2011 British Superbike
Following is the preview for Round 8 of the 2011 British Superbike Championship in Brands Hatch. The American John Hopkins arrives in Brand Hatch after a successful Wildcard outing in World Superbike last weekend, and will follow up with another Wildcard entry in MotoGP at Brno Aug. 14. For a John Hopkins report, click here.
Tommy Hill and Shane Byrne are aiming for a winning performance at their home track as the MCE Insurance British Superbike Championship returns to Brands Hatch for the triple-header round with the first of the three races taking place Saturday in what could prove to be a crucial eighth round.
Both were well on the pace in an official test held Friday on the Indy circuit as the riders took advantage of added track time ahead of the three races on the Kent Grand Prix circuit where they will bid for action replays of their respective first round victories.
Hill riding his Swan Yamaha posted a best time of 45.981secs, a quarter of a second up on HM Plant Honda’s series leading Byrne, who saw his time bettered by Mirror.co.uk BSB-EVO class rider Graeme Gowland aboard the WFR Honda while he worked on various setting changes.
Byrne goes into these races 32 points clear of Samsung Crescent Suzuki rider John Hopkins who opted out of this test session having lapped the Grand Prix circuit last week. Hopkins, bidding to become the first American to win the British crown is like Hill and Byrne focussed on securing a place in the top six riders.
Only those six riders will become the "the title-fighters" who go forwards into the final seven race "Showdown" phase of the series that will decide who takes the crown. Including these races there are six remaining to finalise which riders will make the cut and and going into this round, there twelve riders in with a realistic chance of doing that. It is a time when points make prizes with every effort to maximise the bonus podium credit scores and that is the recipe for the fast and furious action.
Hill, who narrowly missed out on the crown last season, is making up lost ground after missing races through injury earlier in the season. However aboard the Swan Yamaha he has so far taken the most victories with four wins, to be third in the standings ahead of his team-mate Michael Laverty.
That leaves the reigning champion Ryuichi Kiyonari in fifth place going into this round. He returns from his exploits in the Suzuka Eight Hours race under some pressure as he is one of eight riders separated by only 36 points battling for a place among "the Title-Fighters."
Kiyonari, who had a bitter-sweet opening round with a machine problem ruling him out of the first race ahead of a strong ride into second place next time out, needs to add to his two race winning record so far this term to maintain his hopes of taking the title for a record fourth time.
The inconsistent form of Kiyonari leaves him just ten points clear of Aussie Josh Brookes who is running into good form aboard the Relentless Suzuki. Jon Kirkham, riding the second Samsung bike, together Gary Mason aboard the MSS Colchester Kawasaki are in close contention.
Adding to the expected fast and frantic action are both Michael Rutter on the Rapid Solicitors Bathams Ducati and Peter Hickman riding the Tyco Honda – they need strong results to maintain their title aspirations but they face the determined challenges posed by Kawasaki World Superbike team "wild-card" riders Joan Lascorz and Broc Parkes.
Meanwhile Aussie Glen Richards will be looking to consolidate his leadership of the Mirror.co.uk BSB-EVO class under pressure from Buildbase BMW rider Barry Burrell.