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Eazi Grip

Nigel Snook’s report for Cheshire Mouldings Kawasaki at Oulton Park

Sad news since we left Cadwell Park. The whole BSB community was shocked to hear that PBM Racing owner Paul Bird had passed away after a short illness. Paul and his team have been central to the British Superbike Championship for a quarter of a century and have played a huge role in the development of our series. We have always felt close to Paul as FS-3 Racing entered the championship on ex-PBM Kawasaki’s when his team moved back to Ducati. Paul was always supportive of our efforts and generous with his advice and guidance. Glenn Irwin and Tommy Bridewell would honour Paul’s memory over the weekend with a race win each. We all really miss Paul.

Back at our team, more news as we announced with our partners at Kawasaki that Jason O’Halloran will be joining Team Green for the 2024 British Superbike Championship campaign. Max Cook will partner Jason as he graduates from his impressive rookie year. All of this means that sadly we will be saying goodbye to Lee Jackson after six years with the team. Lee joined us to compete in the Superstock 1000 class where he performed with increasing success over two seasons with podium finishes and race wins. When FS-3 Racing became the official Kawasaki BSB entrant in 2020, Lee moved up to join Danny Buchan as we fielded two superbikes for the first time. Lee soon made his mark as a front runner in the top class, culminating in two Oulton Park race wins in 2022.

Going into Oulton Park, we knew Lee would be running at the front and demonstrating his talents on such a demanding circuit. After sitting out the Cadwell Park round as a result of his big crash in practice, Max had the added pressure of getting back up to speed at the most intimidating circuit on the calendar.

Free Practice

Ideal conditions for the first of the two 40 minute practice sessions on Friday afternoon. Lee was immediately on the pace and completed his runs in P2, in a time less than 0.1 slower than Bridewell’s fastest. The second session was going well too but was interrupted on what was looking like his fastest lap when Lee slid off at the fast righthander at Druids. Fortunately, rider okay and bike not too badly damaged. P7 and straight through to Q2 as one of the 12 fastest riders.

Max took it steady on his early laps. 17 laps, a couple of seconds off the pace, settled Max in. Good progress in FP2 with a best lap of 1.35.3 – faster than he had gone earlier in the season and only 1.3 off the ultimate pace. P14 meant he’d get extra time on the bike in Q1.

Qualifying

20 minutes practice on Saturday morning provides a warm-up for qualifying. It was chilly and the track temperature was less than optimum for the soft compound SCX rear Pirelli slicks to work at their best. Lee P9, Max P17 and focused on getting stuck in for qualifying.

Although he didn’t really click with the bike, Max posted a 35.5 to put himself into the Q1 top six and through to Q2. With the benefit of his Q1 run, Max tucked in behind Iddon at the start of Q2 and on his second lap posted a personal best time at Oulton Park – a 34.8, good enough for P13 on the grid. Further up the standings, Lee worked his way around the traffic but didn’t manage to get a clear run, his second lap was also his fastest, 0.8 off Bridewell’s pole time and 0.4 faster than Max, P8. Bit disappointing as track position is everything at Oulton so a good race start would be essential for a strong race.

Race One

All set for the 12-lap sprint race in cool cloudy conditions on Saturday afternoon. Max got an average start and didn’t manage to avoid the one thing we were worried about – he completed the first lap in P14, behind Todd on the BMW. Max had got stuck behind Todd at the previous round at Oulton and so it was again. Todd hadn’t ridden for a while and didn’t have the pace to run with the leaders so the gap to them grew. Hickman passed Max and Todd and moved away. Finally, Max passed Todd on lap 8 but Nesbitt had caught up after a poor start and immediately battled with Max for the position before making a pass stick. Max and Nesbitt crossed the line with Hickman – the three covered by half a second. P11 for Max was a reasonable showing but he had been unable to set a fast lap time behind Todd so he would have to start deep on the grid for race two.

Lee got a great launch and nailed turn one, so important at Oulton Park. P6 became P5 when Stacey crashed at Lodge. The top five Lee, Bridewell, Irwin, Haslam and Ryde then set the pattern for the weekend as they moved clear of the field in their high-speed battle. Past Ryde on lap 4, Lee was locked in a battle with Haslam as they closed the gap the Ducatis had pulled out in the early laps. Past Haslam on lap 9, P3, with his hallmark overtaking move into turn one, Old Hall. Lee was soon right there with Bridewell and Irwin but the Ducatis had the edge, that was until Bridewell ran on at Hissy’s Chicane, gifting Lee P2. Great ride and demonstrating again Lee’s prowess at Oulton Park.

