This is the blog I’ve dreamt of writing. FS-3 Racing and Danny Buchan, superbike class winners. Here’s how it all unfolded.
We were in Scotland so there was a chance of the weather introducing some variables, and so it proved. The heatwave just about reached Knockhill on Friday but by Saturday and Sunday it was business as usual – bright, breezy and with rain showers and occasional downpours passing through.
Secretly, we all knew there was a chance of Danny doing something special at the picturesque and quirky Knockhill circuit. The team scored its first podiums here last year, two in fact as Danny finished third in both races. We’ve had a very strong start to the season, three podiums and two P4s behind the Ducatis at Brands, but we didn’t want to jinx it!
Lee was also eyeing more success in the superstock class to follow up his best weekend for the team at Brands Hatch.
Danny Buchan. Bennetts British Superbike. Kawasaki ZX10-RR.
It’s fair to say that Danny was excited about the team’s prospects for the weekend, but in a controlled and focused way. Relaxed and smiling, always a good sign. His confidence was high as he’d tested at the circuit a couple of weeks earlier using his MSS Performance practice bike, not quite our superbike but he still turned in some very competitive lap times.
First free practice, warm and sunny, straight on it. P2 after 28 laps using only one rear tyre, splitting the PBM Ducatis. Josh Brookes ahead by 14 thousandths of a second. It was a similar story in FP2 later that day, P2 but this time Scott Redding was 81 thousandths faster. Subtle changes to the chassis set up and fine-tuning the power delivery were adapting our strong base-settings to the demands of the steep dips and blind rises which are a feature of Knockhill.
Still dry on Saturday morning for FP3 but the weather was on the turn. Danny stamped his authority on proceedings – P1 a full tenth clear of Linfoot’s time.
By the scheduled time for the three-part qualifying session to begin the heavens had opened. There was a river running down the pitlane and some of the garages were beginning to flood. Oh dear. The rain came and went and came back again. The start time was put back on numerous occasions until finally Stuart Higgs, the series director, called in the team principals for a briefing on his plan of action. A gap in the weather was due and instead of the usual knockout format there’d be a 40-minute open session to establish the grid, provided we got underway before 6.15 pm. If we didn’t then the grid would be set using the times from free practice. We’d have been happy with that as Danny would have been allocated pole position. Frankly, rather than risk damage to bikes and riders, everyone just wanted to have dinner and get to the bar! However, with BSB being broadcast live in the US and Canada for the first time, it was understandable that every effort was being made to run.
In the event, the boys put on quite a show for the new viewers. The rain returned just before the 6.00 pm start time which had been decided upon. Within minutes it was coming down in stair rods and continued with varying degrees of intensity for the full 40 minutes. Remarkably, the Knockhill surface is so grippy that times were within 5 seconds of the dry standard, on a flooded track. The people watching in North America must have thought we were all quite mad. Despite everyone’s concerns, there was only one faller in the session. Unfortunately, the consequences for Keith Farmer were significant as he suffered serious leg injuries. Danny’s best lap was identical to Farmer’s and placed him P2, 0.1 down on Fores. That would do and at least we got some decent wet weather data.
Morning warm up on race day was uneventful, just a few spots of rain in the air. P3 behind Redding and Hickman. By the start time for race one the track was drying after an earlier deluge. Parts of the circuit had a dry line and Danny wanted to go on front and rear slicks – no tread pattern to clear water. Wet weather tyres wouldn’t last for a 30-lap race, if it stayed dry. In the end, with the skies clearing, it was declared a dry race, meaning it would be stopped to change tyres if it did rain.
Two warm up laps and off they went. Danny slotted into P3 behind Fores and Tarran Mackenzie who’d qualified alongside him. Lap four and Fores ran wide – P2 and immediately closing on Mackenzie. Taz put up a good fight, defending on the drying track and making it hard for Danny to attack without going on to the wet stuff. On lap 10 Danny forced his way past and headed off into the distance. Two laps later – trying to stay with Danny – Tarran was in the gravel. At one point, Danny had a near eight second lead over Fores but the man on the move was Redding, eventually just making it into second and recording fastest lap. He and Danny would line up side by side for race two.
We won’t mention Danny risking waving to the crowd at the hairpin on the final lap – but his wheelie to line, 6.2 seconds clear, was understandable. After 10 years almost exclusively with Kawasaki, Danny repaid everyone’s faith in him with a fine win. Boom. Boom.
The nerve wracked team members waved Danny in and celebrated on the pit wall before rushing off to welcome him back into the victory circle. The podium celebrations and all the media attention made it all seem a bit surreal. As it all calmed down, attention turned to race two. Could Danny do the double? On an all dry track it was clear that Redding would be the man to beat.
