The JG Speedfit Kawasaki team endured their most challenging weekend to date in the 2017 MCE British Superbike Championship with both Leon Haslam and Luke Mossey unable to push for the podium positions.
Returning from injury, Haslam achieved the team’s best result over the two races with fourth in race one while Mossey only picked up six points after a big crash in Sunday morning’s warm-up. However, he still ended the day as championship leader.
The meetings started well and both riders were in good form during free practice with Luke the quicker of the two. When it came to Saturday afternoon’s single lap ‘Superpole’, however, it was Leon who came out on top and he lined up for Sunday’s first 16-lap race in fourth, with Luke two places further back. Unfortunately a heavy crash for Luke in morning warm-up meant the team had to work hard to get him on track for the first race but he only got as far as lap three when he was forced to retire with brake problems.
Leon fared considerably better and although he dropped back from second to fifth, he battled hard throughout the 16 laps and was ultimately rewarded with fourth place, only missing out on a podium by 0.187s.
It meant he started the second race in sixth place with Luke all the way back in an unfamiliar 17th place and with plenty of work to do. Despite the brake issues continuing, he managed to salvage six points for tenth which ensured he left with his championship lead intact. Leon – who was naturally up against it with his injuries far from healed – struggled for grip despite using the harder SC1 tyre but he took eighth place and now sits in third place overall after five rounds.
Meanwhile, having qualified in second place for the opening Hyundai Heavy Industries British Sidecar Championship race, reigning champions Ricky Stevens and Ryan Charlwood replicated that result in the 12-lap race late on Saturday afternoon. They had to give best to championship leaders Tim and Tristan Reeves and although Sunday’s race saw a similar outcome, they’ve now moved back up to second overall in the points table.
Haslam commented: ” This was a really tough weekend. We haven’t had much of a break since Knockhill when I needed it the most. The crash really knocked me for six and I’ve been trying to rest but also keep my fitness levels up to come here.
“The races were tough; our Kawasakis weren’t the strongest and we were down on speed through the traps. Obviously, we need to go away and look at all the data before we go to the other high-speed circuits on the calendar.
“I wish I’d been feeling better in myself to push a little harder but I did the best I could given the circumstances. It has taken it out of me but we did get a good handful of championship points and I’m sure we’ll be back at Brands Hatch fighting fit and ready to go.”
Mossey said: “I can’t say it’s been the best weekend and obviously I’m disheartened but on a positive note at least I’m still leading the championship as we go into round six.
“Snetterton has never been my best track despite being my local circuit. I was happy with the times we were doing during practice and looking to push for some strong results during the races.
“I tucked the front in warm-up and at any other circuit I would have just damaged the fairing but it hit the big kerbs here and took off about 20ft in the air. When the bike landed it rolled and then for good measure decided to bounce nose to end which destroyed it.
“The JG Speedfit Kawasaki team worked so hard to rebuild it before race one, however, from lap one I knew something wasn’t right with the brakes and it was too dangerous to continue. Although it wasn’t as bad in race two I still had to nurse the bike home hence the low position.
“I just want to apologise to my side of the team for the crash – things could have been so different. Everyone in the top six has had a bad weekend and hopefully this was mine. We have to put this one behind us now and look forward to Brands Hatch which is much more suited to the Kawasakis.”
Stevens said: “We had a few issues at Knockhill, which was quite obvious, so we ended up changing a few things on the bike and it paid off. It feels like there’s plenty more in it now whereas at Knockhill it felt like I couldn’t do anymore as we were at the maximum so I’m happy about that.
“I hurt my foot last weekend so we had to move a few gears from my foot to my handle bar so that was a bit tricky as I’m not used to changing gear with my hand. Everything was up against us so I’m relatively happy to have walked away with two seconds and almost match our quickest lap time.
“Race one was the better race out of the two but then we made a few changes and I felt it didn’t go as well in the second race and I lost my confidence a bit but that could be because we had to start in ninth and get through the grid whereas yesterday we were in p2.
“We’re now looking forward to Mallory Park in a week’s time and we have a few things that we’re going to change including the engine, which is ready for a refresh, and some suspension settings so we should be rearing to go.”
Team Manager Jack Valentine concluded: “We’ve been plugging away all weekend and we need to take the positives from Snetterton: we are still first and third in the championship standings.
“I never had any doubt that Leon would ride this weekend but we had to prove he was fit, which did take some time. Considering he isn’t 100%, a fourth and an eighth was good and he still achieved a decent amount of points which means he’s still in the running for the Showdown.
“Luke had his first crash of the season and the team did an excellent job changing everything on it before race one. We have a test at Cadwell before Brands and we are looking to move on from here and rebuild everything for the remaining rounds.”