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Eazi Grip

Changing conditions at Oulton Park and mixed fortunes for Honda Racing UK

Qualifying and race one of ‘Super Sunday’ now complete at the Cheshire circuit, the Honda Racing UK team will go through the data to fine-tune the setup of their CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SPs ahead of the final races of the round tomorrow.

One of the most technically challenging and high-speed circuits of the calendar, Oulton Park has proved to be a true test of man and machine as changeable conditions throughout the weekend have made bike set-up particularly difficult for all.

Qualifying for Bennetts British Superbike riders Andrew Irwin and Tom Neave took place in damp conditions on this rollercoaster-like circuit. After topping the initial qualifying session Andrew progressed into Q2, setting a lap time of 1.44.554 to place him seventh on the grid for the afternoon sprint race. Tom Neave set a best time of 1:48.691 to qualify twenty-first.

The 12-lap Bennetts Bike Social sprint race began in dry conditions and both Honda Racing UK riders pushed hard to make up positions. Andrew Irwin was running in the leading group throughout the race and would finish in 6th position when the red flag came out early due to rain in all sectors. He managed to set the 6th quickest lap time of the race and will line up on the second row for race 2 tomorrow.

Ever the racer, teammate Tom Neave was able to make up 7 positions as he battled through from his 21st grid space to finish the opening race of the weekend in 14th position. He also picks up two valuable championship points and will start race 2 from 18th position.

In Superstock qualifying, a revised format to mirror the British Superbikes took place this afternoon. Nathan Harrison will start in 34th for tomorrow’s 14-lap thriller.

Unfortunately, due to a technical team error in tyre selection, John McGuinness was not able to set a representative lap time in difficult conditions during qualifying. As a result, he has not qualified for tomorrow’s race.

Elsewhere in the paddock, Honda success was aplenty as Billy Mcconnell and Joe Talbot would qualify second and third respectively in the Superstock series.

#18 Andrew Irwin

I think qualifying was good. I struggled in FP3 in the wet and we then made a big step and we went fastest in Q1, which I think was an advantage to go through because we knew the track conditions. Q2 we were slightly unlucky as we crossed the line 7 seconds too soon and weren’t able to do another lap in the best conditions so I qualified 7th, but I think we had enough for more. It was a good race, but we lost the front group due to a crash for another rider which meant we lost the tow with the front group. 6th is definitely a decent ride around here, but I’m looking to make a step tomorrow and run with the front boys. 

#68 Tom Neave

It’s been a positive end to the day having had some pretty shocking conditions this weekend! I know where I’m going around here and I just need to crack on. It’s the same story for me, poor qualifying and then I always move forward in the race, matching the lap times of the group in front of me. I’m matching the times of 8th-10th. I’ve definitely made a step with the bike and I can end the day with a semi-smile on my face. I think there’s more potential to come. 

#15 Nathan Harrison

It was great to confirm that the changes we made to the bike for a test at Cadwell have been working here at Oulton Park which is great as the bike now really feels like my own. We’ve had some testing conditions which has meant we did what we needed to do today, qualify for the race so we can get some more bike time ahead of the North West 200. I’ve only ridden in the wet a handful of times so for the conditions to be so changeable has been tricky. I’ve definitely been gaining confidence lap by lap which is important for racing in the wet. I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow, hopefully in the dry! 

#3 John McGuinness MBE

It’s not how I wanted the weekend to go, but it’s one of those things. Mistakes happen. I could feel that something wasn’t right and in those conditions, you don’t want to push it. But we look forward, the North West is right around the corner and I’m looking forward to it. 

Honda Racing UK makes progress at Oulton Park round 2

The Honda Racing UK team wraps up round 2 of Bennetts British Superbike action at Oulton Park with another haul of championship points.

