Round 7: Rockingham 06 July
Harris utterly dominant at Rockingham
The seventh round of the British Supersport Championship ended in yet another superb victory for Honda Racing’s Karl Harris. Starting from pole position, the current series leader made a flying start and blasted away at the front on his Honda Racing CBR600RR. The 23-year-old Sheffield rider left the chasing pack for dead, opened up a four second advantage in the first four laps and then proceeded to lap significantly faster than anyone else on the circuit – picking up the fastest Supersport lap of the day.
The lack of qualifying time at the Northamptonshire circuit didn’t affect Harris one bit, but unfortunately for Honda Racing’s sponsors, his dominance on the CBR600RR meant that he was too far out in front for the Sky TV cameras to focus on him, as they concentrated instead on the battle for second, over five seconds behind him.
Harris controlled the entire race and as he took the chequered flag and picked up 25 points, he celebrated his fourth win of this year’s series with his trademark stand-up wheelie. With this victory, the Honda Racing star increased his championship lead to 60 points in front of second placed Stuart Easton.
Karl Harris: “It’s great to get another victory for Honda Racing. I’ve been feeling confident all weekend and felt totally in control out there on the CBR600RR. I’ve won here before so my game plan was to get away at the front, put in some fast laps and control the race from there. It was a bit lonely out on my own but I managed to keep my concentration and not make any silly mistakes. Thanks to the whole Honda Racing team for doing such a fantastic job under difficult conditions at Rockingham.”
British Supersport Championship
Race result (20 laps):
- Karl Harris (Honda Racing) 24:21.280;
- S. Easton (Ducati) + 1.970;
- D. Thomas (Honda) + 2.494;
- J. Crockford (Honda) + 13.869;
- S. Andrews (Yamaha) + 14.517;
- M. Laverty (Honda) + 14.928;
- A. Coates (Honda) + 19.966;
- C. Jones (Triumph) + 22.672;
- J. Robinson (Yamaha) + 24.122;
- S. Norval (Yamaha) + 25.914
Championship positions after round seven:
- Karl Harris (Honda Racing) 160;
- S. Easton – 100;
- S. Andrews – 72;
- D. Thomas – 68;
- A. Coates – 62;
- L. Haslam – 60;
- J. Crockford – 58;
- M. Laverty – 57;
- R. Frost – 48;
- C. Jones – 47
Fastest lap: Karl Harris (Honda Racing) 1:11.969 (establishes new lap record)
Plater on the podium again!
Honda Racing’s Steve Plater was on the podium in today’s first British Superbike race at Rockingham circuit with a fantastic ride for third place. Yukio Kagayama made history by becoming the first Japanese rider to win in British Superbikes, while championship favourite Shane Byrne was second.
Starting from fifth on the grid for the 22-lap race, Plater made a good start and was challenging for fourth place before Yukio Kagayama slipped past on lap two. Tagging onto the back of the leading group of five riders, the 30-year-old Lincolnshire rider proceeded to set the early race pace and passed Michael Rutter on lap eight to move back into fifth.
Plater’s team mate Mark Heckles had worked his way up to tenth place by half race distance but the Liverpudlian rider crashed on lap 12 when he lost the front end of his Honda VTR 1000 SP-2. It was then down to Plater, who was continuing his progression through the pack, passing both John Reynolds and Glen Richards on the brakes to move into a podium position.
The Honda Racing hero then began to put pressure on championship leader Shane Byrne and challenge for second place. However, Byrne had a clear run through the backmarkers whereas Plater lost valuable time and had to chase hard on the VTR1000 SP-2 to make up lost ground. By the final lap it became apparent that Plater was also suffering from tyre problems, so he backed off to safeguard his podium slot.
Steve Plater: “That was a fantastic race; I had a steady start and took it easy for the opening laps because I knew there would be a lot of argy bargy and I didn’t want to use my tyres up. It was a difficult passage through the backmarkers because they were involved in their own race and I’m disappointed I couldn’t get past Shaky but he just wasn’t making any mistakes, so fair play to him. I’ve got a great set-up, so I won’t be changing anything on the bike for race two.”
