Friday – O’Halloran is fastest and Rabat has a strong opening day
Jason O’Halloran and the McAMS Yamaha team were at the top of the timesheets as the fifth round of the 2023 Bennetts British Superbike Championship kicked off at a gloriously sunny Snetterton circuit in Norfolk.
Clear skies and scorching temperatures meant for a hot day of track action, which saw O’Halloran storm to the top of the timesheets, ending the day 0.283 seconds ahead of his nearest rival.
The Australian was quick from the off as he settled inside the top six as he dialled himself and the Yamaha R1 back into the 2.99-mile circuit. A mid-session change then saw him leap up the timesheets before ending practice one in third.
With improvements to the number 22 R1 made for the second practice session, the O’Show looked to lay the gauntlet down and stormed to the top of the timesheets at the halfway point by six-tenths. Towards the end of the session, the 35-year-old posted a series of blindingly quick 1:47.7 laps which left him in a good place ahead of qualifying and the Sprint Race tomorrow.
On the other side of the garage, it was a strong opening day for Tito Rabat, who made himself at home aboard the championship-winning R1. The 2014 Moto2 World Champion took to the circuit in free practice one to learn not only the track but the characteristics of the R1, which is different to what he has ridden previously.
Feeling comfortable from the off, the Spaniard gradually improved his lap time before launching himself to an impressive fifth fastest. Another strong practice two from the 34-year-old saw him continue to make improvements and wrapped up the day in 14th despite running out of fuel as he enjoyed ticking off the laps on the R1.
The action continues on Saturday with a further practice session before things get serious with Superpole and the first race of the weekend.
Free Practice: 1st
“It’s been a good day for us, in the first session once I found my rhythm the bike was feeling good straight away and we worked away on what we wanted to. We wanted to try a few things this afternoon which we did and I enjoyed the session. We ended up fastest, we had good pace from the start and were at the front from the off. We’ve a few things to try tomorrow but I don’t think we are a million miles away so I’m looking forward to the races.”
Free Practice: 14th
“I very much enjoy riding the R1. I am super happy to ride this bike. In FP1 I just made laps and kept learning, I was enjoying it and the lap time was good! This afternoon we started with a different set up which surprised me as we had a lot more rear grip. At the end of the session it was very windy! I finished 14th, so we’ll try to improve in the session tomorrow before qualifying. But I am feeling good on the bike, I want to keep learning and I am looking forward to racing tomorrow.”
“It’s been a great day for us, Jason was absolutely flying in that second session and the guys who were out spotting say he looked fast, smooth and precise and that’s when we know Jason is at his best! He’s looking really strong and feels we can even make improvements so fingers crossed we can translate that into results tomorrow. We are very happy with Tito, he had never ridden the bike and has never raced at Snetterton so to be fifth in his first practice session was seriously impressive. He improved further in FP3 and there’s definitely more to come.”
Saturday – Pole and podium for Jason O’Halloran as Tito Rabat continues to shine at Snetterton
Jason O’Halloran returned to the podium for McAMS Yamaha taking third in the Bike Social Sprint Race on Saturday with new team-mate Tito Rabat continuing to impress with a tenth place in his first race for the team.
It was a strong Saturday for the Fleetwood-based team with O’Halloran and Rabat continuing their impressive pace in the final three practice placing 3rd and 12th respectively, but it was in Qualifying that the duo would really come alive.
Having finished 14th on Friday, Rabat had to progress through the first Qualifying session but the team were pleased with this as it gave the newbie some extra track time and it paid off. The 2014 Moto2 World Champion topped the Q1 session to earn progression to Q2 and the surprises weren’t quite done there…
Heading out on track together, O’Halloran set the pace from his first flying lap with a 1’47’111 with Rabat close behind, initially going second just 0.3 seconds off his team-mate. O’Halloran’s time would be enough to maintain pole position for the remainder of the session while Rabat would only lose one place to earn his first BSB front row start, completing the team’s first double front row of the year.
The 12 lap Bike Social Sprint got off to a frenetic start with Irwin instantly attacking, knowing he couldn’t let O’Halloran get away at the front. On the second lap, O’Halloran was sent wide at turn two allowing Rabat to get in front of his team-mate for a short period.
With the speed differential down the straight to the Ducati, O’Halloran was unable to close the gap to get back past but maintained his position until half race distance when eventual winner Tommy Bridewell came through, again passing on the straight. Losing out to Josh Brookes in the closing stages, O’Halloran was looking to take fourth until a move from Brookes on Irwin at the final corner allowed O’Halloran to get the drag on Irwin’s Ducati to the line to steal third in the dying stages.
