Long weekend on the continent. TT Circuit Assen. Cathedral of Speed.
Danny lining up alongside Redding, Brookes, Bridewell, Mackenzie and Hickman for the end of season Showdown. That’s us, up at the sharp end! (No Lee this weekend as the superstock 1000 class doesn’t have a round at Assen).
A lot has happened since Oulton Park, culminating in the announcement that next year we’ll be taking over from Bournemouth Kawasaki as the official BSB entrant for Kawasaki. Big boots for us to fill as let’s not forget that last year Pete Extance and his team won the championship with Leon Haslam.
At the same time, we were able to confirm that Danny will be with us for a third season, leading the team on the track. Good news indeed. Second rider announcement soon. We’re also finalising arrangements with a title sponsor whose support will enable us to invest in our development programme and field two ZX10-RRs, capable of taking the fight to the all-conquering Ducatis.
Danny Buchan. Bennetts British Superbike. Kawasaki ZX10-RR.
Very fast, very demanding on chassis and suspension set-up. Front tyre grip and wear always an issue at Assen. Danny likes the track but it’s not one at which he’s enjoyed any notable successes in the past.
First free practice session was encouraging, 20 laps in the bag and P3, 0.5 of a second slower than Redding who was flying, putting his MotoGP experience at Assen to good effect. FP2 was an opportunity to try out a significant chassis change with a view to increasing front-end feel and grip. Didn’t achieve what we’d hoped as Danny struggled to match the time he set in the morning. Useful data gathered but setting changed back for FP3.
Saturday morning and another 18 laps completed and into the 1.36 lap time bracket. Eighth fastest but 1.3 seconds behind the ever-faster Redding. Ready for qualifying.
Q1, P7 and back up to speed, only 0.7 off and happy with the bike. Q2 turned into a nail biter. Fantastic early lap at 1.36.3 equalling the existing lap record, 0.2 behind O’Halloran. Initially P5 we sat out the remaining minutes of the short session as others fitted a second new rear tyre to try for a time good enough to put them into the top nine who progress to Q3. Good laps from Iddon, Vickers and then Stapleford, P8. The new tyre runners came through in the dying seconds, none bettered Danny’s time, so we were through to the final segment of qualifying. Only nine bikes on track for Q3 but not able to get a clear lap initially as some cruised around looking for a tow. Danny finally put his fourth lap together with the rear tyre just past its best, ending up 1.2 slower than Redding who smashed the lap record by 0.8. Even so Danny’s time was good enough to start from the second row in P6. Good job all round.
The 20-minute race day warm up session was another opportunity to try a change in the rear shock. Unfortunately, it didn’t give Danny the ‘feel’ we’d expected so his race settings would revert to ones used in qualifying.
Race one of the Showdown, ideal conditions, huge crowd, second row start……… Brilliant launch off the line, in the top four on the long run down to turn one, a 90-degree right-hander and usually the scene of some drama or another. Our turn this time; Brookes back up the inside and Vickers coming across left Danny no choice other than to run wide to avoid a collision. P12. Lap and a half later, challenging Irwin for P8, ran on through the final chicane. Back to P12. Then a two-lap safety car period to clear up after Vickers fell. Time to take a breath and regain composure. After the safety car restart Danny set about getting through the pack and by lap 12 of 18, he was up to fifth, past Fores on the Honda. Fores fought back pushing Danny to P6, were he finished, 0.1 behind but just ahead of Showdown rivals Mackenzie and Hickman. Better luck for them than Bridewell who slipped off his Ducati while challenging Redding for the lead.
Showdown points – Buchan, Bridewell and Mackenzie all on 524. We were P3, courtesy of two race wins to the others’ one apiece.
Danny’s best lap placed him P6 on the grid for race two. This time turn one went better and he held his position. Past O’Halloran on lap 6 and then early leader Stapleford on lap 9. P4 and running close behind Bridewell who Danny had been with since lap 7. Danny briefly nosed ahead on Lap 11 and then the two settled into a heroic seven-lap battle to the flag, never more than 0.3 apart as they crossed the line. Four laps to go and Brookes started to slow, front end grip? Bridewell upped his pace and Danny went with him. Bridewell made his move on lap 16 and as Brookes fought back, he ran slightly wide and Danny was through. P3.
Saying it was tense in the FS-3 garage and on the pit wall was a major understatement. The three were nose to tail over the last two laps, none quite able to launch a safe overtaking move. So that was it at the flag, Bridewell P2, 0.1 in front of Danny P3, with Brookes 0.3 behind P4. Three seconds up the road, Redding scored his second win of the day. Danny had held fastest lap until Redding pipped his time by less than 0.1 in lap 14.
What a race. Danny reckoned the bike was perfect from lap one to the flag, fully fuelled or near empty. Said he’d never been in a race like it, not one mistake. Every braking mark, turn-in point, apex and exit kerb hit. Big credit to Matt Llewelyn, Danny’s crew chief, James Leonard from K-Tech and Jason Brown our data-man and everyone in the garage for putting such a strong bike under Danny. But hats off to Danny for a fantastic ride – taking it to the Ducatis. Felt like a win.
Showdown points. Danny 540, P4. Four behind Bridewell but now 13 ahead of Mackenzie with Hickman a further 10 points behind. The fight for third place overall is between Danny and Tommy Bridewell, if they make no mistakes. Will we be ‘best of the rest’ behind the Ducatis or could we get amongst them and finish up on the championship podium? Well know soon enough with five races to go….
Donington Park GP layout in two weeks time. Then the big final – three races at Brands Hatch on the fantastic GP circuit.
Will the weather introduce a variable? Will there be machine issues? Will there be surprise results? Who knows what will happen?
Hope both are in your diaries. See you there.