British Superbike Championship
Race one result (22 laps)
- Y. Kagayama (Suzuki) 26:05.661 ;
- S. Byrne (Ducati) + 2.811;
- Steve Plater (Honda Racing) + 3.853;
- M. Rutter (Ducati) + 7.523;
- J. Reynolds (Suzuki) + 7.810;
- G. Richards (Kawasaki) + 18.056;
- S. Emmett (Ducati) + 20.876;
- L. Haslam (Ducati) + 20.972;
- S. Smart (Kawasaki) + 25.570;
- S. Hislop (Yamaha) + 38.219; DNF – Mark Heckles (Honda Racing)
Plater comes home in fourth
Yukio Kagayama took his second victory of the UK BSB series today at Rockingham, making it a historic double for the Japanese rider. Shane Byrne and Michael Rutter completed the podium, with Honda Racing’s Steve Plater coming home in fourth place.
He didn’t get the best of starts to race two and entered the first corner in seventh place, with team mate Mark Heckles in 12th. Plater had passed Gary Mason by lap five and set off in pursuit of the leading pack of five riders. Despite the leaders setting an incredible pace, Plater worked his VTR1000 SP-2 hard to reduce the gap and managed to pass John Reynolds on lap 15.
Plater moved up to fourth place when Glen Richards crashed his Kawasaki. With just four laps to go, the Lincolnshire ace tried to pull out all the stops to catch and pass Michael Rutter and claim his second podium place of the day but unfortunately he ran out of laps in which to achieve this, eventually finishing in a very respectable fourth place. Mark Heckles, who had struggled all weekend, finished in tenth place.
Steve Plater: “I’m a bit disappointed because my plan to make a brilliant start just didn’t happen. I was just too slow getting off the grid and then I let the guys get too far in front of me, which ultimately left me too much to do to catch and pass Michael Rutter and get on the podium again. I’m pleased with the results overall though and will be looking to build on this at Mondello Park in a fortnight’s time.”
Mark Heckles: “I’m just glad to finish that race. To be honest, I’ve been struggling to recover from the crash I had at Brands Hatch and the injuries I sustained have played a part in affecting my performance this weekend. I knew the main difficulty here at Rockingham was going to be fatigue and also the fact that I had never raced here before, but I still wanted to give it my best shot for the team.”
Race two result (22 laps):
- Y. Kagayama (Suzuki) 26:00.078;
- S. Byrne (Ducati) + 0.699;
- M. Rutter (Ducati) + 4.263;
- Steve Plater (Honda Racing) + 9.716;
- J. Reynolds (Suzuki) + 14.089;
- S. Smart (Kawasaki) + 15.434;
- G. Mason (Yamaha) + 15.447;
- S. Emmett (Ducati) + 16.455;
- L. Haslam (Ducati) + 26.548;
- Mark Heckles (Honda Racing) + 34.267
Fastest lap: Y. Kagayama: 1:09.893 (establishes new lap record)
Points (after round 14):
- S. Byrne – 325;
- M. Rutter – 181;
- J. Reynolds – 167;
- Y. Kagayama – 153;
- Steve Plater (Honda Racing) – 146;
- G. Richards – 141;
- G. Mason – 126;
- S. Hislop – 122;
- S. Smart – 89;
- S. Emmett – 88;
- Mark Heckles (Honda Racing) – 47
In the hunt at Rockingham
Triumph ValMoto’s first experience of Rockingham Motor Speedway turned out to be a positive one thanks to another excellent ride from Craig Jones, which culminated in a hard-earned eighth-place finish. The 18-year-old rising star had looked a likely candidate for the top five during the early stages of the race and it was only misfortune that denied him this reward. His more experienced team-mate Jim Moodie crossed the finish line in 16th place after battling his way through 20 action-packed laps. Karl Harris took the win from Stuart Easton, with Dean Thomas in third.
