Jason O’Halloran ended the opening day of 2023 Bennetts British Superbike Championship action fastest as the season commenced at Silverstone.
O’Halloran hit the ground running today as proceedings roared into action at the 1.64-mile Silverstone National circuit with team-mate Tim Neave experiencing his first dry laps of the R1 Superbike.
With rain the story for the official tests at Donington Park and Silverstone, blue skies and sunshine treated the team to a fully dry day of running, allowing both O’Halloran and Neave to get the most laps under their belt so far this year.
After a strong opening session on Friday afternoon, O’Halloran continued to work on the new engine specification and refine the electronic strategies to continue improving his feeling with the R1. Sitting in the top five for the whole session, a 53.243 saw the Australian leap to the top of the timesheets before a late red flag brought the session to an early end.
On the other side of the garage, sunshine was a welcoming sight for Neave, who before today’s practice session was yet to get a taste of the Superbike in the dry conditions this year. Using the opening session to understand what it takes to ride the R1 around Silverstone in the dry, working closely with new crew chief Mike Norton and comparing his data to O’Halloran’s, the Lincolnshire rider made a step in free practice two, improving his time, ending the day in 20th just 0.859 seconds adrift of his team-mate’s pace-setting time.
O’Halloran’s 53.243 means he is straight into the Q2 shootout for pole position tomorrow with Neave hoping to take advantage of a few more laps by going through Q1.
Pos: 1st Time: 53’243
“It’s been a good start to the weekend for us. Today was our first dry laps since October last year, so that’s great as it’s allowed us to try a few things and improve some areas and highlight a few areas for improvement tomorrow. It’s always great riding here at Silverstone, I’m feeling good, it’s been a positive start and I can’t wait to get on the grid tomorrow.”
Pos: 20th Time: 54’102
“I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to this weekend. The weather impacted all of our testing and I didn’t do a single lap in dry conditions, but all things considered I felt more comfortable each time I rode the bike in the wet and at Silverstone we weren’t too far off in terms of lap time – my last lap of the test was actually quite strong but unfortunately it didn’t count as the red flag came out as I crossed the line. Silverstone has always been a strong circuit for me and the R1 has had some incredible results at Silverstone in recent years so I’m hoping we can get off to a strong start. It’s difficult as with being a rookie I don’t want to place a number on where I want to be, but if we can get off to a strong start, keep learning and improving in every session then I’ll be happy!”
“Considering we have had no dry running at all until today, we have to be happy with that. We know Jason can be quick around here and he instantly showed it, lapping at the front throughout the day despite having to test the new engine for the first time in the dry. We’ve been working hard over the winter to bring the engine on and it seems like we’ve done that, but there are always a few bits you then have to work through such as engine brake to refine it and get Jason feeling like he has on the bike before. For Tim, it’s just a case of laps, laps and more laps. He wants to be higher up the time sheets and that’s great to see, but it’s all about making incremental improvements and making sure he doesn’t try to run before he can walk.”
Jason O’Halloran fought gallantly for victory in the opening Bike Social Sprint Race as the first round of the 2023 Bennetts British Superbike Championship got underway at Silverstone.
Having qualified fourth, the Aussie was third at the close of the opening lap but picked off his rivals ahead to lead comfortably until the closing laps, when a sudden lack of grip allowed the chasing Kyle Ryde and Tommy Bridewell to catch him. He was then cruelly denied a season opening podium as Josh Brookes took a last lap lunge at Luffield, demoting O’Halloran to fourth.
Looking his former dominant self in the early stages, O’Halloran set the pace for most of the race but after lap 17, the grip from his rear Pirelli SC0 fell off a cliff leaving him with nothing left allowing the chasing pack to close him down.
However, after the lack of dry laps in testing, O’Halloran and the team are happy with the result and confident they can make improvements for Sunday.
Tim Neave continued to make progress as he made his debut for the team in the Superbike class. Starting 24th, the series rookie picked off eight riders in front of him and was battling for points on the final lap, narrowly missing out as he crossed the line 16th.
O’Halloran’s lap time will see him again start fourth for Race 2 with Neave improving his grid position to 19th.
