A practice and qualifying session dominated by blustery, wet weather did little to dampen the enthusiasm of competitors and fans eager to experience one of the fastest circuits on the BSB calendar.
In fact, heavy rain at the Hampshire circuit meant the Datatag Extreme qualifying session was cancelled on Saturday. With times taken from the combined free practice sessions, Shakey Byrne lined up in third on the grid for the opening BSB race. The 36-year-old triple BSB champion from Sittingbourne immediately slotted into second place before hitting the front a lap later where he was involved in a titanic battle with Josh Brookes and Alex Lowes and although he got pushed back to second on the final lap, he retaliated on the final corner to take a brilliant victory for the Penrith-based team.
With an eighth place on the grid and a superb getaway in Sunday’s first race, Chris Walker of Quattro Plant Kawasaki made a characteristically good race start and moved up to fourth at the end of the first lap. Over the next few laps, Chris alternated between third and fifth place but, just as an excellent result looked to be heading his way, a mechanical problem forced him out at three quarters race distance. For Kawasaki “renaissance man” Karl Harris, the first outing netted him a strong seventh place.
Race two saw a series of safety car periods which disrupted the flow and, on each occasion, it was just when Shakey was easing out a lead over the rest of the pack. The fragmented race was eventually stopped after 13 laps. With Byrne being awarded the win it made it a double for the weekend as he amassed 44 MCE BSB victories in total to become the most successful race winner in the history of the series.
With two further Ninja ZX-10R’s in the finishing top ten of the shortened race, Keith Farmer’s sixth and Chris Walker’s seventh maintained their careful accrual of Championship points.
Shane Byrne: "To come away with the double is superb and becoming the most successful rider in BSB just adds to that. I really wanted to put on a show in the second race but we just couldn't get going as the safety car kept coming out every time I'd opened up a gap meaning it disappeared."
As machine of choice this year for the vast majority of Stock 1000 riders, the upper grid placings were dominated by Ninja machines at Thruxton. With few changes allowed from showroom specification, the race illustrated just how successful the Kawasaki is as an all-round package.
From the off, the race belonged to Australian rider David Johnson on his Four Anjels Kawasaki machine. Leading from the start, he was never bested and crossed the finish line at the head of the pack on every single lap of the race to take an emphatic victory.
Chasing him home were a gaggle of further Kawasaki machines with Adam Jenkinson in second and Steve Brogan in third ahead of no less than six further Ninja ZX-10R’s in the top ten meaning nine of the final ten finishers were Kawasaki mounted. That domination spread further down the field with seventeen of the top twenty finishers on a Ninja.
In the Supersport class, the official Kawasaki Motors UK team, Gearlink, arrived at Thruxton buoyed by initial success at the Brands Hatch opener. With two riders capable of taking championship honours, the Salisbury based team rightly regard Thruxton as their local round and were determined to show well in both races.
With the scheduled sprint race cancelled on Saturday due to heavy rain, riders Alastair Seeley and Ben Wilson had two races on the Sunday with both achieving very good results, Alastair second and third and Ben a second and third.
In the tricky conditions it was Alastair that ended up on the front row for the opening race in third place with Ben only 0.4 behind ending the qualification session in fifth. The opening race was scheduled to be ten laps and the racing was extremely close with five riders were battling for the lead. An incident on lap six forced the race to be red flagged with Alastair taking second behind Stuart Easton and Ben 0.5 seconds behind the Hawick based rider.
The second race scheduled for 18 laps was just as frantic and with concerns over tyre wear the organisers cut the race distance to 15 laps and, once again, another red flag saw it become a 13 lap race. Ben, Alastair, Billy McConnell and Stuart Easton were continually swapping positions throughout the whole race and produced some of the best racing seen in years. This time it was Ben up to second and Alastair in third when the race was stopped and declared a result.
Ben Wilson - "It's been a good day for me and I'm really pleased for the results I got, Thruxton isn't my best circuit so to leave here with two podiums is great. It's going to be a tough season all year and who knows what is going to happen. I've really enjoyed being back out there and up there battling for the lead. It's always hard here with the slip streaming down the back straight and some of the riders are a little smaller than me, in both races I wanted to make a move on the last lap but both were cut short. You never know what will happen in racing but I'm really pleased to leave here with good points."
Alastair Seeley - "They were both really good races today and it's always close at Thruxton, I managed to get a good set up early in the weekend which helped me as with the bad weather track time was limited on Saturday. I was trying to set something up for the last lap in the second race and was in a good position to make a move but it was cut short so had to settle for two podiums and I have left here leading the Championship so I am pretty happy. The Gearlink Kawasaki worked really well all weekend and we proved we have the speed to run with the Yamaha and Triumphs."
For riders in the Pirelli National Superstock 600 race, the wide open expanses of the Thruxton airfield circuit combined with very similar specification of machines led to some really close racing and last gasp manoeuvres, particularly at the chicane leading to the start/finish straight.
Taking the chequered flag at the end of a fast and furious race was Tim “Twister” Hastings. Making best of another rider’s time penalty, Hastings made the race his own and hopes that this is a sign of things to come on his Team E-Lites Kawasaki Ninja ZX-6R.
Following the former Team Green Kawasaki rider home in the final podium spot was James Lodge on his Moto-Breakers ZX-6R ahead of Kawasaki mounted riders in fifth, seventh and tenth positions. Making it a fifty per cent showing in the top ten, the next round at Oulton Park in Cheshire cannot come soon enough.
Commenting on the event, Racing Coordinator for Kawasaki Motors UK, Ross Burridge, praised both riders and organisers on a job well done.“First the snow at brands and now the wind and rain at Thruxton have created considerable challenges. MSVR have done a great job in altering timetables and the fans have seen some great racing.
Of course we are delighted for Shakey and the Rapid Solicitors Kawasaki Team. To have the winningest rider in BSB in his team will mean as much to Paul Bird as it will to Shane.
Elsewhere it’s hard to know where to start really. Chris Walker and his lightening starts, a resurgent Karl Harris and fast learning Keith Farmer are all a delight to watch in Superbikes.
In the other classes, the flag to flag win for David Johnson in Stock 1000 was truly impressive, as was the continuing ding-dong battle for Kawasaki supremacy in Supersport between Seeley and Wilson. With five of the top ten finishers in Stock 600 and a win for Tim Hastings is the perfect end to what was a challenging weekend.
To claim a further four race wins this weekend, and be leading three of the four major CHampionships in the series is excellent, and all I can hope is that this run of form continues”.
Note: The Quattro Kawasaki team will be at the World of Kawasaki event at Silverstone on 21 April.Click here to Register
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