Honda Racing UK and Tom Neave score more championship points at round 5 of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship at Snetterton, as Franco Bourne makes an impressive debut on the Fireblade Superbike.
After the final Free Practice session of the weekend on Saturday morning, the Honda team geared up for qualifying in hot and humid conditions. Both riders would aim to progress through the initial session in their pursuit of a strong qualifying slot on the grid.
Tom Neave would dig deep to go purple in the final sector of his quickest lap and set the sixth quickest lap of the session to advance through to Qualifying 2. He then went on to smash his personal best lap of the Norfolk Circuit to lap in 1:48.450, placing him 15th on the grid for the Bennetts BikeSocial Sprint race.
Meanwhile, Franco, in his first weekend racing the Fireblade Superbike, set his best lap of the event so far with a 1:49.750, almost a full three seconds quicker than his FP1 time, to qualify in 25th position in the ultra competitive series.
As the lights went out and the race roared into life, Franco fired up the order and got his elbows out to gain several positions in the first lap. Knowing that each lap would be an opportunity to learn from those around him, getting away with quicker riders in front was always the aim.
Tom Neave meanwhile, also made a strong start to hold position throughout the early laps, setting his fastest lap of the race, a 1:48.750, on his third circuit. As the race progressed, Tom began to pick off those in front of him and would finish the race in twelfth. His quickest race lap time places him 13th on the grid for the first feature length race tomorrow.
Franco would finish his first BSB race in an impressive 19th place as he continued his adaptation to the Superbike. He set a quickest race lap of 1:49.394 to qualify 18th for tomorrow’s opening race. This grid position gives him a great opportunity to potentially reach those championship points-scoring finishing positions come the chequered flag tomorrow.
In the Pirelli National Superstock series, the Honda Fireblade continues its strong early season form as eight ‘Blades’ occupied positions within the top ten. Dan Linfoot fired his Optimum Bikes Racing Fireblade to pole position in a blisteringly quick 1:48.948.
#68 Tom Neave
It was nice to get through to Q2, the first one of the year, which sounds really disappointing considering we have had some half decent results. I set my fastest ever lap here in Q2 which is positive. I know I race better too, and I am working on my qualifying. I was only a few tenths away from a solid top ten qualifying position, and a few tenths around here really isn’t a lot.
I knew I would race better, I made up a place at the start but then Kyle Ryde came past me. In all honesty, I thought that he was going to pull me up to the group in front, especially with how he has been going this year. After two to three laps though I realised he was holding me up, so I went past him and put some time into the group in front, but it was a bit too late by then and the gap in front was too big.
It gives me confidence heading into the longer races tomorrow that I have the pace to go with them and catch them. I feel strong, the bike feels good & my fitness is good so let’s aim for some solid top tens tomorrow from 13th on the grid. The last few laps I was lapping at a similar time to the guys fighting for sixth, so that’s the target.
#54 Franco Bourne
Qualifying was another step up from Friday, not that I felt bad on Friday but it took some time to get used to how the bike was feeling and to get used to it, so I was happy to make an improvement each time that I went out on the bike.
Coming into the race and picking up a strong result like that has been great. One of my weak points has been my starts, I have really struggled with them. Today though, as soon as I set off though I felt good, I made a great start and got a great run on a few people and made up a few positions there. Then I just tried to get stuck in really. I made a bit of a silly move into turn two and ran myself wide but I just tried to stick with the guys in front and not let them get away. I used all of my energy to catch up with Josh Owens and when I got on the back of him I felt pretty spent to be honest! Then I saw that Hicky was coming back to us and when Josh went past him, I then followed him through a few corners later on the last lap.
Once I was past I just wanted to get to the finish line, then as I crossed it I felt awesome. I’ve finished my first race on the Superbike and I can go again twice tomorrow from a higher grid slot. It’s been great.
Despite a frustrating Sunday for the Honda Racing UK team, Tom Neave adds to his championship points haul.
Sunday at Snetterton remained dry, despite some threatening clouds overhead as the pit lane opened for the first of two feature-length races at the Norfolk Circuit. Honda Racing UK Riders Tom Neave and Franco Bourne lined up in thirteenth and eighteenth respectively on their CBR1000RR-R Fireblade SPs.
As the lights went out, both riders roared away from the line and began to scrap with the riders around them. Although Franco lost positions early in the opening lap, he quickly got his elbows out to retake positions and was holding eighteenth as he ended lap one.
Tom too managed to hold his position in the early laps, battling with Nesbitt and Stacey for thirteenth position before tucking the front on lap three and crashing out of the race unhurt.
Franco, however, was continuing his assault towards the point-scoring positions and was running in fifteenth position when the red flag came out on lap seven. As the shortened race restarted under the quickstart procedure, Franco lined up in fifteenth position ready for the eight-lap dash. Sadly, he would retire at the end of lap one after experiencing a slipping clutch due to rider error at the race start.
In the second Superbike race of the day, both riders started towards the back of the grid as a result of not setting a lap time in the earlier race. Tom Neave put in yet another fighting ride to progress forward from his twenty third grid slot, all the way through to fifteenth by the flag, yet again adding to his championship points tally.
Franco crashed out of the race on lap two and took a bang to the head. He was transported to the medical centre and received treatment for concussion.
In the sole Pirelli National Superstock race of the weekend, Dan Linfoot raced away from his pole position grid slot on his Optimum Bikes Racing Fireblade to notch up another superb win, his third in a row, and extend his championship lead. Fireblades also occupied the other podium positions in the hands of Alex Olsen and Richard Ker with Alex setting a new Superstock race lap record with a sensational 1:49.104 lap. A time that would have placed him twelfth on the grid for Superbike race three.
The Honda Racing team will be back in action at round 6 of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship at Brands Hatch on 21-23 July.
#68 Tom Neave
I thought at the beginning of the weekend I was going to go pretty well, it is a track that I love and I have always gone well at. I thought we were heading in a good direction after Knockhill, the bike is in a good place and I made my first Q2 of the year.
Race one there were positives to take, although the result wasn’t that great the race pace in the latter laps was strong. I knew we had something to work with and build on. Unfortunately, a crash on lap two in race two just hampered our progress.
For race three, we decided to try something different with the setup. Unfortunately, I lost some of the feeling that I was after and it was a poor race. I draw a line under this weekend and look to regain the momentum that we have been building.
#54 Franco Bourne
In race one of the day I was really happy to come through the field as I did in the first half of the race. My pace was good and I felt good on the bike. When we made the restart though I made a bit of a mistake at the start and over revved the bike which caused the clutch to start slipping, so I pulled in.
Then I had a bit of a poor start in race two, after getting the revs wrong in race one I wanted to get the revs right but I went the other way and ended up under revving it. I got away and Tom came by in turn one and I tried to go back around the outside of him and it didn’t work. I got hung out to dry on the outside of turn two, and then it was typical first lap silly moves.
I thought, stick with Tom for a few laps, and I saw him go past Hicky and I realised I needed to go by him because I felt I had more pace. I got onto the inside of Hicky into turn one and came alongside him into turn two. Unfortunately I outbraked myself, clipped the back of Tom’s wheel and flicked over the side and knocked my head. Luckily I had an airbag suit on which I’ve not had before.
I’ve not had the results I wanted in the two races today, but I have had the pace for 15th and higher and I come away from the weekend focusing on the positives.