IT WASN'T QUITE JEUX SANS FRONTIERES... NO EDDIE WARING LAUGH, NO INFLATABLES, OR ANY BELGIANS FOR THAT MATTER, BUT THERE WERE BRITISH SUPERBIKE THRILLS AND SPILLS ABOUND IN SCOTLAND!
As the strains of ‘It’s Coming Home’ and the rabble-rousing ‘Sweet Caroline’ die down and the tears dry on their own, don’t look back in anger (how many more song titles?!) at what might’ve been, it’s time to sit down (there’s another…) and take a few minutes to lighten your day with a look back at Knockhill BSB in true #GetYourNealDown style! Our columnist wasn’t north of the border this weekend as he was working on another job in South Wales but made it home in time to catch all the action and apparently commentated incessantly for his other half, despite Jack, Whit, Greg, and the team doing a perfectly respectable job themselves. Bless, he does get excitable in his advancing years…
Hello and welcome to this week’s #GYND, a truly wondrous (steady on…) look at the stories from the Home of Scottish Motorsport, Knockhill. As the nation was girding itself for the big game, there were far more pressing matters to be had at Round 2 of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship as the slightly depleted ranks rolled into the land of William Wallace, Nessie, Whisky, Irn Bru and, of course, Scotland’s greatest export, Tunnock’s Caramel bars! Questions needed answering, and answers needed questioning, but could Jason O’Halloran continue his stellar start to the season? Just how many races would Danny Buchan win? And, has anyone seen the real Josh Brookes?!
A condensed two-day affair meant the track action was frenetic around the 1.2-mile circuit, perched high above the Firth of Forth, both bridges adding to the scenic views around the birthplace of Tarmac, The Proclaimers, and Rory Skinner (more on him later!). Free Practice, Qualifying, and a race on Saturday gave little room for any off-track excursions – excursions in Scotland, it sounds like a pensioner's coach trip – and those that did end up in the kitty litter were all present and correct for Race 1.
The biggest loser from QP was MCAMS Yamaha home hero, Tarran Mackenzie resplendent in his tartan livery. The Scottish Englishman crashed out of the all-important qualifying session, thankfully with little more than dented pride and a lower-than-expected 15th place on the grid. One positive from the grid placing is that he was in good company, sharing the row with Oxford Racing’s Tommy Bridewell and defending champion Visiontrack Ducati’s Josh Brookes, who spent all weekend searching for all-important, but currently elusive grip.
Fairly recent history tells us that Fife is a happy hunting ground for Kawasaki and for Buchan, but it was Mr. Consistent, Christian Iddon, who took the spoils in Race 1 after his hattrick of nearly wins at Oulton Park. Consistency is key in any championship charge, as Jason O’Halloran knows only too well, so for the Championship leader to crash out of Race 2 and hand the championship lead to Iddon was a surprise to many. It was Buchan at the double as the Englishman with the Scottish name and Highland-esque strawberry blond beard took a double victory and reinforced his dominance in Scotland. The million-dollar question, though… can he keep that momentum up at his home round next time out? Time will tell…
Iddon leads the way on the championship as the convoy heads south - waaaaay down south - in just under a fortnight, ahead of O’Halloran and Buchan, who launched himself to third in the standings after a plundering visit north. Mentions in despatches go to Tarran Mackenzie for salvaging his weekend well after a tough QP, Peter Hickman for being the ‘nearly man’ of the weekend and with an incredible save across the grass and through the advertising hoardings, as well as Gino Rea, Ryan Vickers, and Brad Ray for solid under-the-radar performances.
A difficult weekend again befell the Irwin brothers as Glenn struggled with underlying health issues and the development direction of the new Honda before crashing out of race three, whereas brother Andrew just can’t seem to buy a top ten finish, returning just five points from six races, with a best result of 14th so far. It’s a tough turnaround in fortune for the bros. Irwin as this time last year Glenn was leading the championship after a win and four second place finishes with Andrew winning the opening two races, both aboard the Honda FireBlade.
In the hotly contested National Superstock Championship, our own RICH Energy-backed Billy McConnell took a brace of second places aboard his OMG Racing 'Sugar Free' BMW S1000RR to take the lead in the standings after the other English Scotsman, Taylor Mackenzie, crashed out of race two under pressure from the chasing trio of McConnell, Rouse and eventual Race 2 winner, Fraser Rogers. Reigning champion, Chrissy Rouse took a welcome pair of third place finishes as Mackenzie took charge of Race 1, romping home some 2s clear of McConnell. Impressive work from Rogers and his IN Competition Aprilia team to take his maiden Superstock win and his first anywhere since 2011 on a bike that, due to its capacity, doesn't have the same useful rider aids as the 1000cc machines!
Final words must go to the two stand-out performances of the weekend – nope, not the England football team – hometown hero, Rory Skinner and Supersport superstar-in-the-making, Brad Perie. The former was exceptional on home soil, as much as it was expected he’d be there or thereabouts after a million and a half laps of the place in his young life, it was impressive to see the youngster on the podium and leading his first BSB race after only five previous races aboard the FS-3 Kawasaki. Finally, Skinner gets the chance his talent deserves after missing out on the MotoGP dream due to funding and no small amount of politics then ploughing his own furrow in STK600 before Appleyard Macadam set him on the road to success last season.
Tip of the hat to Messrs. Fry and Snook for recruiting the youngster and believing in his talent in 2021. As this fair prose is written, the former British Talent Cup winner and reigning British Supersport king is on his way to Manchester to hopefully fix arm-pump issues, an unsurprising side-effect of the step up to the big class. Will it affect Brands Hatch? Yeah, maybe, but in what is still a learning year for the Superbike rookie, there’s no pressure on him but to enjoy himself. And that’s exactly how it should be.
As for Perie, it’s a story of self-belief and talent. The Cumbrian tasted the winning fizz at Oulton Park and backed that up with a double win in Scotland. The likeable lad from Kendal took a narrow victory in Saturday’s sprint race and backed that up with a dominant win in Sunday’s feature race. For a rider who hasn’t had the biggest of sponsors throughout his career, ridden less competitive machinery to very decent results, and some challenging times off-track, he’s making the most of the opportunity Appleyards have given him along with much-needed personal support from Dean and Chris at DC Racing. Perie’s story is almost storybook so far, and nobody in the paddock would deny him his chance to fight for the Supersport crown.
The biggest disappointment from Scotland is we must wait two weeks to do it all again but after that, the action comes thick and fast through August and September! The championships are all taking shape after two rounds, and it’s expected they’ll change again after Brands Hatch. Or will they…?