As expected given his lack of race experience on the R1, Rabat fell back into the pack and a near miss with Tommy Bridewell early in the race cost him a few positions, but re-grouping he was able to finish a strong tenth in his first race with the team.
Setting the fifth fastest lap of the race, O’Halloran will line-up fifth on the grid for the second race with Rabat 11th.
Qualifying: 1st Race 1: 3rd
“It was a good first race for us. We’ve had good pace all weekend and I’m feeling good on the bike. I enjoyed the race, but it was a bit more tricky as it’s hard to stay ahead of the bikes which are faster in a straight line, but we’ll see if we can improve our strong points and make some steps forward for tomorrow and hopefully the long race will help us too, but it’s nice to be on the podium!”
Qualifying: 3rd Race 1: 10th
“It has been a super nice experience today! I made a great start and first lap but then unfortunately I couldn’t follow the rhythm at the front as I’m not good enough for the moment but we will try to improve the set up and riding style for tomorrow. At the end I enjoyed the race and I was fighting until the last corner, I learned a lot! I am satisfied with myself 100%. So now we will go for a sleep and see for tomorrow! Thanks for to the team, they are doing a great job and I think we can go better tomorrow.”
“We’re happy enough with that, Jason rode brilliantly to take third in that one. It’s quite tough here as the Ducati and BMW are very quick in a straight line, so while we are quicker in the corner it’s hard to stay ahead of them as they just come flying past. That being said, Jason held on really well and to steal third at the end is exactly what we needed. Tito continues to impress, he’s already far surpassed our expectations and we are absolutely thrilled with his performance so far and can’t wait to see what else he can achieve.”
Sunday – Top six for Jason O’Halloran as Tito Rabat concludes an impressive debut at Snetterton
Jason O’Halloran brought home further solid points for the McAMS Yamaha team on the main race day of the fifth round of the 2023 Bennetts British Superbike Championship at Snetterton while new team-mate Tito Rabat completed his debut with two top ten finishes.
After qualifying on pole and finishing on the podium on Saturday, hopes were high for O’Halloran in the longer races and things got off to a strong start as he led the way for the first eight laps of Race 2 before a red flag halted proceedings following a crash for another rider.
Restarting from pole position, the O’Show wasn’t quite able to replicate his start and got mugged by the quicker Ducatis and BMWs in the opening laps. Fighting hard to keep Glenn Irwin behind him despite the speed advantage, he looked to be on for a podium fight with incredible corner speed at Coram’s. However, a block-pass from Irwin at the end of the back straight saw the Aussie lose momentum and cross the line fifth.
In the final outing, the number 22 got boxed in at the first turn and ended up down in eighth position on the opening lap. Struggling to overtake in the group, O’Halloran finally got through and closed down a three second gap by the end of the race as he crossed the line sixth.
Team-mate Tito Rabat was a revelation over the weekend, impressing throughout as he qualified on the front row and went on to take two solid top ten finishes going 10-13-10 in the races despite having never ridden the bike or track before.
The team will now re-group and prepare for Round 6 of the championship at Brands Hatch in two week’s time.
Race 1: 3rd
Race 2: 5th
Race 3: 6th
“It’s been a good weekend and I feel like I’m riding really well and I’m happy enough but I’m disappointed as I don’t feel like I can do any more than I’m doing in the race situation, which is frustrating. We knew this round was going to be difficult so to pick up a podium and qualify on pole is good, so we can move on from here and look forward to Brands Hatch.”
Race 1: 10th
Race 2: 13th
Race 3: 10th
“I enjoy my first weekend with McAMS Yamaha a lot, there has been a lot to learn. The first laps are very exciting here and the front riders have a super strong pace. You need to keep the consistency and push 100%. We tried our best and we were able to improve. I am happy to have achieved two top tens, a front row and gain a lot of experience and information before Brands Hatch. I want to thank the team for the opportunity and the welcome!”
“We knew the speed of the Ducati and BMW could be a problem here but Jason put up a really good fight, especially in the second race where he was doing really well to lead in the first part and in the restart he managed to hold off Glenn almost all the way and was riding in a really intelligent way to negate the speed differential. On Tito, I think he did all the talking this weekend! He showed why he’s a World Champion and really impressed everyone, so we can’t wait to get him to Brands and see how he can progress. Brands should be a better circuit for us, so fingers crossed!”