BRADLEY RAY SECURED HIS SECOND BENNETTS BRITISH SUPERBIKE PODIUM OF THE SEASON AT A DRAMA-FILLED OULTON PARK
Last weekend saw Oulton Park host Round 9 of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship, the opening races of the Showdown phase for the 2021 title fight. The RICH Energy OMG Racing foursome assembled for a busy weekend of Superbike, Superstock, and Ducati Cup action, with firm goals in mind and a positive weather forecast. A favourite of many riders, the undulating rollercoaster of a circuit, nestled in the heart of leafy Cheshire never fails to provide drama and intrigue as the blue touchpaper was lit in the BSB championship chase.
Friday’s opening Free Practice action was held in warm and dry conditions, just as the forecast predicted. The BSB pair of Bradley Ray and Kyle Ryde had contrasting sessions as the Kent man posted 8th fastest across the three sessions and a route straight into Q2 while Kyle continued to build his confidence, a 17th fastest time belying the efforts being made by the rider and the team behind the scenes. A small crash for Ray on a fast lap in the closing stages of Friday didn't dampen spirits as the rider was unscathed and luckily the bike not severely damaged despite it flipping in the gravel.
Qualifying on Saturday morning defied the weather forecast as unexpected rain fell across the circuit meaning a change of plan for the session, but the targets remained the same. Ryde hauled himself into Q2 with a solid Q1 performance, joining his teammate in the all-important push for grid position. Unfortunately, neither rider could take advantage of the conditions finishing 14th and 16th for Race 1, disappointment for both riders, but they are racers and race progress was there for the taking.
The opening race of the weekend on Saturday afternoon brought much-needed progress from both Brad and Kyle as they fought through to 9th and 13th respectively. The tone was set for the Kent man as he continued the momentum through to Sunday’s two races, coming home 7th in race two, on the coattails of the lead bunch before having arguably his ride of the year to 3rd place in race three and his second podium of the season. For Kyle it was a weekend of planning and improving, the Nottinghamshire rider is working hard to rebuild his momentum and the team is 100% behind him in that search, offering everything they can to help him. A retirement in race two curtailed any progress there but a battling point in race three showed there is no lack of determination from the double British Champion.
Pirelli National Superstock contender Billy McConnell came to Oulton Park with one mission in mind and that was to win both races in Cheshire. With the championship contenders all showing unerring consistency, it was a challenging task to perform, however, the effort and endeavour didn’t reap the benefits it deserved. Qualifying in 6th, race one on Saturday afternoon turned into a herculean performance from Billby as a coming together with another rider in the early corners of the opening lap pushed him wide before a huge twitch from his BMW M1000RR also lost him time as he headed for the grass on the exit of Cascades, dropping him to 15th position. With a championship to win, McConnell set about damage limitation, hauling his way up to 4th position in what was arguably his ride of the season in possibly the most competitive class of any regular BSB weekend.
Sunday’s race saw a 6th place start for the former British Supersport champion, held in almost perfect conditions. Another strong start saw McConnell battle with the leading four riders before dropping away as the race unfolded but holding position with title rival, Olsen. A big push in the closing stages saw the Adelaide man beat Olsen to the line to pull back points on the fellow BMW man with just three races to go.
Team Principal, Paul Curran was also in action again this weekend as the Ducati Performance TriOptions Cup series nears its conclusion. After a good run out at Silverstone two weeks ago, it was a different proposition in Cheshire as the technical parkland circuit awaited. Qualifying P18 for the weekend’s two races was a strong start for the Cannock man and despite difficult starts off the line in both races, the PCRe Performance man battled his way to 20th and a season-best 17th as the weekend drew to a close.
Speaking after the weekend, Paul Curran said, “Brad’s podium finish in race three made it a sweet weekend for the whole team after the difficulties of Friday and Saturday. Brad has been the model of consistency all season and that consistency is now reaping rewards. Qualifying didn’t go to plan which left us with work to do in the races, but Brad worked hard to bring home another really strong weekend of results and the second BSB trophy of the season.
Despite the results not showing it, Kyle has worked tirelessly with his crew this weekend to bring himself back into top ten contention. Naturally, he’s disappointed that the results aren’t reflecting the efforts both he and the team are putting in, but they’ll come, and we all have every faith in that. Donington Park is Kyle’s home round, so if there’s anywhere for things to turn around for him, it’s there.
Billy was unfortunate this weekend with the race one incident hampering his progress but his ride to fourth place was exceptional. Having to fight back through the field meant he couldn’t put a lap together strong enough to for the front row in race two but the fact he went from 15th to 4th was a testament to him. Race 2 Didn’t pan out the way we hoped it would but a finish ahead of a title rival was a positive end.
For me, it was great to be back racing at Oulton Park. It’s been a long time since I last raced here, and I forgot how physical it can be! We had a plan to finish as far inside the top twenty as possible and we achieved that in race two with 17th place and I’m really pleased with that. The Ducati was faultless all weekend and despite a small tip-off, it’s been a pleasure to ride once again.
Thank you to the whole team for their hard work, as always; it’s a quick turnaround to Donington Park next weekend where we’ll be determined to bring home more silverware.”