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Eazi Grip

A tale of 2 halves for Honda Racing UK at Brands Hatch

Saturday

Honda Racing UK navigated the wet and windy conditions as Franco Bourne continued his adaptation to racing the Superbike with a twenty-first place finish in the Bennetts BikeSocial Sprint, as Tom Neave struggled for confidence.

Saturday’s action of round six of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship became a damp affair when the rain started to fall in the middle of eBay Qualifying and refused to abate for the rest of the day. With rain falling in all sectors, Honda Racing riders Tom Neave and BSB class newcomer Franco Bourne, secured nineteenth and twenty-third on the grid respectively aboard their factory Fireblades for the late afternoon sprint race.

Under dark grey clouds and with rain falling heavily, the lights went out and the twelve-lap dash began. Both Honda Racing riders had in fact never raced the Honda Fireblade Superbike in the wet, so each lap was a learning experience as they searched for traction in the slippery conditions.

As the frontrunners completed their seventh lap, the race was red flagged due a significant oil spill on the circuit. And with persistent rain falling the race result was declared at the time of the flag. Franco secured himself a twenty-first-place finish and the same position grid slot for tomorrow’s first feature race. Tom Neave, struggling in the wet for confidence, would finish in twenty-fourth.

Meanwhile, at the front of the Superbike race, fellow Fireblade rider Danny Kent put Honda back onto the podium for the first time since the final round of 2022 with a sensational second place.

In the Pirelli National Superstock Series, championship leader Dan Linfoot had rocketed his Optimum Bikes Racing Fireblade onto pole position with a lap time that would have placed him eighteenth on Free Practice combined times in British Superbike. Joe Talbot, JR Performance Racing, was the highest Honda finisher in the race with a second-place finish, his first podium of the year.

#54 Franco Bourne

It’s been a similar story all weekend to be honest, coming in from the track and looking at the lap time and being really happy because I’m going quicker but then seeing the position. Each time I made a step, everyone else did too, the result doesn’t really show the progress that we are making. But overall I am really happy with how things are going. 

Normally I am good in the wet so I did have some confidence heading into the race, but on my Stock bike I did have a bit of traction control so that does help! I did three sighting laps before the warm up laps and managed to get into a bit of a rhythm.

I got a really bad start and was last into turn one, but I thought to myself ‘Stay calm and we can pick them off.’ I got stuck in and passed a few people but the spray was pretty bad. After a few laps I started noticing that things weren’t quite right as I was spinning up everywhere, then I looked down and saw a rainbow on the floor and thought ‘That’s never good!’ Luckily the flag came out soon after. I’m over the moon to get a finish in the wet under my belt.

#68 Tom Neave

It has been a challenging weekend that’s for sure and my confidence is pretty low at the moment. But I have to take the positives out of the day. I made a step forward in Qualifying as the rain was starting to fall which gives me some foundation to build on for tomorrow. I draw a line under today’s race and I look forward to tomorrow’s races in the dry. My target is still to fight for those top ten positions and finish in the places that I know I am capable of. 

Sunday

Tom Neave gets back into the point-scoring positions with a gutsy ride from twenty-fourth on the grid to fourteenth and Franco Bourne finishes just one second away from his first point in BSB.

Yesterday’s rain disappeared and blue skies and sunshine emerged for Sunday’s action, as Honda Racing UK riders Franco Bourne and Tom Neave lined up on the grid for race two of the weekend and the first twenty-lap race of the day. Both riders were keen to make progress from their positions towards the back of the grid in the dry conditions.

Franco and Tom made good starts from the line and traded positions throughout the opening two laps of the race. Then on lap three of the race heading into Druids, Franco was involved in an incident with another rider which caused both to fall. Unfortunately for the team, Tom Neave was also caught up in the incident and all three riders were out of the race. This crash was declared a racing incident.

Meanwhile, ex-moto3 world champion Danny Kent continued his podium run with another impressive ride to finish third on the Lovell Kent Racing Honda Fireblade.

For the final Superbike race of the weekend, Tom Neave and Franco Bourne lined up in twenty-second and twenty-fourth at the start. With work to do, both looked to get their heads down early and pick off the riders in front in their pursuit of the points-scoring positions. Tom managed to dig deep and show his true racecraft as he moved forward ten positions to finish in fourteenth and chalk up more points to his championship tally.

Franco Bourne put together his best feature-length race of his short Superbike career to finish in sixteenth, just outside the points but a strong six places higher than his grid position.

Elsewhere in the day’s racing, Dan Linfoot delivered a superb performance – recovering from crashing out of yesterday’s race – and put his Optimum Bikes Racing Honda Fireblade back on the top step of the podium. Alex Olsen, IWR Racing, also turned his weekend around with a fighting ride through to second.

The Honda Racing team will be back racing in the Bennetts British Superbike Championship at round seven, which takes place at the Hampshire circuit, Thruxton, on the 11th – 13th of August.

#68 Tom Neave

I’m not afraid to say it has been a really tough weekend for me. I realise it’s not all that bad, I am walking away injury free and we have got points in the bag, but it has been a tough weekend. I know that I am better than this and I will bounce back from this. The monster high side in FP2 really stung me and just knocked my confidence, and then heading into a wet race I just struggled to regain the feeling that I needed. 

I just never regained that confidence from before the wet race that I needed for race two. I  had to start race two from the back of the grid, and then I got wiped out early on in the race and couldn’t set a lap time for the next one so I was at the back of the grid again for race three. All the momentum was lost and I struggled to get it going again. I know I am talking about the negatives a lot but I wear my heart on my sleeve. 

I will go away, rationalise and come back stronger. Just two rounds ago I had my best weekend of my career. I will keep my head up, we’re just over halfway and we go again soon. 

#54 Franco Bourne

It’s been an up-and-down few days, especially with the wet yesterday when I just wanted to bring it home once I saw the oil. In this morning’s race, I got onto the back of the pack and wanted to keep making progress. I saw that Tito had made a mistake and was running wide so I tried to make the move on the inside and he closed the door. I had to grab the brake and I tucked the front and took him out and my teammate Tom got caught out with my bike. It was a racing incident and we move on. 

We ended up starting race two from the back because we hadn’t set a lap time in the earlier race and I wanted to make up for it a bit. I made a fairly decent start and went around the outside but it was a bit scrappy, as I am sure it always will be in this class. Tom came past me and I just wanted to stick in on the back of him. I think he had a bit more confidence as the crash earlier just knocked me back a bit. I ended up coming through to sixteenth and I come away from the weekend knowing what I need to work on for next time, I’m just one second away from getting a point on the board. 

Posted on Monday, July 24th, 2023 in News

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