It doesn’t get much better than (mostly) lovely Autumn weather at Oulton Park. Picturesque setting, huge crowd and seemingly non-stop drama on the track. Last time I predicted that unless we got hit by a bolt of lightning then Danny would easily qualify for the end of season Showdown. We almost did, but he still did it all the same!
Meanwhile, in the Pirelli National Superstock 1000 Championship with Black Horse, our very own Dark Horse, Lee Jackson, was the team’s man of the meeting.
Lee Jackson. Pirelli National Superstock 1000. Kawasaki ZX10-RR.
Foot mended but still a tad embarrassed by his Cadwell Park prang, Lee had a steely look in his eyes. FP1 for the stockers started out in heavy rain and ended on a drying track. Lee plugged away for 11 laps, building up his times as conditions improved, to finish up fastest. Even though the weather forecast was for dry, it was good to get out and post a leading time.
Normal service was resumed in FP2 as Lee, Cooper and Taylor Mackenzie competed for fastest lap on the timing screen. Lee ended the session P3, 0.6 off the fastest time. Same again in qualifying but this time Lee reduced the gap to 0.3 with Mackenzie fastest – out on the new for 2019 BMW for the first time.
Race one on Saturday afternoon started with high drama as Mackenzie’s bike was wheeled off the grid from pole position, rear tyre pressure below the regulation minimum. That left Lee and his best buddy Coop to slug it out over 12 laps. Never more than half a second apart until lap nine when Lee had to make an adjustment on the move which cost him a second and the tow. So P2, three seconds behind Cooper at the line. Starting from the back, Mackenzie had stormed through to P6 and just pipped Lee’s fastest lap to set a new record, 1.36.6, which also gave him pole position for race two. Lee would start from P3 again.
With Mackenzie starting from his allotted place this time it would be the top three joined by Rouse on this occasion, all set for a four-way battle. Lee and Rouse were joined in battle as the other two opened up a gap until the safety car came out on lap four and stayed there for three laps. Rouse squeezed past Lee after the restart as their battle recommenced with Lee surviving a massive slide in Cascades before heading off in pursuit of the two leaders. In the process, Lee lifted the lap record by a massive 0.4 on lap nine to record a 1.36.227, average speed 100.71mph. That would have been P12 in superbike Q1! Epic speed Lee.
More drama as Rouse, who’d tagged on, repassed Lee on the last lap before Lee repassed him. Then Mackenzie ran on at Hizzy’s only to re-join just behind Lee and just in front of Rouse. Hope you’re keeping up. That put Lee P2 with the other two hard on his heels and with less than half a lap left to go. Lee held on to finish a couple of seconds behind Cooper whose second win of the weekend clinched the championship title.
A great showing for our ZX-10RR which has been consistently fastest through the speed traps. That earned us an engine strip for technical inspection, just to check everything is as it should be. It was.
Congratulations Richard Cooper and well done Lee for two runner-up spots and another lap record in the bag. No chance of catching Mackenzie for second place in the overall standings but well clear of fourth spot.
Danny Buchan. Bennetts British Superbike. Kawasaki ZX10-RR.
Remember? We just needed four more points than Hickman to guarantee a Showdown place.
Great start to the weekend on Friday. P2 in both free practice sessions behind his regular sparring partner Josh Brookes. Fast too with a 34.5 in FP2, only 0.1 from the lap record. We sat out FP3 as the track was wet from overnight rain.
So straight into qualifying, which is where the fun started. There’s a tendency for everyone to rush out as soon as the green light comes on for the 18-minute session, usually with Brookes first out and off into the distance. We’d decided to do what Shakey Byrne always used to do, go out 30 seconds later for a clear run. Danny had such good speed that a short no drama run would see him comfortably through into Q2. How wrong we were.
One bike five seconds ahead. Pitlane commentator Larry Carter watching at our pit perch, connected to race control, suddenly said Vickers has blown his engine. The bike five seconds ahead of Danny. Starting his flying lap Danny arrived at turn two, Cascades, and the scene of the engine blow up. Oil on the track. Before the marshals had a moment to get the flags out Danny arrived at the scene at over 100mph. Instantly Danny and the FS-3 Kawasaki were cartwheeling through the huge gravel trap. Red flag. Danny unharmed, bike a real mess.
