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THAT WAS THE SEASON THAT WAS FOR RICH ENERGY OMG RACING

WE TAKE A LOOK BACK ON THE 2021 SEASON FOR OUR RICH ENERGY-BACKED BENNETTS BRITISH SUPERBIKE TEAM


These days it's hard to find the words to use a phrase that you've always used without offending someone and to start this little review piece the quandary remains but anyway, she's cleared her throat and has warbled her last note, the 2021 Bennetts British Superbike season is over. It was a season of highs and lows for the Cannock-based squad, however, through determination, dedication, and teamwork the season yielded three Superbike and nine Superstock trophies, the best haul yet for the RICH Energy OMG Racing team.


The year started off in typical British style at a cold, damp, and windy Silverstone for the opening official test of 2021, held at the home of the British Grand Prix. New riders Bradley Ray and Kyle Ryde were both in attendance as was National Superstock contender, Billy McConnell, although only the latter two were on track as Brad was still recovering from winter wrist surgery. Testing is testing, not too much can be gleaned from it but it's absolutely necessary to be able to get the boys comfortable on the new bikes ahead of the season. Both riders were quick from the off and topped sessions across the two days before the action moved to Snetterton, where for three days it rained, blew a hoolie, rained some more and then we all went home.


Two one-day tests followed at Oulton Park and Donington Park as the weather and Brad's wrist improved. Ray made his debut for the RICH Energy OMG Racing team in Cheshire and, although full movement in his wrist was some time away, the Kent man was on the pace straight away ending the day in the top ten just ahead of Ryde, who had a fast crash at Island Bend, lucky to get away with just a broken bone in his foot. Billy McConnell used Oulton Park to try new variations with his machine at a circuit that hasn't seen the best of times for the Aussie. Donington Park saw McConnell back to his best as the former British Supersport Champion ended the final test just 0.044s off the fastest time. For Ryde and Ray, it was a productive test with Ryde besting his teammate in third place, just 0.2 off the Yamaha pair of Mackenzie and O'Halloran.


After a couple of date changes to fall in line with Government guidelines on you-know-what, the 2021 Season finally got underway at the undulating rollercoaster of a circuit nestled in leafy Cheshire, Oulton Park on the last weekend in June. Qualifying sixth and seventh, in what was to be the best QP performance of the season as a pair, the signs were good for strong results in Cheshire. Sadly, for Brad Ray it was two DNFs across the weekend sandwiching a stellar ride to fifth from thirteenth on the grid, just 0.042s off fourth-placed man, Buchan. Ryde had a best result of sixth in race one with tenth and twelfth in the other two. Pirelli National Superstock contender, Billy McConnell, matched his front row start coming home third in the opening race of the season, a good result at one of his least favourite circuits.


A trip north of the border was next for the team as the BSB travelling circus rolled into Knockhill Circuit. Strong qualifying saw both Ray and Ryde inside the top ten, Ray returning his best QP of the season so far in fifth with Kyle just behind on row three in ninth. High hopes were harboured by all for the first podium of the season for the team which were almost rewarded as Brad turned in three strong rides in Scotland to finish fourth, ninth, and fifth - a sure sign that there were no lasting issues with his wrist operation. Knockhill is a difficult circuit on a Superbike, and this being only his first visit to the circuit in anger, it was a tough weekend for Ryde who faded as the weekend went on. A pair of second place finishes propelled Billy McConnell to the top of the championship standings after two excellent rides at the home of Scottish Motorsport.


Such was the nature of the 2021 BSB season, round three at Brands Hatch heralded the start of the back-to-back phase of the championship. A gruelling run of four rounds in five weeks, something that would be repeated later in the season, saw the action get underway in the Garden of England and again with high hopes for Brad Ray who arrived at his home circuit full of confidence after a strong Knockhill. Brands Hatch seemed to signal a change in fortune for the team after a strong start over the opening two rounds. A good race one made way for a lacklustre Sunday for Brad and Kyle as they sank to the very edge of the points, causing some concern within the team. McConnell continued in his quest for the 2021 National Superstock crown with a fifth and a second at Brands Hatch, although a win was still a long way off for the Adelaide man.


A quick turnaround to Thruxton and a trip to Hampshire was next up for the team as Kyle Ryde experience the high-speed circuit for the first time on a Superbike. Finishing fourth and sixth in race two was a weekend highlight for the superbike pair, Kyle suffering a DNF in a race one crash and hit with a two-second penalty in rae three, dropping him out of the points, as Brad confidently brought home three top ten finishes. McConnell experienced a rare podium-free weekend as he was pipped for third in race one by just 0.092s. As Brad continued in his quest for top ten finishes, life became increasingly frustrating for Kyle as he tried to get the best from his machine, although it seemed the more he tried, the less easy the results came.


