JG Speedfit Kawasaki has made an impressive start to the 2017 season thanks to a double race win by Leon Haslam at the opening round of the MCE British Superbike Championship at Donington Park.
Leon, who is from the neighbouring county of Derbyshire, started race one in pole position but slipped back into second behind James Ellison and it wasn’t until the seventh lap that he could regain the lead. Teammate Luke Mossey and Australian Josh Brookes touched going in to the Old Hairpin in the opening lap and when Leon later made his move, Luke was close behind nudging his way into second place.
The pair maintained the lead for the remaining laps, with Leon crossing the finishing line 5.253 seconds ahead of Luke.
After securing a one-two finish the JG Speedfit Kawasaki team were in a jubilant mood going into race two. Leon in particular was feeling confident, having secured his first victory at his home circuit since 2006.
Once again, however, Brookes was pushing the pair all the way, and after claiming the fastest lap in race one he started race two in pole followed by Leon in second and Michael Laverty in third. Luke moved into third behind Leon early on but was overtaken by Laverty on lap three. Laverty was later forced to retire with a technical problem.
At the front Leon, Brookes and Ellison were having a three-way battle but on lap nine Leon moved into second place behind Brookes and the pair began to edge away from the rest of the pack. With five laps to go the ‘Pocket Rocket’ made his move, holding off Brookes to claim his second victory of the day.
After a close battle with Christian Iddon, Ellison and Glenn Irwin, Luke finished in fifth place behind Irwin and Iddon.
Speaking about his double race win Leon said: “To win at Donington, which is my home circuit, is amazing and we’ve had the perfect start to the season. We had a battle with the tyres last year and we worked all winter on trying to improve tyre life so tyre choice was key going into round one. To secure first and second place in race one was a dream start really.
“Going in to race two I felt confident that I could do the lap times but I made a big mistake and Josh put quite a big gap on me so I had to push harder than I wanted to. Luckily, I managed to get in front again and make it count. I’d like to thank the JG Speedfit Kawasaki team once again as their hard work and effort has made today’s result possible.”
Luke added: “Overall I’m really pleased with the start we’ve made. I knew that we had made the right tyre choice in race one and I felt confident and relaxed following the success we’d had in testing in Spain. Everything fell into place as I managed to get behind Leon, who is really experienced on this track, and follow his lead. The second race was a bit disappointing but we went for the harder tyre option which we knew was always going to be a gamble. Having said that we’ve never had such a good start to the season and I’m over the moon.”
Team Manager Jack Valentine said: “We started off free practice very strong and we were the quickest in the dry. Unfortunately, we were not able to qualify because of the oil spillage on the track on Saturday but our lap times carried us through to first and second on the grid in race one and the boys did a good job from there.
“The team has worked really hard, which has got us to this stage, so its onwards and upwards from here and we’re looking forward to Brands Hatch. We’re not going to stop and this is only the start. Even though we’ve done well here at Donington, we’ve got to keep working at it as the other teams are going to be doing their best to catch up with us.”
Pete Extance and the rest of the JG Speedfit Kawasaki team would like to pay tribute to Mick Whalley who tragically died from his injuries following a crash during a race for the Ducati Performance TriOptions Cup at Donington Park on Saturday. Our thoughts and condolences are with Mick’s family and friends at this very sad time.