There was a moment when people thought the delay would give us time to fix the bike. No chance! A safe rebuild ready for race one was all we could hope for. That’s what the garage did over the next three hours. There’s always more to do than you think at first sight. But the worst thing is that a big crash can often lead to knock on issues over a race weekend.
Of course, missing qualifying meant we’d have to start from the back row – P23! Now we all know Danny is a good starter. This time he manged a 2.8 launch – that’s 2.8 seconds 0-100mph – through a packed grid of weaving motorbikes. Incredible skill and bravery. By the end of the first sector Danny was P10!! Red flag on lap four and he was P7. The flag was a blessing as it gave Danny time to calm down from the excitement and look forward to a less hectic restart. 14 laps, same tyre, countback put him P9 on the grid but with the slots alongside unoccupied due to the crashes that lead to the stoppage.
Danny settled into a close battle with Redding and at one point was P3 before a big slide at Druids let Scott through. From the disaster of the crash to a P4 finish was quite remarkable work – mechanics and rider. Unfortunately for him, Hickman was one of the crashers – so we had our clear four points.
FS-3 RACING MAKES THE TOP SIX SHOWDOWN………….
Bit more garage work to do though as Danny had heaved so hard on the bars through the changes of direction in the chicanes that the positions had moved fractionally, giving the steering an odd feel. At the same time the crew were checking and double-checking all the chassis measurements, just in case there was undiscovered crash damage somewhere.
Sunday race day starts a noon at Oulton due to local noise restrictions, hence a short 10 minute warm up. Two laps to run in a chain and then out again for one flying lap. P6, all good.
Just before the first race a hairline crack was spotted in a component that would hamper the rear brake, operated by Danny’s left thumb. He uses the rear brake not to stop but to help control wheelies. Almost certainly the result of crash damage, even though it had held together in the race on Saturday. Initially Danny was a bit concerned and slipped back to P10 from his P6 grid position, before working out how to ride round the problem. In the event he fought his way back to a very creditable P5 at the line, just ahead of O’Halloran.
The faulty component was replaced and once more the chassis dimensions were double-checked as Danny was reporting the same feeling and that his elbows and knees were tangling. The latter an occupational hazard when you’re 6 foot 3 inches tall. The bar positions had moved very slightly again, so the fixing arrangements were altered, and the issue was solved for the second race.
Despite the brake issue, Danny had posted the fifth fastest lap – under the old lap record. The time secured P5 on the grid, middle of the second row for the final race. Two warm up laps were required as Stapleford stalled on the line at the first attempt. Another decent start and the front five cleared off with Brookes leading, only to crash out on lap 9 of 17. The crash left Danny with Bridewell, Ray and Redding in a close battle. In the end Danny had to accept that he didn’t quite have the pace to go with them, even though he finished 13 seconds ahead of the P5.
Highlight of the race was Tommy Bridewell scoring the first ever win for Steve Moore and the Moto Rapido mob, our friends and fellow independents. Brilliant!
FS-3 Racing Team.
We started our project under four years ago with Danny and Lee joining us two years in. And now look at us all! Lee easily the fastest Kawasaki rider in the Superstock 1000 class, setting lap records and running at superbike pace. Danny P4 in the championship table and – in the end – a comfortable Showdown contender and regular front runner, taking it to the Ducatis.
We get great technical support from FW Developments (engine), MSS Performance (Chassis) and K-Tech (suspension) and a host of trade suppliers who know who they are. Plus, all our commercial sponsors, supporters and friends.
Mostly, credit is due to the team: Anne, Kirsty, Darren, Dave, Matt, Jason, James (K-tech), Chris, Tom, Tomas, Jordan, Richie and, of course, Danny and Lee.
Assen, Holland. Showdown round one. No Lee as the stockers don’t run there.
FS-3 Racing and our Danny in the thick of it. Bring it on!
If you aren’t coming over, don’t forget to tune in.