Suddenly, it’s nearly all over. Setting up our garage at Brands Hatch ready for the final three races of the season. Garage allocation is based on current championship standings so there we were, between the three Ducatis and the factory Yamahas, a clear indication we’d had a pretty good year.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. While Lee was safe in third place in the Superstock 1000 championship, our main objective was to secure Danny’s fourth place in the superbike standings, ahead of Showdown rivals Tarran Mackenzie and Peter Hickman.
Sketchy weather forecast but the Grand Prix circuit was looking in good order, even if the car parks were something of a challenge. Main thing was hoping for a safe weekend to round off the season.
Lee Jackson. Pirelli National Superstock 1000. Kawasaki ZX-10RR.
Not such a busy weekend for Lee with the focus on the superbike class. However, we knew he wanted to go out on a high and remind everyone why he’ll be riding our second superbike next year.
Dry but chilly first practice and Lee got in 13 laps for a steady P4, just 0.8 of a second slower than champion and Lee’s best mate Cooper’s fastest time. Dry again for FP2 later in the afternoon and P9, two seconds faster than the morning’s lap time, in a close pack less than a second behind Cooper.
Qualifying on Saturday morning was wet, but not raining. As is always the case in drying conditions, times continued to fall as the track improved and the riders adapted to the conditions. Normally the plan is to get some laps in on a used rear tyre and then fit a new one for a final run at the end of the session. In the wet there’s an argument to stay out and build up speed on a hot wet weather tyre as the conditions improve. That’s what Lee was doing, but with the tyre giving up on the drying line he came in for a second wet with a few minutes to run. Even so, he’d still used the best of the new tyre as the times continued to drop in the dying moments of the session. P9 wasn’t ideal but with the field running 10 seconds off the pace, a number of rain specialists were ahead of Lee. If the race was dry, Lee was confident he’d quickly work his way to the front.
With a busy schedule on the Sunday, superstock warm-up took place at the end of proceedings on Saturday. Dry track, P2, 0.008 behind Rouse. Ready to race the next day. And what a hectic race it was. Pushed wide at Paddock Hill Bend off the line, probably P12 or 13 on the run up to Druids Hairpin, Lee was lucky to avoid a melee following a collision exiting Graham Hill Bend. Four or five down, red flag. Thankfully no one seriously hurt. The red flag had actually done us a favour. Some empty grid slots around Lee for the restart, which was messy. A stalled bike led to a delay, so the riders were sent around on a second green flag formation lap. Race distance now reduced to 11 laps, rather than the original 14.
Much better first corner and Lee came around P4 and then passed Ward for P3 and into a tight battle with Cooper and Hedger who was riding as if his life depended on it. One successful pass was countered by a Hedger lunge on the brakes but finally Lee got the job done into Paddock Hill. P2. A lap later and a perfect drive out of Druids caught Cooper unawares and Lee was through. P1 and going for it. Cooper later said he could tell from Lee’s body language that he was determined and a repass would be difficult. How right he was. Four nail-biting laps later Lee crossed the line 0.5 ahead and with the huge crowd on its feet.
Fantastic ride by Lee and a perfect way to end his season with a warning to the superbike grid!
Danny Buchan. Bennetts British Superbike. Kawasaki ZX-10RR.
Championship standings, fourth place, behind the three all-conquering Ducatis. 21 points ahead of Tarran Mackenzie. The Championship a head to head between Redding and Brookes.
FP1, wet, seven laps 13 seconds off the pace. FP2 damp patches but mostly a dry line. P2, 0.038 behind Brookes but still a few seconds from a fully dry time. FP3, very wet, two laps.
Into qualifying with relatively little running and one unresolved set up issue. Danny is one of the few riders who runs on the harder option front tyre, but the low temperature was taking us in the direction of the softer tyre which we’re less familiar with.
Q1 was straightforward. Nine laps on a nearly dry surface. P9. The Q2 result looked fantastic on paper – P2, 0.002 behind Brookes. Wasn’t quite like that as Danny’s first run was well off, following Iddon and looking good, but the time wasn’t there. Last minute ‘IN’ board call for another new tyre, maybe the first one hadn’t ‘switched on’, it happens sometimes. Back out with about two and a half minutes to go – just enough time to get through for one last flying lap. BOOM – P2! The same rear tyre would have to be run in Q3 as we’d used our quota, but at least there was only one hard lap on it. Into Q3 and out behind Brookes. Three laps completed and just 0.1 shy of Brookes’ best, P2 again. Middle of the front row. Perfect!
Race one, Saturday afternoon. Five or six laps in and a huge blow up for Francis’s BMW brought out the red flag. After an extensive clean-up operation, the race was restarted over 12 laps. Unfortunately, we lost our front row start as the grid was based on track positions at the red. Reasonable start into P5 and a race-long battle with Iddon and O’Halloran, with Redding coming through after six laps stuck behind Danny. Frustrating race for Danny as he just couldn’t make a pass on Iddon who crossed the line 0.3 ahead. With the three Ducatis well up the road, a top five would have to do.
