20-year-old Bradley Ray celebrated his first race win in the British Superbike Championship at the opening race of the season at Donington Park, holding off the last lap challenge from defending champion Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne and James Ellison to take the Race 1 win, in a move that promises an interesting season to come.
On the opening lap of the race home hero Leon Haslam had initially grabbed the advantage on the JG Speedfit Kawasaki after Byrne had a disastrous start off the line and dropped down the order dramatically.
Ellison was instantly on the attack and took the lead on the opening lap for the local Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha team with Ray holding third place with Jason O’Halloran and Danny Buchan in close contention.
Ray was piling the pressure on Haslam though and he made a move on lap three to move into second place and ready to target Ellison. A lap later and Tommy Bridewell and Kyle Ryde had a premature end to their race when they crashed out, but both were soon up on their feet.
Ray moved to the front of the pack for the first time on the sixth lap with a determined move on Ellison at Redgate with Ellison and Haslam still in close contention, but behind the there was a scrap between Luke Mossey, Dan Linfoot and Danny Buchan with Byrne soon moving into contention.
Linfoot and Mossey were trading blows on track, but Byrne was soon ahead and with four laps to go the leading trio were inseparable in their quest for the first victory of the season.
The battle for the win went all the way to the finish line and on the exit of Melbourne for the final time Ray had a moment which pushed him out of the seat, but he wasn’t giving Ellison and Byrne an inch.
Bradley Ray – P1
“From qualifying and from the practice pace we had, I knew we could run the pace of the top five but I did not expect to lead a race from the third or fourth lap in to the end of the race and win in! I had a big moment out of the Foggy Esses on the last lap and I thought ‘oh no’ and I could hear a bike coming up the inside so I braked as late as I could and just went straight to the apex and stopped the bike, and the coming out I heard a different bike, I heard a Ducati, and I thought ‘I know exactly who that is’ so I just went straight to the apex again for the last corner, stopped it and just fired it out and hoped it would be enough and luckily it was. It was just an unbelievable feeling to cross the line first, and to lead that many laps with a fairly good pace was quite good and an eye-opener for us and the team.”
The defending champion though took the advantage, moving ahead of Ellison to finish second as the Buildbase Suzuki team celebrated the first victory of 2018.
Shane Byrne – P3
“It hasn’t been the easiest of weekends so far with the weather and cold temperatures and qualifying was particularly tricky as I had a number of moments. We made a slight mistake, but I was reasonably happy with the front row of the grid, but all the hard work disappeared when the bike went vertical the moment I dropped the clutch. I lost a lot of ground, but I didn’t panic and stayed calm. I kept chipping away and made some good moves forward and I was being very careful not to use too much of the tyre, so I still had some left at the end. In that sense, I managed the race well and having overtaken James, there was a chance to go for the win, but it would have been a bit of a lunge and I obviously didn’t want to go down myself or take out Brad. It was a good, fun race and I’ve come away with 20 points so a big thanks to the team, it’s a positive way to start the season.”
Dan Linfoot won the war for fourth place ahead of Mossey and the returning Glenn Irwin as Jason O’Halloran dropped back to seventh on the final lap.
Dan Linfoot – P4
“I’m quite happy after today, of course I would have loved a podium and being the first place off is a little frustrating, but the bigger picture is that it’s a long season and fourth is a good way to start really, so I can’t be too disappointed with that. The race was difficult, but also enjoyable as we were close with other riders and I enjoyed some of the overtaking moves. The tyre situation was difficult it was spinning a lot from lap one, so I had to settle into the CBR and I could see the other guys having similar issues, so I just made a plan to get stuck in and go with it. I finished three seconds off the win, which I’m happy enough with and we have a decent grid position for tomorrow, so we now have to see what the weather does overnight and tomorrow. The Fireblade feels good and I’m very happy with the new engine specification, it’s nice and calm out of corners and fast on the straights, which some other riders have commented on, so that’s good feedback for the lads and the work they have done over winter. We do have some things to brush up on and improve for tomorrow, but I am content on where we are and we now need to focus on being ready for when the guys up the pace at the front and when the weather improves, so we can move with them and continue building.”
Glenn Irwin – P6
“After the crash in practice, standing here now with a sixth-place finish is very pleasing, particularly with how I rode in the race. I had a small problem off the line with the clutch but other than that the race went really well, and I had no problems at all with my injuries, so I’ve got to say a big thank you to the medics for looking after me so well. I made some good moves forward throughout the race and no-one overtook me and whilst I can make some improvements to both myself and the bike, we’re in a good position for tomorrow’s race.”
Jason O’Halloran – P7
“Race one was good, we got a good start from the line and I got up to third place, I was feeling really comfortable and was in a good rhythm when I got run wide. I lost about four places and a lot of momentum and just went backwards. After a few laps I started to build up again and from that point I felt strong and was able to make some good passes to get closer to the front. I managed to get into fourth and could see the guys in front weren’t that far away and then I started to have a good battle with Dan, which was good fun! We swapped places a few times at the end of the race and I was pushing for fourth, but unfortunately on the last lap my gear lever broke and I ended up crossing the line seventh. I am disappointed to not finish fourth, but that’s racing sometimes and you have to take the highs with the lows, and the lows with the highs. I think we can take confidence to know that we had good speed for the little amount of dry track time we’ve had this weekend and I feel confident in the package we have. I know that with a few small tweaks here and there, it won’t be too long until we’re fighting at the front.”
Peter Hickman was eighth after he made a move on Haslam with Michael Laverty completing the top ten. Aussie Josh Brookes came home in 12th.
“I’ve been lacking some crucial tenths this weekend, my crash yesterday didn’t assist my crew in any way, then I wimped out in qualifying when a lap needed to be pulled. P12 in race one means we have busy minds tonight finding solutions.”
Fellow Australian David Johnson had a rough weekend, with a crash in FP3 and missing qualifying, finishing 22nd.
David Johnson – P22
“Very tough day at the office… A huge crash at Crainer Curve in FP3, that hurt! So we were forced to miss qualifying. My Gulf BMW Team did a great job rebuilding the bike. We started at the back of the grid in Race 1. I was very sore on the bike but happy to see the chequered flat. The weekend was going so well, then Crainer got me. It’s been 15 years between drinks for me and Crainer Curve!”
British Superbike Championship, Donington Park – Race 1
Bradley Ray (Buildbase Suzuki)
Shane Byrne (Be Wiser Ducati) +0.383s
James Ellison (Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha) +0.721s
Dan Linfoot (Honda Racing) +3.174s
Luke Mossey (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) +4.430s
Glenn Irwin (Be Wiser Ducati) +4.671s
Jason O’Halloran (Honda Racing) +6.191s
Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing BMW) +8.822s
Leon Haslam (JG Speedfit Kawasaki) +13.792s
Michael Laverty (Tyco BMW) +14.224s
…12. Josh Brookes
…22. David Johnson
British Superbike Championship standings after Donington Park Race 1
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