The ninth round of the 2017 MCE British Superbike Championship proved to be bittersweet for JG Speedfit Kawasaki with Leon Haslam securing his Showdown position but Luke Mossey agonisingly missing out.
With three races over the course of the meeting at Silverstone, qualifying for Saturday’s race saw Leon qualify in a solid fifth place with Luke, making his comeback from injury, in 13th. However, the dry weather had been replaced by mixed conditions by the time the first race got under way at 4pm with half of the circuit wet and half dry. That made tyre choice difficult and while Luke went with full wets, Leon opted for intermediates.
From the start, it was clear the riders on full wets had made the right choice and Luke ran in the top five throughout, eventually crossing the line in fifth to take 11 valuable points and consolidate his Showdown position. Unfortunately, Leon had slipped back to ninth when he crashed out at Club on just the fifth of 14 laps, fortunately without injury and with his second place intact.
The damp conditions in the race made for an unusual grid for Sunday’s opening 14-lap encounter and while Luke started from tenth, Leon’s early crash meant he was way back in 20th place with plenty of work to do. And it went from bad to worse for the team as the Derbyshire rider crashed heavily on lap two while his teammate could only manage 12th place.
While the race results meant Leon’s Showdown position was confirmed, they meant Luke would have to secure his spot in the third and final race of the weekend as just four points covered him, Jake Dixon and Christian Iddon. He was also back in 16th on the grid compared to Dixon’s seventh and Iddon’s 13th while Leon’s crash put him on the back row of the grid.
The race was held in wet conditions to make it even trickier for the riders but a technical problem on the warm-up lap brought Leon’s disastrous weekend to an end. That left Luke to fly the flag but there was to be no fairy-tale ending as he crashed out in the treacherous conditions on lap six and, with Dixon taking third, he agonisingly missed out on the Showdown as he slipped back to seventh overall.
Leon said: “We came here with the objective of getting as many podium points as possible but we’ve come away with a DNF and three crashes. In the grand scheme of things, however, it’s the first time I’ve ridden the bike in the wet and it felt competitive. Similarly, in the dry this morning we were as quick as anyone else in race one so if I could have stopped on the bike and not started from the eighth or ninth row, we probably could have had a good weekend.
“It’s not been a disaster – to have seven DNFs before round nine and still make the Showdown is pretty impressive. We’ve now got to reset and focus on getting on the podium at Oulton, Assen and Brands – that’s what’s going to win the championship.
“Last year I crashed twice in the Showdown and they were the only two crashes I had all year so fingers crossed I’ve put all of the bad luck behind me this weekend and I can stay on for the next three rounds.
“We’ve got a really good record at Oulton Park and last year I got the double at Assen. It was always going to come down to Brands so hopefully we can get back to winning ways and look forward to a good final battle in round 12.”
Luke added: “What can I say? I tried! I knew all along this weekend would be tough after breaking four vertebrae at Thruxton. It’s been hard as I’ve not been able to train much so it was a big ask but I was always going to give it everything.
“I’m exhausted now and sorry for the team as we were so close but it wasn’t meant to be this year. I am going to concentrate hard now on getting fully fit and going back out there to finish the season on a high note.
“I can’t thank the JG Speedfit Kawasaki team enough for their help and support and I promise that I’ll be pushing hard at the final rounds for some podiums.”
Team Manager Jack Valentine said: “It’s been a crazy weekend here at Silverstone and pretty disappointing. We had made a lot of progress with Leon and the bike and everything was looking good but the races just didn’t go to plan.
“We knew this weekend would be hard for Luke but he tried so hard and wanted it so much for the team. He has been so strong all year and it’s important now he gets himself back fit and back on the podium.
“On the plus side, we still have a rider in the Showdown and we have a better set up now than we did at the start of the year. It’s crucial that we put it all together at the final three rounds and get the results we believe we deserve.”