Fresh from his 6th place finish in yesterday’s shortened sprint race, Andrew Irwin was keen to make a forward step in today’s races and push towards the podium positions. Overnight changes to the bike improved his feeling and meant that he was able to fight at the sharp end throughout the 18-lap opening feature race. He would finish the race in fourth position after just being pipped to the final podium position over the line. His best lap of the race was a 1.34.956 placing him fifth on the grid for the last race of the meeting (which would become fourth once penalties were applied for others).

Also pushing forward from his 18th place grid slot in Race 1, Tom Neave was engaged in a race-long battle for 12th position with fellow Honda rider Davey Todd. Once more, Tom proved his racecraft and fighting spirit as he held onto 12th place as he crossed the finish line, 6 places higher than his grid position. With championship points in the bag and confidence growing, his best lap of 1.36.731 provided him with 14th on the grid for race 3.

Meanwhile, in the road racing side of the garage and in the sole superstock race of the weekend, Nathan Harrison put in a fighting ride to finish in 15th position, 18 places higher than his qualifying position of 33rd. He also earned himself his first ever championship point for his efforts and now turns his attention to the roads.

After a frustrating qualifying on Saturday, circumstances changed for John McGuinness MBE and he was able to line up in 40th position on the grid for the race. He too would make up many places throughout the race and showed brilliant pace throughout to finish in a fantastic 20th position, passing a remarkable 20 other riders in doing so.

In the final Superbike race of the weekend, Andrew got a lightning start from the second row to run into the first corner in the lead. He continued to battle for the podium positions in the early stages of the race before fading to finish 9th. Tom Neave was lapping strongly in the latter points-scoring positions before crashing out of the race unhurt.

Elsewhere in the Pirelli National Superstock class, Fireblade mounted riders Dan Linfoot, Richard Kerr and Franco Bourne made it a Fireblade lockout on the podium for the third race in a row this year.

The Honda Racing UK team now turns its attention to the North West 200 (9-13th May) as the first road event of the year for the team approaches. Riders John McGuinness MBE and Nathan Harrison are both eager to race the CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SP superbike for the first time this year. British Superbike action will resume once more at Donington for round 3 on 19-21 May.

#18 Andrew Irwin

Honestly, this weekend has been a lot more positive than I thought. Whenever you go to a track you always try to isolate the negatives and this track has not always been the best for me. In all three races, we were in good positions. We made a big step overnight and we were in the podium fight. It’s a credit to the team, my crew chief spider, Harv, everyone in the background and my mechanics. The final race was frustrating as I faded a little bit after putting everything into the morning race, there was nothing wrong with the bike and it was me, I just had a sore arm. I take away the positives though, it is a long season and we now go to Donington which is a track that I go really well at, I’ve had multiple podiums there in the past. 

#68 Tom Neave

In race 2 I started in 18th and finished 12th which as a result is a good step forward, but to be honest I was disappointed with my race pace in relation to my outright lap speed here. We made some changes and had a good setup for race 3. I was running in 14th tucked in behind Jason O’Halloran and we were catching the group in front. Unfortunately I made a slight little mistake and ran over the edge of the front tyre at one of the fastest corners, but thankfully we are alright and we can go again at Donington. 

#15 Nathan Harrison

Starting from 33rd on the grid was a bit of an ask after a wet qualifying, which isn’t my strong point. But in the race I got into a great rhythm, catching rider by rider and my fitness was really good. The bike felt like it was my own so I could really push on and make progress. I’ve got my first-ever championship point, which is helping to build the confidence heading into my first road races of the year at the North West 200. To have got a point at one of the tracks that I find the hardest has also given me loads of confidence. 

#3 John McGuinness MBE

It’s weird, I’ve never started last on the grid in my life, we even had our own row all to ourselves! The first few laps were pretty scary, lads flying about all over the place, but once I settled down I started to enjoy myself and started picking them off one by one. For me, it’s 14 valuable laps of riding hard before we head to the North West. I kept pushing, never gave up and if you are going forward you are going alright.

Posted on Tuesday, May 2nd, 2023 in News

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