Back to Donington Park – full grand prix layout this time – for part two of the three round end of season championship Showdown. Danny fourth in the standings, four points behind Tommy Bridewell. All to play for in the fight for a championship podium spot. Lee safe in third place on the Superstock 1000 standings and fired up by news of his plans for next season, read on….
Both riders in good spirits and aiming for more podium successes. It looked as if the weather would be the big variable over the weekend.
Danny Buchan. Bennetts British Superbike. Kawasaki ZX-10RR.
Heavy rain in the week was a worry, courtesy of the remnants of hurricane Lorenzo which was making for an iffy forecast! So it proved as the rain came down in the run up to first free practice. Good news is that Danny is particularly confident on a wet track. For most of the session he was well ahead at the top of the timing screens, which is where he ended up after 17 laps, a couple of tenths clear of the field.
Similar conditions for FP2 so we decided to sit it out. Nothing to be gained as the bike set up from the morning was ‘perfect’ as far as Danny was concerned. Best to avoid the unnecessary risk of a silly slip off or worse a Craner Curves crash, or simply getting caught up in someone else’s accident. By the end of FP2 only Irwin and Hickman had bettered Danny’s time from the morning.
The weather on Saturday was much better, and Danny spent most of FP3 settling into the cool but dry conditions. The final run at the end of the session went well with Danny recording the fourth fastest time, a 1.30 dead, having found a set up that seemed to work. All ready for qualifying.
Dry circuit. Q1, two laps and a 1.29.8 lap, P2 at the time and still good enough for P6 at the end of the 18-minute session. Straight through to Q2 which didn’t quite go to plan! Following Brookes on the first flying lap and a bit deep in to Foggy Esses lost Danny a quarter of a second, enough to spoil things as without that slight mistake he’d have posted a time good enough for Q3. Didn’t improve next time round so in for a new rear tyre but out again with only enough time for one more flying lap. Pressure on. Best time of the weekend so far but still 0.2 short. P13, not what we’d hoped for.
Wet again for morning warm up and Danny was flying. Literally! Third lap closing on Brookes, 1.9 seconds up on the lap… Exiting the final turn, Goddard’s, slippery downhill hairpin, the rear stepped out. Danny caught it but the bike flicked the other way and spat Danny over the top. No real harm done, just rider and bike caked in mud.
Onto race one, a few damp patches from the overnight rain, but everyone on slicks. It was going to be hard work from the fifth row. Usual decent start and settled in to P9, gradually started to move forward. Eyes closed move into Foggy’s on lap nine and Danny passed Fores and Mossey in one go. P7. Danny started to pull away but then suffered two or three laps off the pace and the group was back on him. Spots of rain shouldn’t have troubled Danny so maybe there was a bike issue. Whatever it was, the FS-3 Racing Kawasaki slipped back to P10 and although Danny found his rhythm again, he couldn’t get back past. Suppose we have to have a bad day at the office occasionally.
Straight back into the truck for the de-brief. Danny was really upset he hadn’t done his job but reported that the bike was skittish and more physical than usual. He was having to fight it and try and make up time on the brakes, never ideal. Harder you try, slower you go… After an hour long engineering meeting, there was a plan to calm down the chassis. The changes – significant but not massive – were put into the bike. P11 grid slot, based on his race one lap time, so more work to do in the race. Arriving on the grid, Danny reported the bike had felt better on the out lap but still asked for a couple of changes on the grid. Danny’s feedback is really good these days.
Lights out and another cracking start and past both Hondas and both Yamahas on lap one, crossing the line P6. Awesome overtakes! Then at the end of the second lap our old mate Billy McConnell decided to play in the Foggy Esses gravel trap and sprayed aggregate all over the exit. Safety car for three laps for some energetic sweeping by the corner marshals. Off we went again with Danny right behind Iddon and Hickman who were fighting out of Redgate and down the hill to the Old Hairpin giving Danny the opportunity for his second two for one overtake of the weekend as they swept under Starkey’s Bridge. Scary to watch but very effective on track, P4, right behind the three Ducatis – our usual place, taking the fight to them.
The four of them pulled away from the field with Redding trying to make his escape. Brookes, Bridewell and Danny were locked together for the next 10 laps, our ZX-10RR clearly working much more to Danny’s liking, his best lap of 1.29.6 was evidence of that. As the race wore on, Brookes closed back on Redding but Bridewell and Danny settled in to come home comfortably in P3 and P4. No podium but a great recovery by the team and Danny from a difficult qualifying and race one. Smiles all round.
