BSB: Round 3 - Oulton Park
Oulton Park: A Shakey Start to Round 3
Oulton Park Circuit, hidden in the foliage of the Cheshire countryside, is one of the most picturesque yet challenging circuits in Great Britain. It’s unrelenting, undulating camber, fast technical sectors, and blind crests thrown in for good measure; ensures that riders need to be at the top of their game. And with minimal runoff, there is little room for error.
The tranquil and serene surroundings of the Oulton Estate, gave no indication of how the third round of the MCE British Superbike Championship was going to play out. We knew from Donnington, that unpredictability was going to be the running theme for racing this year, and at Brands Hatch this was only confirmed more.
After missing out at Donnington due to suspected concussion and crashing out on his return to Brands Hatch in the second round, it was make or break time for Shane Byrne. Desperate to finally get some podium credits on the Showdown board, and out to prove he is still competitive. This weekend, the Be Wiser Ducati Rider was anything but Shakey.
- The Battle for 1st - Luke Mossey #12, Shane Byrne #67 and Leon Haslam #91 - BSB: Oulton Park 2017 -
In the first of the 18 lap onslaughts, it was Pro-Bolt Sponsored Leon Haslam who sprinted into the lead at the first right hander, top qualifier Byrne was behind in close contention, and other JG Speedfit Rider and Brands hatch double race winner, Luke Mossey bought up the rear of the top three.
Battles throughout the field, saw riders bumping and jostling for position but it was the Derbyshire pocket rocket who ignored the pressure from behind and got his head down to tick off the laps. The choice of a harder rear tyre played to his advantage, and over the closing laps of the race he began to pull away from Byrne to take his third race victory of the season.
Mossey dropped back from the front two contenders as the race drew on, but still claimed a comfortable third position, reinforcing his Showdown bid and cementing him into 2nd in the championship. This result could have almost been a continuation of JG Speedfit Kawasaki’s prize double podium performance at Brands Hatch in round 2.
Honda-Racing have also seen consistent improvement for this season, and a well-placed, precise pass on the last corner, of the last lap, saw Jason O'Halloran pilot his Honda home ahead of Peter Hickman for fourth place. In spite of being in the thick of the melee at the front of the pack, he was unable to breakaway and reel in the leaders.
-Jason O'Halloran #22 - Followed by Josh Brooks #25 - Oulton Park 2017-
In keeping with the tradition of unpredictability this season, the second superbike race of the day would have an abundance of drama. With several riders retiring, either down to mechanical issues or an unexpected visit to the gravel trap.
Another good start from Haslam saw him initially leading in the opening lap, but a joint attack from James Ellison and Jason O’Halloran meant that the Kawasaki was pushed down to 3rd place in a single move. A subsequent lunge from Byrne followed closely behind, knocking him briefly out of the top 3.
O’Halloran began to drop back slightly, giving a place away to the man on the McAMS; who looked planted and purposeful, and was able to hold his own until a solid move from Shakey Byrne on lap six. He would continue to remain unhampered for the remainder of the race, however Ellison was never too far behind, and with Haslam pushing hard to get back on the tail of the Lancashire rider, the stage was set, for what would be a disastrous end to the Bank Holiday weekend for the both involved.
A blown engine fuse on lap 14 saw Ellison’s YZF-R1 machine cut out at 150mph and dramatically slow, leaving the pocket rocket with no time to react and nowhere to go. Clipping the Yamaha’s right rear nearly ripped the exhaust clean off, and sent Haslam’s own ZX-10RR skywards via a trip to the Armco, and left Leon sliding unceremoniously along the grass.
- On board with Leon Haslam. The moment of impact with the rear of James Ellisons McAMS Yamaha, at around 150mph -
With Ellison and Haslam out of the race, it was a furious scramble for the remaining podium places, leaving Glen Irwin to nurse home second place to give Be Wiser Ducati their first 1-2 Podium. Meanwhile, in third, Honda grabbed their best result of the Championship so far, with the man from Wollongong bringing his new Fireblade SP home to see its first ever podium. Despite their slow initial start to the season, they’ve shown consistent improvement.
Consistent riding has also been the hallmark of Tyco BMW’s Christian Iddon so far this season. Showing he can nip at the heels and apply pressure to the front whilst still keeping his composure. He began to feel the strain on the very last lap however, and only missed out on a podium by a hair, followed fractionally behind by Luke Mossey, who lost several positions avoiding debris from Haslam and Ellison’s crash. Riding his Pro-Bolt fitted YZF-R1, Australian TAG Yamaha rider Josh Brookes rounded out the top six.
- Leon Haslam #91 and Luke Mossey #12 - JG Speedfit Kawasaki - Oulton Park 2017 -
For the third round, the Be Wiser Ducati team has traded fortune with the boys from JG Speedfit, seeing the colour of the podium switch from the familiar Green to Red. The Pro-Bolt Sponsored JG Speedfit Kawasaki team still lead the British Superbike Championship, however the gaps are beginning to close, and Haslam’s unfortunate off, has ensured that the points are starting to bunch up. And with the showdown just around the corner, we can safely assume that things are only just getting started.
If Oulton Park has taught us anything, it’s that the riders are human, and even the very best can make mistakes. These small, extremely fast paced and technical sprint circuits, are the trademark of the British superbike championship, and they take no prisoners. Where room to manoeuvre is low and race pace is extremely high, accidents are unfortunately inevitable. However, the short break from now until Knockhill in June will allow the riders some short respite, with time to take a breather, gather their thoughts and injuries to heal.
But the high intensity and unpredictability of this championship, means we can be sure that nobody will be switching off from the task at hand.
I think we need a breather too.
The MCE British Superbike Championship will resume for the Official one day test at Snetterton on the 7th of June, just a week before the action heads to Scotland for Round 4 at Knockhill on the 16th June.
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