The Snetterton 300 layout is a proper circuit for riders and spectators alike. Still bathed in the glory of our maiden superbike win at Knockhill we were itching to get going.
We knew the layout with its hard acceleration zones and long straights would favour the new Ducatis and Danny’s size would penalise us, but the FS-3 Racing ZX10-RR Kawasaki is very strong and Danny’s confidence is high.
But before we got there, there was the small matter of running Lee in the superstock support race at the World Superbikes round at Donington Park.
Lee Jackson. Pirelli National Superstock 1000. Kawasaki ZX10-RR.
This year’s Pirelli Superstock 1000 championship is turning in to a three-way battle between Richard Cooper, Taylor Mackenzie and our Lee. They really are the class of the field and so it proved in the World Superbikes support race at Donington Park. Although the local teams are second class citizens at the event – hidden away in a car park and running late in the day when almost everyone has gone home – we have to be there for the championship points.
Taylor was flying and took a clear-cut win. Lee crossed the line in P3 a second behind Cooper and closing. Another podium finish in the bag. Next stop Snetterton.
Lee – who doesn’t have Danny’s size disadvantage – is usually the fastest superstock 1000 rider through the speed traps so he knew he should be right there at Snetterton. (In his race he was 2mph faster than Danny on the superbike across the finish line on the uphill Senna Straight. 166.9mph and still driving on to turn one!).
Everyone was pleased to see our old mate Billy McConnell back after a big operation to sort out his insides. He was fastest in FP1, 0.9 seconds up the road from Lee who was P3. Everyone at the front improved their times in FP2, Lee was fifth fastest but feeling very happy with how his bike was working.
Qualifying was messy. The first attempt at Saturday lunchtime came after a heavy shower. Flooded track and an early crash causing track contamination brought out the red flag, quickly followed by a decision from race control to re-run the session at the end of the day.
When the time came, rain was close by again. The usual routine is to go out on a new Supercorsa front tyre and a worn rear to get up to speed before coming in for a rear wheel change, fitted with a new tyre for maximum grip. Because of the potential for rain, we went straight out on new tyres, front and rear. It was busy on the track and Lee was in a group, trying to find a clear lap. Although he was running in the top six, we signalled him in to ride through the pit lane and get out into a big gap we could see on the GPS tracking. That upset Lee because he likes to go around and around in his rhythm – but he then went faster in clear air! 1.50.5, P4. A second slower than Cooper but almost exactly the same time as P2 and P3. Only a few spots of rain had appeared, but it was still right to go on new rubber from the off.
Lee consolidated his position running P2 in warm up, only 0.2 off Cooper’s best time. Lee got a beautiful launch off the grid and dropped in behind Cooper. Behind him a fast-starting Reid from row three nearly took his back wheel at turn two before running on and returning well out of the way! After that is was 12 laps head to head. Taylor Mackenzie was able to close as the front two scrapped it out. However, his attempted pass on Lee at Agostini’s hairpin was over- ambitious and his trip on to the grass cost him five seconds. Cooper usually has the speed to pull away, but not this time. Lee was at him like a terrier and they swapped places on a number of occasions. Into the final lap, Cooper slightly ahead, Lee had to have a go. Three corners from home, up the inside at the Esses and he was through only to run wide and just hold it on the dirt. Cooper crossed the line 2.5 seconds to the good but on the penultimate lap Lee had set a new lap record – 1.49.893, 97.25mph.
That’s faster than 10 of the superbikes in their Q1, tied with Jason O’Halloran, and achieved on harder compound treaded road tyres. Says a lot for the Pirelli Supercorsas and our Kawasaki ZX10-RR – not to mention Lee’s newfound race aggression. All the commentators and Shakey Byrne chatting in the winner’s circle were most impressed by his determination – long may it continue.
After his unfortunate Knockhill race one DNF, Lee is now up to P3 in the championship standings. Great work.
Danny Buchan. Bennetts British Superbike. Kawasaki ZX10-RR.
Thursday afternoon. Confident Danny and FS-3 Racing superbike with a refreshed motor, ready to go.
No dramas in first free practice, P6 but over a second behind the Ducatis. Bike not quite doing what he wanted it to do so his crew got stuck into planning changes to the set up of his K-Tech development suspension and making some small changes to the engine mapping. Unfortunately, a two-minute shower just before the end of FP2 prevented a final run to try a couple more important set up changes. Saturday morning was better, still a second down but P5 and a second faster than Friday’s times.
