In the blue ribbon category of Superbike racing, Kawasaki riders figured across the whole grid in 2013 with the main focus of attention naturally on 2012 reigning champion Shane “Shakey” Byrne and his PBM Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R.
Always in contention across a season that included crashes and injury for the Sittingbourne rider, Shakey arrived at the final round still limping from a recent crash yet determined to take the fight to title rival, Alex Lowes.
Under dark skies, and with three BSB races of the Championship to be played out on the Kent circuit, there were a number of riders able to snatch the crown.
Cold and slippery, the circuit conditions across the entire weekend meant that tyre choice and machine set up were crucial with some favouring full wets and others a combination of intermediate and wet tyres to seek out race-long grip and performance.
Race one took place on the Saturday and Byrne was locked in combat with his rival Alex Lowes for the majority of the 18 laps kept company by a late season charge by Australian, Josh Brookes. At the flag, Lowes took second spot with Byrne in third and Brookes at the head of the field. A brave performance by Quattro Plant Kawasaki rider, Chris Walker, saw him secure a customary seventh place and the chance to start Sunday’s first outing in fifth place on the grid thanks to posting a strong lap time.
Speaking afterwards about a tense encounter Byrne admitted that ceding points to Lowes was preferable to scoring no points at all and that it would make the final two races on Sunday all the more exciting.
With no let-up in the damp conditions, both races on the Sunday were more of a lottery than is usually the case. Byrne lined up on the front row of the grid knowing that he had to push harder than perhaps he would like to just to stay in contention.
A measure of how tricky the conditions were was illustrated by points leader Lowes who failed to make the exit of just the second corner after the start sliding off with no injury. Byrne took up the challenge and tried his best to push on in the low traction conditions. Fate was against the 37 year old as his tyre spun up on the same Druids corner on lap five and he too slid off at low speed unable to continue the race creating the ultimate last race showdown.
Again Walker was a top ten finisher and used all his wet weather experience to post a well-deserved fifth place. Top Ninja though was Lee Costello on the Halsall Racing ZX-10R. Leading for many laps it almost looked as if he would take a maiden win but to be thwarted on the last lap by Brookes who had made a canny tyre choice and scythed through the pack late on.
Last race and last chance to lift the title for Byrne meant that most of the packed grandstand ignored the October weather and concentrated on the gladiatorial challenge between three riders, each on different makes of motorcycle.
Making it three from three, Brookes stole the show with another skilful win while behind him, Lowes and Byrne had a tense race-long tussle. With both riders out of the saddle on several occasions it was a late apex and some lost time again on Druids by Byrme that finally delivered a few precious yards to Lowes that would never be regained. With Waters of Halsall Racing posting a brave eighth place and Walker once more in the top ten, the season was over and Byrne reluctantly let the title slip from his grasp by a mere seven points while Walker’s three high finishes secured him the final spot on the Championship top ten.
Moving to the Supersport class, there had been a season long battle between Gearlink's Alastair Seeley and Stuart Easton that would ultimately be settled on the last lap of the last race. The signs were encouraging for the Kawasaki rider, but a track safety incident resulted in a red flag which not only stopped the race but ensured that the result was delivered to Scot, Stuart Easton thanks to his leading position on the previous lap. Not the result that most agreed the official Kawasaki Supersport team deserved, but racing is never predictable even at the best of times.
With both riders in the top four of the Championship, team principle, Michael de Bidaph has good reason to be proud of his hard working, tightly knit team and a great springboard for winter testing in advance of the first race of 2014.
Superstock was another story with the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R dominating the stock 1000 class for the entire season. With over 70% of the machines on the grid for Brands Hatch being ZX-10R’s, the fight at the top of the table was fittingly between a cast of Kawasaki teams among a smattering of European machinery.
Honours at season’s end went to former South African Superbike Champion, Hudson Kennaugh on his Ninja ahead of Adam Jenkinson on his SMT Racing Ninja and Ian Lougher Racing rider, Filip Buckland who mounted a charge to post third place.
Overall eight of the top ten machines in the Championship were Kawasaki’s while sixteen of the top twenty riders in the final race were using Ninja machinery.
The second Championship won by a Kawasaki rider at Brands Hatch was the Supersport “feeder class”, National Stock 600.
Luke Hedger built on some impressive results – including a recent win at Silverstone – to take the title by a sixteen point margin form his nearest rival. This was some consolation for the Gearlink Kawasaki team who supported the promising rider across his season of racing and who have high hopes for his progression in the UK racing scene.
Again, Kawasaki machinery was to the fore in the smallest stock classes with nine of the final top fifteen using the formidable Ninja ZX-6R as their bike of choice.
Summing up another great year of racing, and two championship wins, Racing Coordinator for Kawasaki Motors UK, Ross Burridge, reflected on the season:"Whilst overall I am very happy with the way the season has gone, I have to say it was a little disappointing not to have all four major championships come to Kawasaki. It was definitely not for the want of trying however, and I want to extend my congratulations and thanks to both Shakey and Alastair on a fantastic season and their unwavering commitment to the very end.
To have both Superstock Championships remain with Kawasaki is fantastic, and testament to how good our Ninja machinery is straight out of the crate. We have lots of exciting announcements coming up in the coming weeks about 2014. To be honest, I cannot wait for next season to get underway."
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