JG Speedfit Kawasaki continued their assault on the 2017 MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship with Leon Haslam and Luke Mossey in action on the iconic Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit.
Leon secured a valuable podium in race one and, with both riders scoring some solid points, Luke and the ‘Pocket Rocket’ left the Kent venue in second and third respectively in the title table.
Free practice saw both Luke and Leon run comfortably inside the top ten, but when qualifying took place on Saturday afternoon the rain had arrived, meaning a different outlook was required for the entire 25-rider field.
However, Luke shone in the wet conditions to claim second and a front row position for Sunday’s opening race with Leon having to settle for eighth and the third row.
The race itself started perfectly for Luke as he led in the early stages although with the safety car coming out on lap five, it allowed the field to close up once more.
For the second half of the race, the leading dozen riders were only covered by four seconds but while Leon was able to move forward into third, Luke went the opposite way, his cause not aided by spots of rain falling.
Indeed, the race was stopped prematurely on the 18th of 20 laps and although there was delight for Leon as he got back onto the podium, there was disappointment for Luke as he was placed in 12th.
The second race saw Luke and Leon line up in fourth and sixth respectively on the grid and both made good starts although they were shuffled back to tenth and sixth by the end of a frantic first lap.
They quickly regrouped though and after six laps, Leon was in fifth and battling with James Ellison and Christian Iddon for the final podium spot and Luke in seventh.
Leon was pushed back a spot by Peter Hickman but when second-placed Josh Brookes crashed out, he was back up to fifth and this was where he finished with Luke just half a second further back in sixth.
“It’s been a tough round as it’s the first weekend back really from Oulton Park in May,” explained Leon. “We made some good progress but always felt on the back foot. The podium in race one was better than expected considering the issues I had, but I felt the changes in race two weren’t the right way to go and I had to settle for fifth.
“The positives are: we finally got to test some different chassis set-ups, tyre life in the SC0 was better and we were the top Kawasakis in both races. I’m racing at the Suzuka 8hours this weekend which is important but I’m also looking forward to going testing when I return to get everything ready ahead of Thruxton.”
Luke added: “I seemed to be having issues all weekend but my team worked really hard for qualifying and despite the torrential downpour, I was looking forward to it. I dug deep to qualify in second place and I got a good start in race one.
From the halfway point, I started to suffer with brake fade like I did at Snetterton; I had to finish in 12th which I was so disappointed about.
“We made a few changes for race two with the brakes and thanks to my team, who kept persevering trying to find the problem, I felt like I was back on ‘my bike’ again. Despite finishing in sixth, which is not where I wanted to be, I’m happy we’ve found the problem and can hopefully do better at Thruxton.”
In the race for the Hyundai Heavy Industries British Sidecar Championship, reigning champions Ricky Stevens and Ryan Charlwood again flew the flag for the team. Stevens/Charlwood were looking to get their season back on track after a mixed outing last time at Mallory Park and fifth in qualifying was a solid start to proceedings.
The dry weather had disappeared for Saturday’s first 10-lap race and the Hampshire pairing eventually took fifth place in the difficult conditions, but Sunday saw them get back to their old form as they initially led the race.
They were unable to hold off the challenge of championship leaders Tim and Tristan Reeves but they successfully brought the LCR Kawasaki home in second place to maintain the same position in the championship table.
“It’s been a difficult weekend and we struggled to get our form back up until Sunday,” said Ricky. “We’ve suffered with a mechanical issue all year which we haven’t been able to find. Every round I’ve been saying that we think we’ve found it but this time, we really have found it!
“It was no one’s fault – it was just something we missed because it was a new engine but we’re really happy now it’s fixed. We were disappointed with Saturday’s result, but finshing second on Sunday has given us a confidence boost going into the next round.”
Unfortunately, the all-female pairing of Maria Costello and Kirsty Hauxwell failed to qualify after they were hit by another sidecar.
Maria said: “We were knocking chunks off our lap times but then got hit by another sidecar which bent the gear lever into the rear wheel making it unrideable and we lost valuable laps at the end of qualifying.
“Of course we are disappointed that we didn’t get to race as that is what we love doing. We will continue to work hard and power through and give our all at Thruxton.”
Commenting on the team’s performance Manager Jack Valentine said: “Although it’s been a mixed weekend we have secured some solid championship points and this keeps us in the mix for a comfortable Showdown position. We will move onto Thruxton now in the hope of securing those all-important podium credits.”