The cancellation of regulation qualifying meant that the grid was determined by championship positions. This gave Jones a tenth place start. However, after a trademark lightning start, the #18 Triumph ValMoto Daytona was up into sixth place by the time the pack had exited the very first turn. Jones kept up the momentum and very quickly made fifth place his own with a brave and committed move on John Crockford. After driving round the outside of the Padgett’s Honda – and swapping a fair bit of paint in the process – Jones rocketed off in pursuit of the leading pack.
He was within touching distance of fourth-placed Rob Frost when the Kawasaki rider lost the front end and tumbled to the ground. Almost simultaneously, another rider crashed in front of the Triumph ValMoto, forcing him off the track. This unplanned excursion onto the grass cost Jones three places and he rejoined the race in seventh place.
Jones reacted to this setback in characteristic style and clocked his fastest lap of the race on lap 14. His time of 1:13.315 was half a second faster than his previous best and well within Stuart Easton’s 2002 lap record, however it still proved difficult for him to make up the lost ground. Despite his best efforts, he was forced to settle for eighth place at the chequered flag.
“After getting a great start like that, it was pretty frustrating to end up in eighth place,” said Jones. “I’m not saying that it would have been easy, but I was definitely on for our best finish so far. Being forced to go cross-country didn’t help much and I had to ride real hard to catch up. I was taking at least half a second a lap out of him towards the end, but then my shoulder (the painful legacy of a crash in morning warm-up) really began to hurt. When my whole arm went totally numb I decided that it was best to take eighth rather than risk crashing. I’m steadily improving my championship position and there are still five races left to get on the podium.”
Moodie’s race may have been slightly less eventful, but it was certainly no less demanding. The massively popular Scot has worked tirelessly throughout the season to pinpoint the elements that will ultimately help ValMoto convert the Triumph Daytona 600 into a race-winning Supersport machine and this round provided him more food for thought.
“That was the first time that I’ve raced at Rockingham,” said Moodie. “And I have to say that it was very hard work. After morning warm-up I was definitely starting to find my way around the track but during the race every lap was different. Switching lines changed the way the bike behaved and I was constantly learning how to deal with the circuit. I was getting the hang of it towards the end, I got past a few riders and my last three laps were my best, even though someone crashed in front of me during one of them. Unfortunately, by that time it was too late to do any more.”
Triumph ValMoto is next in action at round eight of the British Supersport Championship at Mondello Park on 18-20 July 2003
MONSTERMOB DUCATI BRITISH SUPERBIKE TEAM
SECOND PLACES ALL ROUND AT ROCKINGHAM
MonsterMob Ducati riders Shane Byrne and Stuart Easton had to settle for a trio of runner up places in Round 7 of the British Championships at Rockingham Motor Speedway today.
26 year old Byrne had to settle for second place in both Superbike races but still managed to increase his Championship lead to 144 points after a traumatic weekend at the Northamptonshire circuit.
With practice delayed and qualifying scrapped due to surface problems, Byrne was happy to leave Rockingham with his Championship lead increased having had to settle for second best behind Japanese rider Yukio Kagayama on both occasions.
“Second place is good enough but I really hate not winning. It’s good for the Championship but I’m disappointed to leave the circuit without a victory under my belt for the first time this season.”
Defending Supersport Champion Stuart Easton also finished in second place behind Championship leader Karl Harris and the gap behind Harris now stands at 60 points with over half the races gone.
“There’s nothing worse than second place but considering the problems we have encountered this weekend it’s a reasonable result. I really need to start winning before long to bring Harris’s lead back down.”
Team owner Paul Bird was glad to get the weekend over and happy with the hat trick of rostrum places.
“After the problems we have endured this weekend, to increase the Superbike Championship lead was all we could ask. Stuart rode really well also and whilst it was disappointing not to come away with a victory of any sort I am happy with what we have achieved.”
The Championship moves on to Mondello Park in Ireland in 2 weeks’ time whereby both Byrne and Easton will be looking to return to the top step of the podium.
