One of the biggest crowds in recent years packed into Thruxton Circuit in Hampshire yesterday (3 August) for round six of the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship. In perfect conditions the tens of thousands of avid fans were treated to eight blockbuster battles, including two top-flight BSB contests.
In Superbike race one Dan Linfoot and Josh Brookes led the pack off the start line for Quattro Plant Kawasaki and Milwaukee Yamaha respectively. Shane Byrne quickly joined the front pair on his Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki and the trio pulled a gap to the chasing group. Linfoot was passed at mid-distance the two championship contenders, and Brookes was able to maintain the gap to take a fairly comfortable win, but it was to be a thrilling battle for second place.
After a difficult day in qualifying yesterday, Japanese ace Ryuichi Kiyonari carved through the order from 11th on the grid to close down the top three in the final few laps. Making a strong move by Linfoot at Club chicane, ‘Kiyo’ seemed to have the move done past fellow triple-champion Byrne on the final tour at the complex, but an amazing last lap, last corner move from Byrne denied the Buildbase BMW rider second spot on the podium.
The grid order for the second race in BSB is decided by first race lap times, and it was the #4 machine of Linfoot at the head of the spectacular assembly of Superbikes as the lights went out once more. Byrne grabbed the initiative into turn one, but his hard work was quickly scuppered by red flags brought out by oil on the circuit.
On the restart Byrne led once more, and for lap after lap a pulsating battle raged behind between Brookes, Linfoot, Kiyonari and the GBMoto Racing machine of Chris Walker. After being shuffled back in the early running, Brookes went on a charge in the mid part of the race. With some bold moves around the outside through the chicane he hit the front, and although both Byrne and Kiyonari tried all they could to close the gap Brookes just had enough in the tank to bring it home for a double victory.
Josh Brookes said: “It’s a pleasure to be up here winning again. The second race was a lot harder than the first – I knew that anything could happen so I tried to pace myself, but people kept passing me so I decided to be more aggressive and make some moves. All in all I couldn’t ask for a better weekend – the team have given me a bike that can win two races and now I’m looking forward to the next one.”
Shane Byrne said: “In the grand scheme of things we’ve got to be happy with the weekend – we’ve had two solid points hauls with two second places. I rode my heart out to catch Josh in both races, but he was so quick in the first part of the lap. He’s ridden really well today, and his bike has been the best around Thruxton, but we’ll be working hard to get back to the top next time out.”
Ryuichi Kiyonari said: “I tried very hard all weekend and am a bit frustrated not to get further forward. I had a lot of chances to get past Shakey but couldn’t do it on the brakes – if I’d pushed a little harder I could have won today, but now I must just try to win the next one.”
The packed spectator banks and brimming grandstands were also treated to some stunning racing from the BSB’s supporting cast. Highlights included the National Superstock 1000 showdown which saw no fewer than six riders fighting for the lead for a full 14 laps of Thruxton, and the British Supersport Championship which is always closely contended. True to form, all of the Supersport front-runners battled it out at the head of the field throughout the 18 scintillating laps, but it was Graeme Gowland who made a sensational move on the final tour to win by just 0.077s from Luke Mossey and Billy McConnell.
The headlining event attracted some stars from the international racing scene including MotoGP Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Bradley Smith.
The Oxfordshire racer was delighted to spend his MotoGP summer break at the UK’s fastest circuit, and said: “I have a lot of friends in the British championships and it’s actually the first time this year I’ve been able to come and see them race! I’m not far from home here as an Oxford boy too, and it’s great to have met so many of the fans today.”
“I’ve only raced here once before – it’s different to almost every other track because it’s so fast and wide and you can take so many different lines. It definitely creates good racing and allows a lot of different manufacturers and bikes to be similar in lap times, which is why we saw some great battles at Thruxton today!”
The scale of the action in Hampshire was truly incredible this weekend, and while the final crowd figure is yet to be calculated, attendance has been one of the highest on record for a British Superbike meeting at Thruxton.
In combination with the unprecedented numbers seen at the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship event back in May, this has been an amazing year of motor sport at Thruxton and the momentum is undoubtedly with the historic and unique circuit.
Thruxton Group Managing Director Bill Coombs said: “What a day! 2014 has been an incredible season for Thruxton, and to see so many racing fans here once again is a great reward for all the people that work amazingly hard to make these events happen. British Superbikes always put on a show, and both of the races today were superb – not to mention all the breath-taking support races which kept everyone transfixed on the track!”
“We took a bit of a gamble moving the event from its usual place earlier in the year but I’m glad we did – it’s been a perfect day for us and we hope that next year can be another record-breaker.”
All photos by Polarity Photo