While some riders were favoured by conditions others struggled and the prospects for eventful racing on Sunday were intriguing at the recently re-opened Midlands venue.
For Superbike contenders, the weekend was crucial in deciding which six riders went through to the Showdown in the last three races of the season. In effect, after Donington the slate is wiped clean. The issue of “podium credits” loomed large in the minds of the top riders with Shane “Shakey” Byrne eager to maintain his slender lead over Alex Lowes who has won consistently in the last few rounds.
Somewhat surprisingly the grid at Donington was only three rather than four riders wide which, with his qualifying time, meant that Sittingbourne rider, Byrne, started race one on row two while adversary Lowes had a clear track ahead of him.
Thanks to adjustments by K-tech to the suspension of the Championship leader’s machine, Byrne quickly slotted into second spot in race one behind quick starter Lowes. Maintaining his position across much of the race, Byrne was on Lowes’ back wheel for much of the race but, as the flag dropped, had to settle for second rather than risk a lunge that might have him off track and relegated further down the pack.
Following Byrne home in second, fan favourite Chris “Stalker” Walker made it across the line in seventh while new Quattro Plant Kawasaki rider, Barry Burell, was in the top ten while still acclimatising to the power of the Ninja ZX-10R superbike.
Race two had all the hallmarks of being a repeat of the first outing as Lowes once more made a lightening start but Byrne was more determined than ever to redress the balance.
Altering some of his lines around the 2.48 mile circuit and showing his front wheel to Lowes on several occasions, the highly experienced Byrne concluded that only close to the end of the race could he try to pass and make the pass stick. Accordingly, on the last lap, Shakey made his move to out-brake Lowes and briefly held the lead. Try as he might he could not maintain his leading position and had to cede the place to Lowes and be content with two runner up spots and the championship lead – albeit by a slender six points over Lowes.
Equally impressive – and looking like he may just usurp Byrne at one stage – Tommy Bridewell rode another impressive race on the Halsall Racing Kawasaki making it two Ninjas on the Superbike podium and delivering the media spotlight that Bridewell truly deserves. Walker rode with his familiar consistency to secure eighth place while Burrell was forced to withdraw with a minor technical issue after running off track early in the race.
The Supersport class was not as productive for Kawasaki riders. With Alastair Seeley still nursing injuries and falling again in practice it was up to Lincs rider, Ben Wilson, to try for success on his Gearlink Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R.
Securing an encouraging fourth place in race one, Wilson rode in confident fashion for the early part of race two firmly among the three leading riders. By his own admission, Wilson was trying as hard as he dare for a podium and, at MacLean’s on lap nine, his challenge ended in the grass as he crashed without injury.
In the Stock classes the big news was a stellar qualification by the ILR Kawasaki riders netting Swedish competitor, Filip Backlund, his first pole in the series while teammate, Victor Cox backed this up with second spot and fellow Kawasaki pilot Joe Burns in third making the front row a Kawasaki lock out.
As it settled to a four horse race, the leading trio of Hudson Kennaugh, Backlund and Cox inched ahead of Joe Burns at which point it became a tussle between former South African Superbike champion Kennaugh and raising Swedish star, Backlund.
Breaking the class lap record on his way to challenge Hudson, the ILR rider finally made a pass to secure the lead. It was short lived though as he left the door open just enough for Kennaugh to edge pass at McLean’s on the last lap to take the win. With both riders on the podium, team principle Ian Lougher had much to smile about and a great deal to build on in advance of the next round of the Stock 1000 Championship.
In the 600 Stock class there was also strong prospects for Kawasaki mounted riders. Following a strong qualification, Chris Walker Race School rider, Mason Law, rode a measured race to take sixth spot thus securing tenth place in the title standings.
Further up the field, Luke Hedger showed characteristic speed and race-craft to make second place his own some 3.5 seconds over third place man, Joe Collier.
Commenting on a varied weekend of racing, Kawasaki Racing Coordinator, Ross Burridge, was pleased that Ninja riders had made the most of the challenging qualification conditions.“It’s strange to see Shakey on row two but, as ever, he rode in a lion-hearted fashion to take a brace of second places. He and the team are now trying to find that extra few per cent to push him back to the front in the vital last three rounds. Hat’s off to Tommy Bridewell for his magnificent ride in race two, that really was edge of the seat racing.
Of course the disappointment of Seeley’s lingering injury and the race two DNF for Wilson in Supersport was hard to live with. But, that should not overshadow the fact that they are second and fourth in the Championship with Wilson realistically able to take third spot at the very next round they race at. In the stock 600 race, Luke Hedger maintained his consistency while Mason Law rode well on a track he lists as one of his favourites.
Finally, I have to say thank you on behalf of all Kawasaki fans to the ILR team for such an entertaining and thrilling Stock 1000 race. Filip has been a canny signing for Ian Lougher while Victor Cox continues to muscle the Ninja ZX-10R to the front. Two riders on the box and a lap record is a fitting reward for their combined efforts, we congratulate them.”
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