Off the line, Redding made turn one first followed by Fores and with Brookes alongside Danny. Danny closed out Brookes through Duffus Dip, dived to the inside of Mackenzie through Leslie’s and then switched to go under Redding on the left hander of McIntyre’s – P1. Danny clearly meant business. Three laps later and the safety car board came out. Four controlled laps followed as the marshals and medical staff attended to Iddon. Away again and it all got a bit sideways a lap later exiting the hairpin which enabled Redding to nip back past, up the hill. Redding led the next seven laps with Danny on his tail when on lap 16 Danny made a lovely move through the chicane and hit the front again. Two laps later disaster struck as Danny lost the front on the change of direction at McIntyre’s and down he went. No damage to Danny physically or the ZX10-RR for that matter. Just gutted. Maybe it was the wind unloading the front or maybe it was the sheer speed Danny was carrying simply overcame the available grip. His first mistake of the weekend but I suppose if you are going to crash you may as well do it from the lead, battling with a former MotoGP star on a state of the art V4 Ducati! It turned out to be only six laps before the race was ended early by a red flag following a major engine failure that had left oil on the racing line. Danny recorded the fastest lap of the race a mere 0.031 outside the lap record. Oh well.
Nice touch on the race two podium as Danny was announced as the rider-of-the-day and was awarded the Steve Hislop Memorial Trophy that goes with that accolade.
If (that word) Danny had finished in front then he would now be in third place in the standings, just ahead of Brookes. In reality he’s in fifth place with 119 points, nine behind Mackenzie and 23 ahead of Fores. Could be worse.
What a day as Danny became the 51st winner of a BSB championship race. An exclusive club and a richly deserved membership.
Lee Jackson. Pirelli National Superstock 1000. Kawasaki ZX10-RR.
Fresh from his race win at Brands, Lee immediately showed good pace completing his FP1 in P3, just half a second slower than Cooper. Another 22 laps in FP2 working on race pace left Lee P5 and looking forward to qualifying. Sure enough, on Saturday morning Lee qualified for the front row of the grid just 0.2 behind Cooper and Taylor Mackenzie, ready to go for race one that afternoon.
On the grid spots of rain appeared. Race control delayed the start to see if real rain was going to arrive and cause the need for a change over to wet weather tyres. Better to wait and make any changes before the start to avoid having to stop the race and then restart it after wheel/tyre changes. Anyway, after 12 minutes the decision was made to call it a dry race and get things underway.
Off the line something strange happened, Lee made a rookie error and crashed at turn one. So out of character. In the garage there was a degree of consternation as they’d seen smoke from the rear tyre, twice. Had there been a mechanical failure of some kind? The answer came when a crestfallen Lee trudged back to the garage busily apologising for his mistake. He said he’d got a great start and was running down the inside to turn one, the drop in to Duffus Dip. Out the corner of his eye he saw his buddie Cooper coming across and, in that instant, missed his braking mark, all the worse as he was on a tight inside line. Certain he was going to T-bone Cooper he braked hard and used the rear brake too – that’s what locked the wheel and cause the puff of smoke. The bike started to correct itself, but he had to hit the brakes again and down he went. Totally unhurt, except for his pride. The bike landed upside down on its tail, which was messy. A sub-frame fixing lug broke, so it had to be a full strip and rebuild with a new frame. Well done to Tomas and Tom for getting the bike looking like new before bedtime.
Sunday morning’s warm up was a handy test to check if the bike had gone together properly and all the settings replicated. All was well, P2 only 0.1 from Taylor Mackenzie’s best.
Trouble was, Lee’s crash in race one meant he didn’t complete a lap and would have to start six places back from his qualification position 3+6=P9. Worse still, there was no doubt about tyre selection as it was absolutely pouring down. 24 lap race, plus the two warm up laps. At least we knew from superbike qualifying that the track offered remarkably good grip in the wet. From the start, it was a pity that Lee couldn’t get away with the front two as he did at Brands when he, Cooper and Mackenzie cleared off. In the end he rode round in the P6 group in a ball of spray before easing off towards the end, determined to bring the bike back in one piece. Ended up where he started, P9.
Lee’s still upset about his mistake, but we really don’t have a problem as it’s the first time he’s done anything more than slide off at low speed in one and half seasons. The results from the weekend do drop Lee back to P4 in his championship, but only 10 points behind P3. All to play for at Snetterton where a fast bike is essential and, fortunately, we’ve got one!
FS-3 Racing Team.
So, we did it in our fourth season after a lot of hard work and setbacks but occasional glimpses of potential to keep us going. Thanks to everyone who has helped us along the way and especially our specialist suppliers, technical partners, financial sponsors, the series organiser and media, and many supporters – you know who you are. Thank you.
The heart of the team is our special band of brothers and sisters: Darren, Dave, Matt, Jason, Tomas, Chris, Tom, Anne, Kirsty, Jordan. And of course, Danny and Lee and their families who are all racers too and know to stay out of the way (in the nicest sense) and let the boys get on with it. Special mentions must go to Lee’s mum Sam, ace signaller for both bikes, and James our K-Tech suspension technician.
The pressure is on now to keep it going now we’re at the next level.
Next weekend we’ll be at Donington Park for the World Superbikes round. Lee will be out on our superstock bike in a support race which counts for BSB championship points.
Then a weekend off before we head to Snetterton for the next BSB round in three weeks’ time. Superfast straights and a demanding infield section. Characteristics that suit our riders and their Kawasaki ZX10-RRs.
Here’s hoping for decent weather as we aim to consolidate our place in both the superbike and superstock 1000 championships.
Hope to see you there.
Regards. Nigel. Team Principal.