With many Championships now taking shape – and riders vying for both points and consistency – the second Brands Hatch round of the 2013 BSB season was eagerly anticipated.
Strong qualifications by many Kawasaki riders augured well, but the prospect of the unplanned was always to the fore and, unfortunately, bad luck visited two Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R riders in the first of a brace of Superbike races.
Shayne “Shakey” Byrne had qualified on pole position and was looking to maintain his winning streak having won the previous seven successive races around the 2.4 mile Grand Prix track in his native Kent.
The triple MCE BSB champion was looking good to add to his tally in the opening 18-lap race as he battled for the victory but as he made a move on lap 13 at Hawthorns Corner, he crashed out at high speed, luckily without injury. However, the Minxflix supported Paul Bird Motorsport Kawasaki ZX-10R was severely damaged as a result and had to be hastily rebuilt in time for race two.
Sadly, misfortune also befell Chris Walker. A man that has made top fives at many races this year was circulating strongly in his familiar position when another rider made a misjudgement and simply knocked the Mansfield, Notts rider off of his Quattro Plant Kawasaki.
For Byrne, the damage looked serious but repairs were affected between races. The news was not so heartening for Walker and, despite getting back onto the grid for the second outing, his machine halted after just two laps.
Putting right the rare errors of the first race, Kent born rider Byrne hit the front from the start on race two and despite coming under extreme pressure from James Ellison and Alex Lowes, he was able to fend off his rivals to take his eighth victory of the season and maintain his lead at the top of the table. It was Byrne's 49th career MCE BSB victory and took his winning tally to 13 in his career around the Brands Hatch GP circuit.
Byrne commented: “The team worked really hard in between races to get the bike ready and to bounce back with a win is brilliant. I made a good start and realised the importance of the win so a big thanks to the team, that victory's for them."
The Supersport races were just as exciting for Kawasaki's official team, Gearlink Kawasaki. Pushing for top spot in the Championship, Alastair Seeley was on form on a track he has been particularly strong at in previous years and he was able to put his Ninja ZX-6R on the front row in fourth position for the opening ten lap race.
With a strong start he was up to second by the end of lap three. He made several dives for the lead and hit the front on the penultimate lap but was beaten by Easton by 0.1 of a second. In the second race, roles were reversed and in one of the most thrilling Supersport races witnessed in years it was Alastair that took a fantastic race win 0.004 ahead of Easton.
Alastair Seeley said after the race - "I'm really pleased with the results that we've gained today and I now have a Championship lead of 40 points as I leave Brands. Both races were really tough but I know I have to keep being consistent in all the races until the end of the season."
Ben Wilson also had a solid weekend with a third and fourth in the two Supersport races and is in a good third position in the overall Championship standings at the half way point in the Championship..
Ben Wilson commented - "I'm a bit disappointed this weekend as I struggled to find a set up for qualifying which put me back in eighth in the opening race. We made some changes for race two but I had a major problem with grip from the early stages of the race and it made things really tough but hopefully I can turn things around again at Oulton and be back and fighting at the front of the pack."
In the crowd pleasing stock classes there was much for Kawasaki fans to cheer about thanks to SMT rider, Adam Jenkinson claiming pole for the 1000cc race ahead of fellow Kawasaki pilot, Joe Burns in second spot .Rising talent, Luke Hedger posted fourth quickest time in Stock 600 qualification just two places behind fellow Ninja ZX-6R rider, James Lodge.
For Hedger it was a measured race with the Gearlink Kawasaki supported rider picking off rivals one at a time on his way to the front and a well-deserved and popular victory.
Speaking after the race Hedger said: "I'm so pleased I've finally managed to take the win today and it was a very hard fought race one of the toughest this year. I got a pretty bad start and I could see everyone come past me into turn one and I knew then I had to get my head down and stay with the leading pack. I settled into a good rhythm and was able to set some good lap times which helped push me forward, the bike felt great and gave me the confidence to be able to keep pushing.
Expectations were equally high for a strong Kawasaki result in the Stock 1000 race. Jenkinson was not able to make good on his pole position sliding off on lap two. Kawasaki fans need not have worried though as South African charger, Hudson Kennaugh, claimed another win to increase his championship chances in the points standings.
Second spot was grabbed by incoming American rider, Tommy Aquino, on his immaculate WD40 Kawasaki much to the delight of his team. And with no less than five other Kawasaki mounted riders in the top ten, Stock 1000 was once more a Ninjafest.
Ross Burridge, Racing Coordinator for Kawasaki Motors UK, reflected on an eventful weekend. “It's a cliché to say that racing is full of highs and lows, but that just about sums up this weekend. Shakey was indomitable and Chris Walker just plain unlucky. Our Supersport programme goes from strength to strength with both Gearlink Kawasaki riders showing their worth, while the stock races were of particular note.
Pole from Adam Jenkinson on the SMT Kawasaki was indeed impressive and I would have love to see him transform that into a win. That said, Hudson Kennaugh is on fire right now and I am sure all Kawasaki fans hope he continues to add to his tally of wins.
Finally I have to make special mention of Luke Hedger. Brands Hatch was an epiphany for him and it is possible to finally say that, as a rider, he has come of age with a measured and exciting stock 600 win. Both he and the Gearlink Kawasaki team deserve the highest praise”.