Bennetts British Superbike Championship, Silverstone, Bennetts BikeSocial Sprint Race:
16. Tim Neave (McAMS Yamaha) +16.422s
Qualifying: 4th Race 1: 4th
“That’s the first long run we’ve done this year so we needed to get that race under our belt. I felt really comfortable for the majority of the race and was able to lead a lot of it but we just have to refine the setting for tomorrow. We knew going into that race we didn’t quite know what we had for the whole race, so we’ve got that under our belt now so we’ll make some changes for tomorrow. We had good speed and pace, we were fast enough so we just need to make it last a little bit longer tomorrow.”
Qualifying: 24th Race 1: 16th
“I’m pretty happy with my first race. Qualifying wasn’t great if I’m being honest so it was nice to move forward eight places in the race is really good. I had a good push at the end and I think I could have been a bit closer to have a go for 15th and 14th if I’d done that earlier. I did my fastest lap of the weekend so we’re doing what we came here to do, improving every session and my senses certainly feel a bit sharper now so we’re ready for tomorrow!”
“That was a solid start to the year. With no dry testing, we have been a little bit on the back foot and as we looked to refine the electronics package with our new engine spec. There was a bit of a gremlin we didn’t totally get fixed until Qualifying, so that race was the most laps Jason’s done on the bike this weekend. It’s all valuable data and we are confident we can make some tweaks to the chassis to see him stay at the front tomorrow. Tim’s doing a great job, every time he gets on the bike he’s going quicker and to be fighting for points in his first race is really impressive. He will no doubt take further steps tomorrow.”
McAMS Yamaha got their 2023 Bennetts British Superbike season off to a decent start with solid points for both riders in the opening three races at Silverstone.
Going into the weekend having had no dry track time, the team knew they faced a challenge and weren’t sure what to expect, but Jason O’Halloran was on the pace throughout the weekend despite having a few small niggles to iron out.
The Aussie was in the fight for the win in all three races, but a lack of grip prevented him from exploiting the Yamaha’s usual advantages. Despite this, he was still in the podium fight and less than a second off victory.
Having finished fourth in Saturday’s Bike Social Sprint Race, O’Halloran started race two from fourth on the grid and was in the fight for victory throughout. He’d just moved into third place when a red flag brought the race to a premature end with three laps to go and on countback, he was moved back to fifth.
Having secured the fastest lap in Race 2, he would start the final race of the weekend on pole position and after dropping to second on the opening lap he was soon back at the front. However, as everyone tried to conserve their tyre he dropped back to sixth, and while he was able to climb back to fourth by the end of the race the issue with a lack of drive grip would see him ruled out of the victory fight.
Making his debut in the championship, the team set rookie Tim Neave one goal for the weekend and that was to improve each time he got on the bike. And that’s exactly what he did, improving his lap time and position as the weekend went on. Two 13th places saw him score points in his first weekend and his overall gap to the winner reduced by four seconds from the shorter first race to the longer final outing.
Bennetts British Superbike Championship, Silverstone, Race 2 result:
Bennetts British Superbike Championship, Silverstone, Race 3 result:
Bennetts British Superbike Championship standings after Silverstone:
Race 1: 4th
Race 2: 5th
Race 3: 4th
“The weekend hasn’t been too bad. I felt pretty good in myself and felt like I was riding well and I was in the front group in all of the races. We’re just struggling a little bit with a few things so we have to keep working at it. We’ve got a test coming up this week so we need to work through a few things as quick as we can and turn up to Oulton with the hope of being a bit stronger.”
Race 1: 16th
Race 2: 13th
Race 3: 13th
“Every session has been a step forward which is what we set out to do. I did my fastest lap of the weekend in the last race, I got closer to the win in each race and we took a step forward with the bike too. I feel like I’m beginning to understand the bike, my feedback has got better all weekend. It’s nice to finish the weekend like that with no crashes and strong results, roll on the next round!”
“All in all, I’m quite happy with where we are at this weekend. We knew it was going to be a bit tough given we have had no dry laps so we went into the weekend a little bit blind. We were in the fight for the win in all three races, had pole position for the last one and I think we were unlucky to miss out on a podium in race two with the red flag. Either way, we were a second off the win despite things quite not being perfect – we know we’ve got more to come so I’m happy to be so close to the front with the problems we have. Tim did a mega job today, he needed to make a step and he did, moving into the points, improving his lap time and getting quicker every time he rode the bike. Thankfully we have a test before the next round so fingers crossed for the weather!”