The FHO Racing BMW Motorrad team got the second round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship off to a flying start at Oulton Park today, with Josh Brookes claiming his first pole position of the season, and storming to victory in the opening race aboard the BMW M 1000 RR.
The weekend so far has been positive for Faye Ho’s BMW squad, with Peter Hickman fastest overall, and Brookes fifth in yesterday’s practice sessions at the Cheshire track. As both riders finished practice inside the top 12 at the end of the first day, they progressed straight into today’s Q2 session.
With rain showers earlier in the day, the eBay Qualifying session was a gamble with tyre choice on a drying track. As conditions improved, positions at the front constantly changed as times continued to tumble, and with 30 seconds remaining Brookes clinched the Omologato pole position, with Hickman qualifying eighth.
Lining up with a clear track ahead of him Brookes controlled the race, and despite numerous challenges from Leon Haslam, he remained ahead of the pack throughout. During the penultimate lap, the Bike Social Sprint Race was red flagged due to rain starting to fall, and Brookes recorded his second win of the season, and BMW’s first at Oulton Park since 2016.
Meanwhile Hickman made great progress and having started from eighth by the end of the second lap he’d worked his way up to fourth. Lap by lap the Lincolnshire rider started to reel in the group ahead, and when the race was declared he was just 0.711s from third place.
Tomorrow (Monday 1 May), there are two longer BSB races, where for Race 2 Hickman will line up on the front row in second place and Brookes just behind in fifth.
The ABK Beer 0% BMW Motorrad F 900 R Cup, also saw FHO Racing claim a further pole position and another Heat 1 win with Richard Cooper. Kate Walker crossed the line 12th in Heat 2.
It was obviously great to take the win today, it’s good for all the team, sponsors and partners involved. It probably looked like I was out at the front having an easy time and controlling the race, but it was actually quite difficult because I was that first rider on track. I could see my lap times on my dash and I wasn’t impressed by any means, so I tried to improve as I was expecting an attack from the riders behind me. I had a few moments where the rear would spin and I’d lose some time, so I just focussed on trying to be as methodical as possible and not make any mistakes, not improve the lap time but just maintain it.
Towards the end with the rain I desperately didn’t want to put my hand up, I could see the rain on the lap before on the visor, then when I came through to Island Bend on the penultimate lap it was red flagged. I know it was the only option, but I would have liked to have taken the win over the finish line with the chequered flag. The BMW felt really sweet in the race, but we’re always trying to improve. In the race we really did hit a sweet spot and it did feel really good to ride. So hopefully that accelerates us even further tomorrow.
The weekend started well in the dry, we were super-fast in practice, and we didn’t change the tyre at the end of the session, so it was on an old tyre which was nice as we went fastest than everyone else. Today for qualifying it wasn’t the best conditions for me, we went out on intermediates, which I’m not particularly keen on, but I ended up eighth on the grid and I was happy enough with that.
I got a good start off the line for the race, but unfortunately I got caught up in Jason’s crash, which let the front three really get away, I got up to fourth and wasn’t too far from third place. The whole race then was really just me trying to catch the front three, but with the rain we didn’t get the last two laps as it was red flagged. I think if we’d have had the full distance I would have been able to have a go at third place, so it’s a shame it didn’t as I would have liked to have seen what we could have done on the last lap. We’ve shown we have the pace, and tomorrow I’m starting from the front row in second place. The BMW is working well and it was great to see Josh take the win again. Finishing first and fourth for the team is a really decent start to the weekend.
Faye Ho – Team Principal:
What a start to our weekend here at Oulton Park, with a pole position and Josh taking his second win of the season. The conditions haven’t been too kind to us all, and we’ve had limited track time, but I’m so pleased for Josh, Pete and the whole team to bring home a first and a fourth today. I’m hoping the weather tomorrow will be kinder to us, and I’m looking forward to two longer races and seeing where FHO Racing BMW Motorrad ends up.
Points haul for FHO Racing at Oulton Park
The second round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship was a tale of two halves this Bank Holiday weekend, with Oulton Park providing a win and points for the FHO Racing BMW Motorrad team and its riders Josh Brookes and Peter Hickman.
Following Josh Brookes’ win in yesterday’s Sprint Race, hopes were high for today’s two longer races at the 2.69-mile Cheshire circuit, especially with Peter Hickman lining up on the front row aboard his BMW M 1000 RR machine. However, disaster struck early for the Lincolnshire rider who after getting a fantastic start off the line and taking the lead, crashed out at turn one. Brookes crossed the line fifth.
The final race of the day saw Brookes fifth on the grid. Launching off the line he was up into third at the end of the first lap but had a hungry chasing pack behind. Holding on to the front group across the 18 laps, he eventually took the chequered flag in fifth, bringing home important points for his championship challenge. After the weekend the Aussie is second overall in the championship standings, just four points from the lead.
Unhurt from his crash earlier in the day, Hickman started from eighth on the grid. Slightly on the back foot from Race 2, with no race laps completed, ‘Hicky’ had a strong race and finished just behind his FHO teammate in sixth place.
Meanwhile in the ABK Beer 0% BMW Motorrad F 900 R Cup, Richard Cooper made it two in a row as he beat Thomas Strudwick to the line by 9.895 seconds. Starting from pole ‘Coopes’ got a clean start off the line and was able to break clear of his rivals on the third lap to build a comfortable lead taking him to the flag.
The FHO Racing squad now turns its attention to the roads, with the North West 200 taking place next week 9-13 May, before the third round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship at Donington Park on 19-20-21 May.
I was happy in morning warm up, it was wet conditions, but we were fastest. We made a change to the bike for the first race today after what we learnt yesterday, although it looked perfect in theory, as it turns out during the race it didn’t work for me. The change wasn’t so bad on its own but in conjunction with the rest of the bike settings, I just didn’t feel at ease and wasn’t able to do the lap times of earlier, which meant we suffered and didn’t get the results we’d hoped for. For the final race the only real option we had was to go back to where we were, which meant the bike was as good as it was in race one, but I feel that maybe our rivals had moved forward a little, not much, but a little. So even though I did better lap times for myself, I wasn’t able to fight for the podium. It was such a small margin, and I was close to the lead group, but just wasn’t able to bridge that gap or make a pass.
It has been a bit of a frustrating weekend, but on the other hand we must take the positives. We’re fast, we’ve been at the front all weekend, the race yesterday was really strong where we finished fourth coming from eighth on the grid. Today in the first race I got a mega start off the line, and somehow managed to tuck the front at turn one. I don’t really know how or why, I went in tight, but I wasn’t too fast for the corner. I was off the brake, and it was just a bit of an odd crash. Perhaps I had a slightly cold front tyre, but I couldn’t believe I went down at turn one to be honest, it’s not what we expected or what was needed, as it put us on the back foot for the final race of the day. Without the crash we’d have learnt something from that first race, which we could have taken into the final race and because of that the pace just wasn’t there. But as I said, we do have to take the positives, which are that we’re fast, Josh is fast and the BMW is working really well, we’ll now just have to wait and see what we can do at Donington Park. But first we have the North West 200 next week!
Faye Ho – Team Principal:
It’s been a frustrating weekend, but we do have a lot of positives to take from it. Josh won again yesterday and both riders have shown good pace throughout. Pete has been quite unlucky recently and I think if he’d not had the crash in the first race today it would be a very different story. But that’s racing and we have good days, bad days and frustrating days! I’m pleased with how the team are working together, along with Josh, Pete and the BMW. We now have a little break in BSB, but there’s no rest for us as we look towards the start of our road racing challenge with the North West 200 taking place next week.