It’s been a challenging start to the fifth round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship for Honda Racing UK, where the Brands Hatch GP circuit is somewhat of an Achilles heel for the team and its riders Glenn Irwin, Ryo Mizuno, Takumi Takahashi and Tom Neave.
In stark contrast to yesterday’s conditions, today the 2.4-mile circuit has been blessed with glorious sunshine all day, with BSB fans flocking trackside to watch the action unfold. In combined practice yesterday Glenn did enough for the SUPERPICKS top 12, where today he went straight into the Q2 session, where he qualified 11th for the opening race of the weekend, the eBay Sprint Race.
However the 15-lap sprint was short lived for Glenn who crashed out on the opening lap at Druids, having tucked the front of his CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP. Unhurt from the crash, Glenn is looking forward to tomorrow’s two longer races to make amends and look to finish the weekend in a strong position.
Meanwhile, Tom has been making progress as he continues to get to grips with the Superbike Fireblade posting his fastest-ever lap of the GP circuit in today’s race (1:26.456), where he finished just outside the points in 17th, having made up places from his 23rd start position. Ryo and Takumi also made up places from their start positions with Takumi 18th and Ryo 22nd.
Tomorrow the Honda Racing UK team will be back in action with a further two 20-lap races, where they hope to be back fighting at the sharp end.
#2 Glenn Irwin
“I was really disappointed to make a mistake in Race 1 and crash, especially on the first lap. We came here with new ideas this weekend, they definitely have some potential, but like anything you have good and bad. So thought I’d use Race 1 as a back to back, in mind that we have two races tomorrow to give ourselves the best possible chance, but turn two was where my race ended. Brands Hatch GP isn’t a strong track for us, which is something that frustrates us all because we can’t just put our finger on the issues, but saying that we have some good tracks coming up and if I can have a DNF on the not so strong tracks, it’s not a positive but I’ll take it and hope we can have success on the strong circuits. ”
#13 Takumi Takahashi
“FP1 and FP2 I was focussing on remembering how to ride the GP circuit at Brands Hatch. I felt a bit better in FP3, but I didn’t get that feeling in qualifying. In the race I got a good start, but then I couldn’t pass the other riders and didn’t have a good race, so I’ll try to improve on that tomorrow.”
#88 Ryo Mizuno
“Today was a tough race. I got off to a bad start and couldn’t make up for it until the end. We had an issue with the front suspension and couldn’t improve it. We have two more races tomorrow, so I will share information from my teammates and try to improve.”
#68 Tom Neave
“I’m disappointed with today’s result but I’m not disheartened, as I know there’s more to come. The goal for the weekend is to break into the 25s and we’re getting closer to achieving that lap time. We’re working on settings and I am starting to feel more comfortable. I think the longer races tomorrow will help, we have good tyre life so we just need to find a little more outright pace. The team are working on a different setting ready for morning warm up, which hopefully we can tap into. I’ve improved my grid position for the second race by five places, so we have a slightly better chance of getting in the points.”
Glenn Irwin put Honda Racing UK and the CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP back on the podium this afternoon at Brands Hatch, in what was a thrilling final race of the weekend coming home third after an epic battle across the 20 laps.
Turning round what started as a challenging weekend for the Honda squad, coming into Race 2, Glenn was 17th on the grid following a DNF in yesterday’s opening race. However a first lap incident saw the Honda man back in 27th place and some work to do to make up places across race distance.
With the BSB field in front of him, Glenn pushed hard aboard his Fireblade machine and started making passes on his championship rivals. By half race distance Glenn had caught his Honda teammate Tom Neave, and was sitting 11th with the top 10 firmly in his sights. Passing Tom, Glenn crossed the line 10th collecting valuable points and lined up eighth on the grid for the final race of the day.
Glenn had a fantastic start off the line for the final race and by turn one he was up in third place, and by the third lap he was in the lead. Keeping his pace and holding off a chasing pack, Glenn maintained the lead for ten laps, but eventually couldn’t hold off an attack from the McAMS Yamaha pairing of Tarran Mackenzie and Jason O’Halloran.
Slipping into third place the Honda man kept a safe distance ahead of the rest of the field to come home third and maintain his position in the overall standings in sixth place.
Meanwhile, Tom enjoyed his strongest ride of the season so far in the second race, coming home 11th after a fantastic ride from 19th on the grid. During the final race, while sitting 14th and having posted his fastest lap of the weekend (1:26.382), he came in too wide to turn four, which resulted in his rear tyre clipping the grass and his race coming to an early end.
Takumi Takahashi added further points to his championship challenge finishing 13th and 14th respectively, while Ryo Mizuno was forced to retire from Race 2 having felt a loss of rear grip, and finished 21st in the final race.
The team now has a short break between BSB rounds, where Takumi will be riding for Team HRC at the Suzuka 8 Hour on Saturday 8 August, before heading to the sixth round of the British championship at Thruxton on 12-14 August.
#2 Glenn Irwin
“In Race 2 I was happy coming from 27th to finish 10th, I learnt some things from my teammate, Tom, as in some places he was better and I wanted to know why and compare what he was doing better than me. For the final race we worked on some data and it was a mega race! I gave it everything and was so committed going into turn one, I like the new tarmac and felt comfortable going round to make a move. When I took the lead it was a pleasant surprise, and after leading for a few laps I knew the Yamahas would be close behind, as we’re know they’re strong but I wasn’t going to give it to them! I tried everything I could from braking late, exiting corners quick – everything I could to make it not easy for them. When Jason [O’Halloran] passed me I made a mistake and then Taz [Mackenzie] also came through, but it was almost a carrot dangling and something to chase to keep me ahead of Tommy [Bridewell] and Leon [Haslam] behind. The podium is a huge reward for the team at what’s a tricky track for us, my target for today was 10 points between the two races and we’ve left with 22, so we’re leaving on a high.”
#13 Takumi Takahashi
“My feeling improved a bit in this morning’s warm up. But sadly I didn’t get that same feeling for the second race, but finishing 13th is a real positive for me and to also get some more points. In Race 3, I lost a few positions after the start, but it was good to score more points finishing 14th. I think we made a good change of direction this weekend.”
#88 Ryo Mizuno
“It has been a tough weekend for us. In race two I experienced a feeling of lack of grip in the rear and we retired, which meant for the final race we had to rethink our set-up once again. Although the result was not good, we gained some positive data and we will work on it again for the next round.”
#68 Tom Neave
“Considering how the weekend started I’m leaving Brands much happier! I set my fastest lap of the weekend in the final race and I was in a comfortable position. I felt fit and strong on the Fireblade and the guys in front were coming back to me with only a few laps to go. I was motivated to keep being smooth, consistent and try to hunt them down, which is a nice position to be in, where at the start of the race I was on my own a little. Unfortunately I took a little too much corner coming into turn four, my rear clipped the grass and sent me across the grass, which chucked me off. It could have been much worse, but I am OK and that’s the main thing to take away, and despite that we are leaving here with a lot of positives. In that race I was in another point scoring position, and I think we’ve proved I’m gelling with the bike a bit more and I believe at Thruxton we can have a really good weekend.”