Sunday. Final race day of the season – massive crowd looking down on pitlane from the amphitheatre banking. Steady warm up – in the very cold and windy conditions. P7 on the grid based on race one lap times. Safe enough start and first lap, through into P5 – as usual! Another Iddon, O’Halloran battle, this time with Mackenzie on the second Yamaha riding hard behind to make up for his huge qualifying crash. Redding came through again, recovering from his customary slow launch off the line. The race settled down with Danny P6, staring at Iddon’s seat unit for the second half of the race, 10 laps solid. This time Iddon crossed the line 0.5 ahead with Mackenzie a further second up the road and the Ducatis out of sight. Danny was struggling with a bit of understeer at critical points in the lap. Maybe it was the softer front tyre, not used to the extra feel it gives or not having had enough dry free practice to perfect a set up to work it correctly.
So, onto race three of the weekend to conclude the event and decide the championship. Even if Brookes won the race Redding, with a small points advantage, only needed to finish fifth or better to clinch the title. Place your bets.
After a chat with Pirelli, it was decided we could run the harder front tyre. Ours would be the only one on the grid. We were P6 on the grid this time and as usual, Danny had a very strong launch off the line and survived the blind drop into Paddock Hill with the pack one last time. Same race again, pretty much. First time around, P6, in with the usual suspects. Dropped back to eighth in the battle, maybe the hard tyre wasn’t working. Afterwards Danny said he’d thought the same but reckoned it was a help as the others around him started to suffer with front end grip. So, he fought back. Back past O’Halloran, back past Hickman and back past Mackenzie. Hard racing, P5 going on to the final lap. Climbing the pit wall fence to wave Danny home one last time. What’s up? The three he’d repassed came through but no Danny – couldn’t believe it. Surely, he hadn’t crashed on the last lap of the season. Then there he was, 5 seconds behind and back in P8. Turns out a transmission component had worn out, and he was concerned something might seize up. Better to be safe than sorry but still a little bit of an anti-climax. (In four years, we only had one mechanical DNF when a relay failed at Knockhill in our first season. Impressive reliability).
Who won the lot? Brookes won the race from Bridewell but with Redding coming home a comfortable third. So, Scott deservedly won the Championship – five points ahead of Brookes in the final analysis. Good luck in World Superbikes next year.
What about us? Championship points. Mackenzie 566, Buchan 588. Fourth place in the British Superbike Championship secured – only the three Ducati Panigale V4RS Corse machines ahead of us. MotoGP technology via World Superbikes. (Beautiful bits of kit though).
Brands is traditionally a Ducati track and doesn’t really play to the strengths of our Kawasaki ZX-10RR, or Danny’s riding style for that matter. Which makes Danny’s weekend all the more impressive.
Good end to a great campaign. Roll on next year.
Bennetts British Superbike Championship : FS-3 Racing Kawasaki/Danny Buchan.
- 27 races. One DNF – crashed while leading, race two Knockhill. One DNS – crashed on untreated oil going to the grid, race two Snetterton.
- Two race wins. Four third places. Two fastest laps. One pole position. 302 points scored. Top six Showdown qualification.
- Championship fourth place overall.
Pirelli National Superstock 1000 Championship : FS-3 Racing Kawasaki/Lee Jackson.
- 20 races including three two-part long-distance events. Two DNFs – first corner crash, race one Knockhill and mid-race crash Cadwell Park.
- Two race wins. Five second places. Two third places. Two new lap records set, Snetterton and Oulton Park. 240 points scored.
- Championship third place overall.
However, our main success criterium is Rachel interviews which only happen if we’ve done something good. Together we’ve had loads. Job done!
FS-3 Racing Team.
Nine-tenths of an iceberg is below the surface. You get to see Danny and Lee on the stage. What they achieve on track depends on the very considerable efforts of Darren, Dave, Matt, Jason, Chris aka Bear, Tomas from MSS, Tom, James from K-Tech, Jordan, Ritchie, Jack, Sam (Lee’s Mum and ace signaler), Kirsty, Anne and me, I suppose…
Then there’s all our technical suppliers and commercial sponsors – see who they are on the sponsor page on www.fs3racing.com – and friends and family who support us along the way.
Onwards and upwards next year as we step up to a double garage and two superbikes. You probably know by now that we’ve been entrusted to run the official Kawasaki entry in the superbike class for the next three years. We’re going to be leading a comprehensive Team Green programme which will see entries in all classes carrying our title sponsor’s branding. All will be revealed at the NEC show.
Before Next Year.
Other than building another superbike and stocking up with all the operational gear we’ve got rather a lot in our team diary.
First, Motorcycle Live at the NEC in November, featuring the announcement of our title sponsor.
Then testing in Spain first week of December. (Courtesy of No Limits trackdays).
Then the London Motorcycle Show at the ExCel in February – come and see our 2020 livery and buy some team clothing.
Then the official BSB test, late February in Spain.
Then the official BSB launch and test day at Silverstone, 1 and 2 April.
Finally, we go racing again. Round one, Silverstone 10 – 12 April.
Looking forward to catching up with everyone at the Shows.