 13:30 and 16:30.
Fans can expect much more than on-track action at Thruxton, too. With the pit lane autograph session (09:20 to 10:05), trade village where you can buy all the latest merchandise and some of Thruxton’s amazing supercars on display, there’s loads to do and no better place to do it!
Tickets for race day are available to buy on the gate and are priced at £32, and accompanied children under 15 go free.
All photos by Polarity Photo