It was dry throughout superbike qualifying and Danny was comfortably through to Q2 – P6 and only 0.5 down on Scott Redding who had taken to the track like a duck to water. Q2 was nerve-racking. Danny didn’t find the perfect run early on and as the 12-minute session was drawing to an end he was ‘on the bubble’, P9 and with four riders out on a second new rear tyre. None of them managed to better Danny’s time – Ray ending up just 0.043 shy.
Again, the Q3 run wasn’t perfect. Pete Hickman crashed right in front of Danny exiting the final chicane – red flag and a restart with about three and half minutes to go. Danny got a bit muddled up with Andrew Irwin and ended up P7, just pipped by Linfoot and Fores who he’d been faster than all weekend.
Morning warm up was fine. Danny had a comfortable ‘race pace’ run for 10 laps and was sixth fastest, but with the Ducatis showing ominous race pace of their own.
The race one start was delayed after a nasty start line incident in the preceeding race. We wish all those involved a speedy recovery. After an extra sighting lap to allow the riders to check out how the debris had been treated, it was race time. Danny got away okay but still behind Fores and Linfoot – a couple of forceful moves and he was through to P5, but already the three Ducatis and Taz Mackenzie had a gap. That’s how it stayed for the next 16 laps – talk about a lonely race. At the front Danny could see the leaders edging away, then Bridewell slipped off leaving Danny in P4, but still nine seconds behind Taz by the end. However, no one behind had Danny’s pace and Irwin in P5 finished six seconds behind. Well managed race and 13 points scored. Speed and size: on very similar Kawasakis, Barbera standing in for Glenn Irwin is jockey sized, 172.9mph across the line, Danny is basketball sized, 164mph. Just shows how much Danny must do on the brakes and through the corners.
Funny old business. Race two and unbeknown to anyone on the grid, one of the GP2 bikes blew its engine on the in-lap of the previous race. It was sitting in parc ferme, covered in oil.
We were waiting on the grid for Danny – he’d line up P5 based on race one lap times. Talking to Roger Marshall who has radio contact with race control, suddenly he said, ‘I think Danny’s crashed’. Usual procedure, he was riding round to the grid on a worn tyre, ready for a rear wheel change on the grid so he’d have a new tyre for the race. Then someone shouted that Josh Elliott had crashed too. Apparently, riders arriving on the grid were reporting a strange smell out on the track. Danny’s bike wasn’t recovered during the grid procedure period, so we had no opportunity to try and replace the broken handlebar and a damaged fairing side panel for a pit lane start. As the marshals attended to something on the track at the scene of Danny’s crash, he had no choice other than to trudge back to the garage.
Danny said he’d never had a crash like it. The bike went from under him so fast he couldn’t prepare himself for the fall and went face first into the tarmac. No one could remember the last time two riders fell off on the way to the grid. Whatever – it was our first ever DNS – Did Not Start. No one is quite sure what actually happened and certainly race control would not have released the superbikes if the possibility of oil on the track was known. One thing is certain, nothing leaked from our bike which was bone dry on return. Being deprived of a race at the very start is a strange feeling – so we all started to pack up the garage as we couldn’t watch!
Points scoring opportunity lost. Another P4 was definitely on as this time it was Taz who crashed, bravely trying to keep up with the Ducatis which finished 21 seconds ahead of Irwin who was best of the rest.
Fortunately, our top six Showdown qualification prospects weren’t too badly affected and, most important, Danny wasn’t injured. Danny now has 132 points, fifth place. 12 behind Mackenzie but more importantly, 18 ahead of Fores and 36 ahead of Hickman in P7. Some of Danny’s favourite tracks are coming up but we still remember how last year unravelled after he was knocked off at Thruxton. Time for cool heads and top six finishes over the next three rounds.
By the time you read this, Danny will be in the pit lane at Suzuka, preparing for the most famous motorcycle endurance race in the world – the Eight Hours of Suzuka. He’s riding for the Swizz Bollinger Kawasaki team – not the champagne people! It’s a real feather in his cap and I hope you’ll be following his progress and that of the other BSB lads who are out there.
Nearer to home, we’re gearing up for Thruxton. Super-highspeed corners on a super-abrasive surface bring special challenges. Danny and Lee both love it and have had strong results there in the past. Lee went into the final chicane there in P1 last year only to come out third after some argie bargie! That was also the scene of the crash which brought Danny down. Think I’ll watch from somewhere else!
Hope to see you there.
Regards. Nigel. Team Principal.