British Superbike heads to Oulton Park for Round 3 of the season, with Bradley Ray in the lead from rivals Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne and Leon Haslam, ahead of the Bank Holiday Monday races which are held May 5-7.
The Cheshire circuit has traditionally provided some of the closest finishes in championship history and was the scene of Ray’s first ever podium in the Superbike class last year; something the Buildbase Suzuki star will be keen to build on this weekend.
“It has definitely been a good start to the season! The Oulton Park test was good for us; the longer sessions meant we could make some changes and we didn’t try and push for a lap time so I know the pace is there for next weekend as we have some time to play with. My confidence is high after the first two rounds and Oulton Park was the circuit where I got my first podium in Superbike last year, so I have some good memories there. We need to not get ahead of ourselves and start the weekend as we have the previous two, working hard in practice and qualifying so we are in the top six and then putting ourselves in a good position to come out fighting on raceday.”
After just four races there have already been four different winners, with Byrne and Haslam sharing the victories last time out at Brands Hatch, closing down Donington Park double race winner Ray.
Defending champion Byrne arrives at the third round confident following last week’s official test and knows that the Be Wiser Ducati was a race-winning machine at the corresponding round in 2017. He has a ten-point deficit to young gun Ray and will be determined to repeat his Brands Hatch winning performance last time out.
Glenn Irwin was the rider to beat at last week’s official test onboard the second of the Be Wiser Ducatis; he lapped under the circuit record to top the times and added his name to the five riders who have additionally scored podium finishes in the opening two rounds at Brands Hatch.
Irwin holds fourth place in the overall standings, just narrowly ahead of Michael Laverty who was another rider to celebrate a podium finish at Brands Hatch for Tyco BMW. He has a three-point advantage over his teammate Christian Iddon who hails from nearby Stockport and is keen to impress at his home round and make a return to the podium.
“I am excited for my home race, it is always nice and Oulton Park is one of my favourite tracks anyway although I have been a bit shy at picking up trophies there in the past so I need to try and right the wrong there! The season so far has been a bit frustrating as we definitely haven’t achieved the results I feel we are capable of, but we are in the top six and that is important and we are somewhere near where we need to be. We had a good day at the official test and we have some areas to work on and where we have been losing in areas, so we will get that sorted so that we can come back stronger this weekend.”
Jason O’Halloran scored his first podium finish of the season at the previous round; firing the Honda Racing Fireblade into third in the opening race at Brands Hatch and he celebrated a podium finish at the Bank Holiday event at Oulton Park last season.
As Dan Linfoot continues his recovery after his Brands Hatch crash, Honda Racing have triple champion Ryuichi Kiyonari making a return for the Oulton Park round; the Japanese ace remains the most successful rider at the Oulton Park circuit with 12 race wins to his credit.
“I am sorry to hear about Dan, and first of all I wish him a speedy recovery. I am happy to fill for him at Oulton Park with the team I have been racing with for a long time. BSB is a like a home to me and I am thrilled to be back racing with the boys again. I have been on the Honda Fireblade CBR1000RR since last season and with the team we know each other well. I will do my best to finish high up in the races.”
Luke Mossey and Danny Buchan have been edging closer to a top three finish whilst last year’s title runner-up Josh Brookes fired himself back up the order at the recent test as he bids for Bank Holiday success with the McAMS Yamaha. A lack of pre-season testing put Brookes behind the eight-ball at season start and the 2015 BSB Champion has a lot of ground to make up on his rivals.
James Ellison returns with Anvil Hire TAG Yamaha and ready to fight to repeat his Donington Park podium finish whilst Jake Dixon, Tommy Bridewell and Peter Hickman are next in the standings who will be ready to climb the order after the next two races of 2018.
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