Now 21 points behind Bridewell and the same ahead of Mackenzie. Hickman a further eight behind but unlucky not to jump up to fifth place as his bike failed in race two when he was running P5. It looks like we’re heading for P4 overall in the championship but with three races at Brands Hatch, who knows what may happen.
Lee Jackson. Pirelli National Superstock 1000. Kawasaki ZX-10RR.
Lots of wet and just one race for Lee this time. Straight in to FP1 on a patchy, drying track. 16 laps and no dramas, solid P5. Conditions were better for FP2 and after 10 laps Lee was P3, just 0.6 off his buddy and this year’s champion, Richard Cooper.
Lunchtime Saturday. Perfect conditions for the one-shot 25-minute qualifying session. As always, everyone out on a new front tyre and a part-used rear to settle in, before coming in for a new rear tyre, ready for the final time attack. By the end of the session Lee was P2 just ahead of Cooper but 0.7 behind Taylor Mackenzie who was doubling up on the Tyco superbike and getting lots of track time. All looking good for the race.
First, we had to contend with a streaming wet morning warm up. Lap times nearly 20 seconds off the pace meant survival mode was the order of the day. By late morning as the grid formed up for Lee’s race, the track was drying but still with some significant patches of wet in critical places. A few chose to go with a wet weather front tyre, but Lee and the front runners went with the lightly treaded dry weather Pirelli Supercorsa tyre. Everyone would have to be careful.
Off they went and sure enough, big crash for Neave on the Honda exiting the Old Hairpin on lap one. A lap later and most unusually, rain master Michael Rutter crashed exiting the Melbourne Loop leaving fluids and debris on the racing line. Safety car for two laps. Lee running P4 had already made a gap behind him, but the controlled period closed up the field.
Good restart but a lap later, exiting the blind Coppice corner Taylor Mackenzie tapped on the throttle a bit too soon and too hard on the damp surface and launched himself into a huge high side. At that moment he was one bike’s length in front of Lee who was taken wide avoiding the bike and rider but having to stop at the edge of the track. So soon after the restart with the pack still close together, Lee lost 10 places as others went through on the inside. P14 became P9 at the line, half a lap later. An angry Lee is a fast Lee. He made up another four places next time round but by the time he was back to P4 on lap nine the two leaders and Weaving who had benefitted from not being caught up in the Mackenzie incident were already 10 seconds up the road. With only six laps left to run, all Lee could do was ride around by himself with a 13 second gap behind him. A real pity as Lee clearly had the pace to have won the race. However, it was nice to see Jordan Weaving score a podium after a difficult year or so.
No championship issues as we already know Lee is confirmed as third place for the year but a pity to miss out on another podium.
We are finally able to confirm that Lee will be Danny’s team-mate for 2020, riding the team’s second Team Green ZX-10RR Superbike.
Third place overall in the extremely competitive Pirelli Superstock 1000 championship standings, Lee has recorded race wins and lap records while representing FS-3 Racing in the class over the past two seasons. He won the Junior Superstock championship in 2012 and went on to gain superstock 1000 and superbike experience in the following seasons, before joining us in 2018. Lee is already a superbike podium finisher and holds the superbike lap record for Cadwell Park, as well as the superstock 1000 lap records for Thruxton, Snetterton and Oulton Park where at the last round he knocked off an impressive 0.5 of a second from the previous best.
Everyone involved with the team agrees that Lee has earned another run in the superbike class. His speed and consistency this year have been impressive, and together with his previous superbike experience, made it an easy decision to take. An important aspect of deciding to give Lee a run on the big bike is it provides continuity in our tight run team and meets our objective of helping to develop younger, homegrown talent to become the BSB stars of the future.
We’re sure that Lee is going to surprise a few people. Just as Danny has.
FS-3 Racing Team.
One more round to go. Time flies when we’re working so well together and meeting – and even exceeding – our pre-season goals.
With next year in mind, running as the official Kawasaki BSB team, there’s already a lot of planning underway. That includes developing the crew and at Donington we welcomed Jack Chatwood to the team, working at the back of the garage as our tyre man. Such an important job, especially with two superbikes to look after, so we’re delighted to have the man who looked after Shane Byrne’s tyres at PBM on the crew.
More news after Brands about how things are shaping up for next year.
Final preparations for Brands Hatch are already underway and we’re all looking forward to a safe and competitive final round.
Danny and Lee have both done a tremendous job this year so make sure to come and cheer them on one more time.
Hope to see you there.