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Eazi Grip

The ups and downs for Completely Motorbikes Kawasaki at Donington Park

Last time out at Oulton Park, Jason and Max were clearly up to speed on their ZX-10RRs. We may not have troubled the podium, but Jason was close to finding the centre of the sweet spot in setting up his engine and chassis, and Max has made another step with his riding and can now run with the big boys, clear of the midfield pack.

Jason and Max both love racing at Donington, Jason on pole and winning races there last year and Max with race wins and lap records in junior classes. Mind, the competition this year is at a very high level, so we knew it was going to be a full-on weekend.

Near perfect weather and a huge crowd created a fantastic atmosphere and we were very pleased to be part of the show.

Free Practice

Two 50 minutes sessions on Friday afternoon. Two sets of tyres available, so the first priority is settling into the circuit and making initial adjustments with five or six lap runs. Not chasing times, Jason P10 and Max P14. More worn tyre running in FP2 before the second set went in for a time attack to secure one of the top-12 places that would take riders straight through to Superpole.

Jason emerged P2 with a 1.27.8, just 0.012 shy of Vickers’ best time and 0.3 from the lap record. Max P10 with a very creditable 1.28.7. Straight through to Superpole qualifying.

Qualifying

Short warm up run on worn tyres Saturday afternoon in preparation for qualifying. Top 12 sat back while the rest of the field competed for the final three places in the one-by-one superpole qualifying.

Running in reverse order, Max was the fifth runner to take to track – out lap, timed lap, in lap. 1.28.6, retaining his P10 position. Jason out second last and really going for it. The sector split times were predicting a front row start but a big front-end slide coming out of Goddards, the final corner, cost him 0.3 so it it would be P4 or P5 on the second row of the grid. Except it wasn’t! Race control message after the session announced they were checking if Jason’s tyres may have touched the track limit marking at Foggy Esses. Well after the end of Superpole it was announced that Jason’s rear tyre had touched the yellow paint and, therefore, his time was cancelled. In effect he was given a 10-grid place penalty for a tiny mistake under maximum pressure. After an appeal and a further review of the pictures the decision was upheld.

Grid position for race one is so important for the chance of a strong result and a good lap time for Races two and three that a bad qualifying can effectively ruin a rider’s weekend before it has started. Nothing to do but to go racing. And of course, Max got promoted one place to P9!!

Race One

20 lap feature race. Perfect conditions. Solid start from Max who slotted into his new usual spot on the back of the leading group. Jason meanwhile was trying to stay safe and work his way through the midfield battle. As he put it, it’s a different race and very difficult to navigate some of the moves made by riders he doesn’t usually race with. Initially losing a place, P15, Jason gradually worked his way up to clear air behind Nesbitt on Lap seven, P10. Max was sat in P7 now hard on the back of Glenn Irwin looking for a way through and the Ducati had clearly lost rear grip.

Three-quarters distance and on the fast exit of the Old Hairpin Iddon had a nasty crash that brought out the red flag. Two-thirds distance covered so the result was declared at the end of lap 14. Max 0.3 behind Glenn and deprived of a near certain P5 finish and Jason closing in on Jackson, P8.

Lap times gave Max P9 and Jason P10 on the grid for Sunday’s Sprint race.

Race Two

No dramas in the 10-minute morning warm up.

But the race was just our most depressing ever!

Great start by Jason, battling with Max for P6. Into the Melbourne Loop hairpin on the second lap, Vickers thought he could get between them but only managed to run into Max and crash and hurt himself. Racing incident which didn’t really affect Max’s race.

All going well with Jason showing good pace at the front. Then…..

Jason straight on a Goddards with what looked like a technical issue. 10 seconds later, Max running on the grass at the edge of the track at Redgate. Another technical issue.

Race over. We’ve been doing this since 2016 and we have only ever had one technical issue in a race, then out of the blue, two in 10 seconds.

To say we were down beat would be an understatement. There was some sort of a silver lining. Only four laps, but Jason’s best time secured him P4 on the grid for the final race – back where he should have been all along. Max in his regular P9.

In the gap between races, the crew changed the engine in both bikes. Brilliant work boys.

Race Three

Second 20-lap feature race. Huge crowd, great circuit, perfect conditions. What unfolded is being regarded as one of the greatest ever BSB races.

Max first. Usual decent start and away with the leaders. Brookes crashes out and Max passes the injured Iddon for P7. Lap six and Max gets past race one winner Ryde and sets off after Haslam to challenge for P5. Always a tough man to pass, Max saw his chance as Haslam had a big wobble going into the Foggy Esses. Turning tight left underneath, the front slid and Max held on as he continued left, as he couldn’t lift the bike to go right! Onto the grass to save it lost 1.5 seconds and that was race over as he dropped back to P10 behind Jackson and then Iddon. All running a similar pace, that is where Max finished. Another very strong weekend.

Upfront, the old hands were saving their tyres and working each other out. It’s difficult to describe what happened over the final 10 laps – if you haven’t already you really need to watch it. Jason, Glenn Irwin and Tommy Bridewell were exchanging places running in the first three position with lap times getting faster and the passes ever closer. Lap 18, three to go. Irwin just wide at Redgate and Jason slotted into P2 then with a beautiful run down Craner Curves he swept around and under Bridewell into the old Hairpin – P1. Holding off Bridewell for the rest of the lap, two to go. On pit wall we knew the best chance of staying clear was if Irwin and Bridewell started fighting – of course they did and, in the process, gave Jason a few bike lengths breathing space. Not that he was breathing – just head down hitting his marks. Kent had been sat watching all this and joined in on the final lap while Bridewell and Irwin continued their fight.

At the line: Jason P1 and one second clear. Bridewell, Kent and Irwin in that order covering by 0.25.

What a race. What a result for Jason. What a result for FS-3 Racing. And what a result for all our sponsors – in particularly Completely Motorbikes, AJN Steelstock, Safepac and Kawasaki UK – plus all our trade supporters.

Nice birthday present for me too.

Championship Standings

The Superpole incident and then the technical issue cost Jason a lot of points. 18 for his race three win has brought him up to 70 and P7 in the standings, closing on the early season leaders. Max continues to build his score and is surely close to a couple of big scoring finishes. P10 – 46 points.

Next Time

The team now has a welcome month off while the TT takes places on the Isle of Man.

Then we’re off to Scotland for round four at Knockhill. Glorious location in the Fife countryside. If you’ve never been before, it’s worth the effort.

Hope to see you there.

Regards, Nigel Team Principal.

Posted on Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024 in News

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