Race Two

Mid-day start on Sunday at Oulton in respect of the local church service. Cloudy but dry – the rain didn’t arrive until we were packing up in the evening. On the stroke of noon, the superbikes rolled out for a quick 10 minute warm up run. Six or seven laps and Lee and Max were both comfortable on their bikes, recording strong lap times – Lee P4, Max P12.

Full distance – 18 laps each for Sunday’s races. P20 on the line and Max could just about see the lights! Spooked by Todd who stalled on the line – but at least Max was immediately clear of him – and up two places on lap one. Max followed up with his fastest lap of the weekend on lap two, 1.34.7, to get up to the next group. By lap 11 Max was past the stand-in McAMS Yamaha rider Stapleford for P13 and locked in a battle with fellow rookies Nesbitt and Perie. That’s where he finished. Less than a second behind Hickman in P10 and 7.7 behind the winner, Irwin.

Lee had another strong race off the back of another decent start. Same five riders battling for position but with the two Ducatis setting the pace. It took 10 laps for Lee to make a move stick on Haslam, P4. Ryde just ahead when the safety car was deployed on lap 13 after Stacey crashed at Clay Hill. It was a brief intervention, but the restart was dramatic. Lap 14. Safety car lights off – signalling coming in this lap. In the lead, Bridewell managed the pack towards the final turn, the tight righthander at Lodge. Having picked up the pace, Bridewell slowed again just before the turn and caught out the riders immediately behind who had accelerated in response to the initial increase in pace. The following riders swerved to both sides of Bridewell and narrowly avoided collisions as three or four of them had to pass the leader – not allowed before the finish line on a safety car lap. Fortunately, everyone got back into position before the line and the race resumed with four laps to go. However, race direction determined that Bridewell’s actions were outside of the rules and awarded a long lap penalty to be served within three laps. With laps running out, Bridewell didn’t have an opportunity to serve the penalty on track. As a result, three seconds were added to his race time – the equivalent of time lost on a long lap.

That left a four lap sprint when the safety car came in. A lap later Lee put his Old Hall pass on Ryde – P3. Eventually crossing the line 1.8 seconds behind Bridwell, Lee was promoted one place to P2 once the penalty time was added to Bridewell’s race time. It’s swings and roundabouts out there, sometimes you get a gift, but it doesn’t happen very often but just as Lee was, you have got to be there to benefit. The fallout from the Bridewell incident will be debated elsewhere! Either way, another great race by Lee.

Race Three

Lee set the second fastest lap in race two so would start from the middle of the front row. Max’s efforts promoted him from P20 to P9 on the grid, courtesy of his excellent race two lap.

Not such a strong first lap for Max this time, dropping three places. After the race Max reported an odd feel from his rear tyre which robbed him of ultimate grip and a bit of confidence. He persevered and came home P13 again, hard on the heels of Nesbitt and Hickman once more. Decent weekend overall as Max got back up to speed after his Cadwell Park crash.

As expected, Lee was at it again! First four laps battling with Ryde for P4 who he cleared on lap five and set off after Haslam again. This time it took to lap 12 to pass Haslam, replaying the pattern of the earlier races. Lee was not settling for finishing third and more impressively posting the fastest lap of the race at that point on lap 16, although Bridewell and Irwin had also really upped the pace. Bridewell took the win on this occasion with Lee a couple of seconds behind but in another podium position – P3. Lee certainly lived up to his Oulton Park reputation, scoring a podium finish in all three races, the first time he had achieved that milestone. Quite some achievement by Lee and shows that despite some opinions to the contrary, our Cheshire Mouldings ZX-10RR Kawasaki is still a force to be reckoned with.

Championship Standings

The new points system for 2023 reverted to the traditional 25 points for a win format for the Showdown rounds at Oulton and the next round at Donington Park. With more points on offer, especially for podium finishes, Lee added 54 points to his tally. 280.5 points in total means Lee has leapfrogged O’Halloran by four points into P6 and just 17 points behind Haslam. Bridewell and Irwin are well ahead and separated by half a point!

Max is P15 overall with a very creditable 69 points. He still trails Nesbitt in the Rookies standings by 15 points with Perie six behind. The points system for the rookies doesn’t really reflect their performances on the track which is represented by their main championship standings. Impressive work by all three of them.

Next Time

Donington Park, Max’s local track and a place where Lee goes well. We’re looking forward to a continuation of our late season run of form. The pressure is really on with more points on offer again and then 35 for a win at each of the three Brands Hatch races. It still looks like the main prize will go to one of the Ducati riders but we are looking forward to being right there in the mix.

Hope to see you there.

Regards Nigel. Team Principal.

Posted on Tuesday, September 19th, 2023 in News

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