Caution: wet paint
Controversy surrounded qualifying – or more to the point, the lack of it – at round seven of the British Supersport Championship at Rockingham. A bizarre series of events resulted in the customary two 30-minute sessions being cancelled with grid positions determined on the riders’ current championship position instead. The upshot of this debacle was that the Triumph ValMoto Daytona 600s of Craig Jones and Jim Moodie will start from 10th and 14th place respectively, without ever having turned a wheel in anger. Championship leader Karl Harris will start from pole.
The problems began on Friday when Team Vitrans’ Dean Thomas crashed during free practice. The Australian was uninjured, however his bike was totally destroyed when it slammed into the wall at the end of the start/finish straight. The cause of this crash was very quickly identified as wet paint on the track surface.
Last year demarcation zones were introduced to Rockingham. These painted areas are designed to help improve safety by keeping speeding bikes clear of the concrete walls that surround the outer reaches of the Northamptonshire circuit. A ten second penalty is imposed on any rider who strays into the strategically placed yellow-banded sections.
Demarcation zones are not required for Rockingham’s stock trade of car racing but safety regulations make them essential for motorcycle events. Track officials arranged for the required areas to be marked in preparation for this weekend’s BSB round. Unfortunately, the paint and wax sealant deemed best for the job, reacted badly and the paint did not dry. Thomas was the first rider to discover this when his front wheel touched a line under braking.
The offending markings were steam cleaned overnight, however one or two patches were still present in the morning, leaving track officials with no alternative but to call in the big guns – in the form of shot blasting equipment.
Restoring grip to the surface took several hours, which forced the cancellation of qualifying. It also meant that Superstock, 125GP and New Era class activities were curtailed for the weekend – the races to be run at future rounds.
Once narrow white lines were repainted around the offending areas, two half-hour free practice session were instigated for each of the Supersport, Superbike and Yamaha R6 Cup classes to continue their individual search for settings and suitable tyres before Sunday’s races.
Craig Jones’ current championship position of tenth-equal equated to 10th on the grid, just behind Tom Sykes who, although level on points, has previously achieved a higher scoring finish than Jones’s best of seventh. However, Leon Haslam’s switch to the Superbike class means that P4 became free and all of the riders below him in the points therefore moved up one grid position. John McGuinness’ absence bumped Moodie up one spot further.
Jones was frustrated by this turn of events, and felt that he could easily have qualified higher had events followed their intended course. His opinion was confirmed in the first free practice session when he went fourth fastest. Things stepped up a gear in the second session where Jones was content to work on his race set-up, while logging consistent lap times.
“It’s just really bad luck the way things turned out,” he said. “My ideal time in Friday’s practice put me fifth fastest and I knew that was about right. Then I stepped it up today and would have gone quicker if we’d had the two qualifying sessions. Qualifying has been a bit of a thorn in our side so far but the Triumph ValMoto Daytona 600 felt much more consistent here and I probably would have got my best starting position of the season. It’s a shame, but I’ll just get my head down and see what I can do in the race.”
Jim Moodie was not particularly pleased with the grid position that was foisted upon him. Despite this being his first visit to Rockingham, he was confident of improving with more practice time before qualifying, and had started well on Friday when he was immediately 12th fastest on ideal times.
“The starting positions had already been determined by this paint fiasco,” said Moodie. “So I used free practice to check out the lines and set the bike up for the race. The Triumph ValMoto Daytona 600s definitely work well at Rockingham and I now know where the track goes but due to events beyond our control, we’ve got a lot of work to do in the race.”
Provisional grid positions:
- K. Harris (Honda);
- S. Easton (Ducati);
- S. Andrews (Yamaha);
- A. Coates (Honda);
- D. Thomas (Ducati);
- R. Frost (Kawasaki);
- M. Laverty (Honda);
- J. Crockford (Honda);
- T. Sykes (Yamaha);
- C. Jones (Triumph ValMoto);
- J. Robinson (Yamaha);
- T. Tunstall (Yamaha);
- K. Murphy (Kawasaki);
- Moodie (Triumph ValMoto);
- D. Beaumont (Kawasaki);
- S. Norval (Yamaha)
Breaking new ground Thursday 3 July 2003
While every circuit is essentially a new circuit for Triumph ValMoto, Rockingham Motor Speedway is more so than any other. 2003 is only the third year that the venue has been on the British Supersport calendar but this weekend will be the first time that Britain’s most popular 600cc racing team has visited it.
