Leon Haslam Makes Welcome Return to the Podium
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.
Haslam secured a valuable podium in race one and, with both riders scoring some solid points, Mossey 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, Mossey shone in the wet conditions to claim second and a front row position for Sunday’s opening race with Haslam 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 Haslam was able to move forward into third, Mossey 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 Haslam as he got back onto the podium, there was disappointment for Mossey as he was placed in 12th.
The second race saw Mossey and Haslam 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, Haslam was in fifth and battling with James Ellison and Christian Iddon for the final podium spot and Mossey in seventh.
Haslam 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.
Main championship rival Shane Byrne took both race wins to take over the title lead with Luke now in second overall and Leon in third.
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. Unfortunately, the all-female pairing of Maria Costello and Kirsty Hauxwell failed to qualify after they were hit by another sidecar.
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.
Haslam said: “It’s been a tough round as it’s the first weekend back really from Oulton Park in May. 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 the next BSB round.
“Big thanks to everyone at JG Speedfit Kawasaki; I’m confident we will get back to winning ways soon.”
Mossey said: “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.
“I had a little rain on my visor but I wasn’t fazed by it – I felt really comfortable at the front and was eager for a strong result. From the halfway point I started to suffer with brake fade like I did at Snetterton. It’s too fast at Brands to risk anything so I backed off and dropped down the field; 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. This gave me the confidence to push hard again but I got boxed in the opening turns and left myself a lot of work to do. 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.”
Stevens said: “It’s been a difficult weekend and we struggled to get our form back up until Sunday. 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 to finish second in the second race has given us a confidence boost going into the next round.”
Costello 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.
“With such limited track time, it makes out learning curve even steeper and the wet track during warm-up hampered our efforts to improve our lap times and get on the grid. Of course we are disappointed that we didn’t get to race as that is what we love doing. The circuit is fantastic and we knew we could have found more time with more laps on track. However, we won’t let this get us down as we know we are continuing to improve. We will continue to work hard and power through and give our all at Thruxton.”
Team Manager Jack Valentine said: “It has been a mixed weekend at Brands Hatch and we have been playing catch up after Leon’s big off at Knockhill. We were really pleased with the podium in the opening race and made some changes for race two but we went the wrong way with that so we knew a podium was out the question.
“Luke qualified really well in conditions he isn’t 100% confident with and we were hoping for good things from the race with a front row start. He was riding exceptionally well and was looking set for another podium but sadly a brake problem halted his chances. The team managed to get the problem fixed in race two but he got boxed in during the opening few laps and had to settle for sixth.
“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 podium credits with both riders.”
MCE British Superbike Championship positions (after six rounds)
- Shane Byrne (Ducati) 190pts
- Luke Mossey (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) 161
- Leon Haslam (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) 159
- Jason O’Halloran (Honda) 133
- Josh Brookes (Yamaha) 129
- Peter Hickman (BMW) 119
Hyundai Heavy Industries British Sidecar Championship (after six rounds)
- Reeves/Reeves 300pts
- Stevens/Charlwood 183
- Holland/Ramsey 148
- Kershaw/Clark 144
- Bryan/Hyde 103
- Horspole/Connell 80