Josh Brookes beats John Hopkins to the top as Shakey misses out at Thruxton
Josh Brookes proved that he is on the ascendancy in the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship as he set the pace in the opening free practices at Thruxton in another pair of incredibly close sessions where the top seventeen riders were separated by just 0.931s.
The Milwaukee Yamaha rider had the edge over his rivals in both sessions as he looks to build on his winning double of the previous round at Brands Hatch which moved him to within five points of the series-leading, four-time champion Shane “Shakey” Byrne.
Josh Brookes – (Milwaukee Yamaha) – “It didn’t start out immediately that ok – we like to have the bike close to the same as the previous track, but Thruxton is so unique that you have to come with a whole different attitude. We started on a set-up that didn’t work that well, but we were able to improve all day and a fresh tyre left me at the top of the sheets. In the afternoon, that meant we were able to play around with SC1 and SC2 tyres. I wasn’t terrible on the SC1 – I think I was 0.6 faster than Shakey on it – but it’s a decision we can make after to tomorrow for the race.”
Brookes had been closed down in the afternoon session by American contender John Hopkins as the former MotoGP ace slashed the advantage, firing the Lloyds British Moto Rapido Ducati to within 0.161s of his Australian rival.
John Hopkins – (Lloyds British Moto Rapido Ducati) – “The bike felt amazing today. Obviously I’ve never ridden a Ducati around here so there are a few things to get used to like different gear patterns compared to previous bikes. We have some minor technical glitches that kept us in the garage for some of that session so it was good to get back out towards the end and sort everything out. I was in a good rhythm – the bike honestly feels so good – stability, grip, torque, it’s got everything – and the good thing is we’ve actually got some improvements we can make to the lap time and overall consistency. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow and hoping the weather stays good! We’re going to keep working and are definitely chasing the podium. I came into this weekend aiming at a top three finish, and while we’ve got to take each session as it comes, the way it ended today with second overall is a big confidence boost because we know we have even more in the box.”
Meanwhile Byrne was twelfth in the second session, but despite holding eighth place on the combined times, the four-time champion was unfazed and believes he has more pace over race distance.
Richard Cooper maintained his form from Brands Hatch by posting the third fastest time ahead of James Westmoreland on the JG Speedfit Kawasaki, rookie Luke Mossey and Christian Iddon completed the top six in a top ten featuring five different manufacturers.
After passing the halfway point in the season last time out at Brands Hatch, the new Bennetts Suzuk team has been steadily increasing its knowledge and subsequently the performance of its GSX-R1000 machines, with both riders improving their lap-times at every round and with the team moving further up the grid.
Christian Iddon – “Brands was good, all things considered. It wasn’t an ideal finishing position in race one but it showed we had a good pace to come through the pack and we had a good race two. We’ve definitely made progress with the bike under heavy braking which was our weak point, but we’re getting more and more information all the time. I really enjoy Thruxton; I think it’s a really good circuit and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s fast and flowing and should suit the bike, so we’ll keep working hard as always and see what we can do.”
Josh Waters – “It’s no secret we’ve not quite had the set-up we need, but the team has been working hard and I’m feeling good after getting out to Japan for Suzuka and putting in some good lap times out there on the Yoshimura GSX-R1000, so when we get to the bottom of the little issue we have I know we can be back up the sharp end. I like the circuit and I can’t wait to get started again this weekend.”
The Bennetts Suzuki team has also confirmed the departure of Jack Valentine as Team Manager. The mutual decision sees the team structure change with immediate effect, but team owner Martin Halsall is determined to continue driving the team forward.
Martin Halsall said: “I’d like to thank Jack for his hard work and assistance with the Halsall Racing team and wish him the very best of luck for the future. While our season has not been easy, we have a solid structure in place for the second half of the year and we’re looking to move further up the grid as we get towards the important showdown period, starting this weekend at Thruxton.”
Adam Jenkinson joined the Milwaukee Yamaha team from the second session, deputising for Broc Parkes who was suffering further arm-pump problems, set the fifteenth fastest time.
Adam Jenkinson – “It’s been a few years since I last rode a Superbike and the biggest things for me were the tyres and brakes. It was not such a massive change for me, the seat and handlebars were not so different compared to the Superstock bike, it was the tyres and brakes were the big ones. I’m satisfied but my last lap might have been better but today was just getting used to the bike. I’m confident that I can go faster but I am only 0.8s off the fastest time. I am not going to get giddy and carried away by it all.”
Combined free practice times
1: Josh Brookes (Milwaukee Yamaha) 1m 15.364s
2: John Hopkins (Lloyds British Moto Rapido Ducati) +0.161s
3: Richard Cooper (Anvil Hire TAG Kawasaki) +0.167s
4: James Westmoreland (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) +0.217s
5: Luke Mossey (Quattro Plant Tec-Care Kawasaki) +0.351s
6: Christian Iddon (Bennetts Suzuki) +0.375s
Luke Stapleford held off his rivals to set the pace in the Motorpoint British Supersport Championship, but the series leader’s supremacy came under threat in the closing stages of the second session from Jake Dixon.
Profile Triumph’s Stapleford has an eight points lead over Kyle Ryde coming into these races and he set the pace in both sessions, improving by two tenths in the afternoon as he posted a best lap of 1m 17.111s.
That kept him clear of Smiths Triumph rider Dixon who made a late, dramatic improvement to his times in the second session to close within 0.389s offStapleford while Glenn Irwin, who had briefly led the times on the Gearlink Kawasaki, had to settle for third best.
James Rispoli, who has been in the mix at the sharp-end of the pack throughout, ended the day fourth fastest on his Team Traction Control Yamaha, marginally faster than Ben Wilson on the second Gearlink Kawasaki.
Ryde had a difficult second session as he sorted his PacedayZ Trackdays Yamaha and was unable to improve on his morning lap time, leaving him 0.822s down on his title rival Stapleford.
In a closely fought afternoon session Andy Reid, riding Team Traction Control Yamaha, and Luke Hedger on the Gearlink Kawasaki completed the top eight riders who were separated by 0.999s.
Marshall Neill, riding the IN Competition Yamaha, eleventh overall, was the fastest of the Supersport EVO riders, half a second up on series leader Joe Collier on the Haribo Starmix Triumph.
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