Even Triumph ValMoto Team Manager Jack Valentine – a man with vast experience of motorcycle racing – has only been to Rockingham once before. Despite an apparent disadvantage, Valentine is looking forward immensely to pitting his bikes and riders against the challenges of the 1.74-mile circuit.
The team’s riders, Jim Moodie and Craig Jones, echo the experience of their manager. Moodie has never raced at Rockingham – let alone aboard a bike as new as the Triumph ValMoto Daytona 600s – and is eager to get to work this weekend.
“The Triumph Daytona 600 is an excellent bike,” said Moodie. “This is proved by the fact that the times we put in at Brands would have put us sixth on the Superstock grid. Obviously, I don’t really know what to expect this weekend but it doesn’t look like there’ll be much opportunity for us to use the excellent top-end power and speed of the bikes on the circuit. Right now it doesn’t make much difference to me whether I finish eighth or 18th, I’ll only ever be satisfied with first place. I’m with Triumph ValMoto because I have absolute confidence that we have what it takes to win races and that’s what I’ll be working towards at Rockingham.”
While Moodie shoulders the majority of the development burden, his 18-year-old team-mate Craig Jones has consistently been riding at 100 per cent. Moodie states that Jones’ performances at Oulton Park and Knockhill, among others, have been a true indicator of what the Triumph ValMoto Daytonas are currently capable of. This weekend should see him continue this tradition at Rockingham.
“I quite enjoy riding at Rockingham,” said Jones. “It’s not the most picturesque of places – there’s no scenery like that of Oulton or Cadwell – and it’s a little bit stop-and-go, but once you get the feel for it, it’s a good circuit. I know we’re going to struggle a bit in certain areas but I’m just going to get out there and ride as hard as I can, keep it in line and see what happens.”
SHAKEY AIMS TO CONTINUE ROLLING AT THE ROCK…
As the British Superbike Championship enters the second half of the season, MonsterMob Ducati ace Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne is hoping to continue his first half dominance starting with this weekend’s action at Rockingham Motor Speedway in Northants.
The 26 year old Minster, Isle of Sheppey rider shrugged off a body-battering practice crash to claim a win and a second place in the previous round at Brands Hatch two weeks ago to extend his lead at the top of the standings to a massive 133 points but is anxious to return to winning ways at ‘The Rock’ after his eight straight race victory sequence came to an end in the second leg at Brands after a narrow defeat by the Suzuki of John Reynolds.
“I could have settled for safe points at Brands being injured but I’m a racer and nothing suppresses the pain more that the adrenaline rush that winning provides. I know I only need to follow riders home now but that’s not me, I’m going out to win as always and I would really like to get another double there. My injuries are 90% healed and I’m feeling good” said Shakey who still is feeling some of the after-effects of that high speed smash which caused severe bruising to both feet and his spine.
With nine wins and three second places to his credit out of the twelve races to date, Byrne is comfortably in command of the Superbike series but his team mate Stuart Easton has only one win to his name in the Supersport class this season, an issue he hopes to readdress at the American-style oval.
The young Scot has endured some bad luck in his title defence but still lies second in the standings although he knows that nothing less than a win aboard the team’s 748 this weekend will suffice:
“I reckon I’ve had my share of bad luck and the plan this weekend is to clear off. I need to start closing the points gap on Karl Harris in front of me and the only way I can do that is to beat him” said the 18 year old from Hawick.
However, team boss Paul Bird is hoping his Rockingham jinx won’t strike for the third year in succession after former rider Steve Hislop was injured there in 2001 and last year, Easton developed a misfire when holding a comfortable lead.
“It’s not been the best of places for us, that’s for sure but I’m hoping it’s a case of third time lucky. There’s no reason why we can’t do the business this year and that’s what we’re hoping for. Shakey just needs safe points but try telling him that and Stuart is fired up for a good result also so we just need some luck there for once” said Bird from his Penrith office