Donington Park had seen success for all three OMG Racing riders over the years as Brad Ray took his maiden BSB wins at the circuit, Kyle Ryde battled Keenan Sofuoglu to the flag in World Supersport and Billby had won countless races around the Leicestershire circuit. An average opening race made way for one of the races of the season as a late safety car left a two-lap dash for the podium as Brad Ray fought Tarran Mackenzie to flag, narrowly missing the win by just 0.066s but bringing delight to the team who received their first Superbike silverware since Josh Elliott at Silverstone in April 2019 and a confidence-boosting ride for Kyle in sixth place. Donington Park saw the National Superstock title pendulum start to swing in the favour of Honda's Tom Neave. A ninth in race one and an ultra-rare crash in Race 2 returned the worst weekend of the season for Billy McConnell, denting his title hopes at his local round.


Cadwell Park saw another twist in the RICH Energy OMG Racing season as Kyle Ryde broke his heel in a crash during the Thursday evening test. Disappointing for Ryde, he was getting to grips with a superbike around the tricky Lincolnshire circuit before crashing out at the chicane. OMG Racing's Roads man, James Hillier, was at the circuit as crew chief for son Monty who was contesting the FIM MiniGP Round and graciously stepped in as super-sub for the weekend. Having not ridden Cadwell Park for nine years or ridden a full-fat Superbike in two, it was an uphill task for the Hampshire native but one he carried out with aplomb. Brad Ray carried the torch for the team further up the field, however, a pattern was forming that was to see the former RBR Cup podium man struggle in Qualifying for the rest of the season.


While James got to grips with the superbike and did his best to remember which way the circuit went, Brad Ray came home thirteenth and a pair of eighth places around the historic jewel in Lincolnshire's crown. Hillier brought his machine home safe in each race and thoroughly enjoyed his weekend. BIlly McConnell returned to the podium in Lincolnshire with a battling third place, just 0.2s behind Alex Olsen in a thrilling Superstock race, the demons of Donington now firmly laid to rest. Onwards then after a weekend off back to the scene of the washed-out test in Norfolk, the former Second World War airbase that is the Snetterton 300.


Kyle Ryde made his return in Norfolk and although still limping heavily, it was an excellent recovery for the Jacksdale rider who underwent hyperbaric and laser treatment to improve the healing process. Qualifying was again a tough time for Ray as a small crash at the end of Q2 on his last flying lap left him languishing in 18th position, just one place ahead of Ryde. Ninth, twelfth and ninth continued Brad's run of finishing every race after round one, with only one race finish outside the points as Kyle rounded off the weekend with a determined ride to tenth place in the last race of the weekend. Aussie Superstock man McConnell took his second podium on the bounce as Neave tightened his grip on the championship.


It wasn't long before the grid reconvened at Silverstone just 4 days later for what was to be a tense weekend in the BSB title battle and for the final Showdown places. Brad's consistency had put him in the fight for the last showdown position, held by Lee Jackson after an outstanding weekend at Cadwell Park. A last race DNF unlocked the door for Ray to snatch the last place and yet another DNF in race one at Silverstone kicked the door wide open.


It was nip and tuck as Ray once again struggled through qualifying but rode the races of his season to take fourth and fifth in the opening two races. It all came down to the final race however the threat now wasn't Jackson but a resurgent Josh Brookes who had to finish ahead of Brad to snatch the final Showdown position and snatch it he did as the reigning champ finished on the podium with Brad ninth at the flag. Disappointment was palpable in the garage but a sense of pride too to be in with a shout of a showdown finish and all that comes with it.


For Kyle it was the hardest weekend of the season as he struggled for pace around a circuit he won twice at and set the lap record just twelve months previously. His confidence was at a season-low which meant changes were implemented ahead of the next round at Oulton Park to try and regain the sparkle that had been lost during the year. Billy McConnell again stood on the podium at Silverstone, a second-place finish after an epic battle with Luke Mossey made way for a fourth place in race two after an early vibration with the rear tyre set him back before regrouping and closing in on the leaders.


Oulton Park heralded the opening round of the Showdown phase of the BSB Championship and while most eyes were fixed on the title battle, Brad Ray had eyes for nothing more than the Rider's Cup, presented to the rider who finishes the 'best of the rest' after the Showdown contenders. Kyle Ryde began the journey to rebuild his confidence across the weekend in Cheshire while across the garage, Brad Ray was keen to prove his worth in the championship by standing on the podium one more time. And in race three at Oulton Park, Brad got what he deserved, his second podium of the season with third place and valuable championship points as Jackson was unlucky to crash out after contact with Tarran Mackenzie. Fourth and fifth for Billy McConnell saw the title fight start to slip from his grasp as no podium in two races meant ground lost in the battle for 2021 honours as Neave continued to hold firm at the top of the standings.


Back-to-back rounds meant no time to dwell on matters as Donington Park welcomed the BSB village for the final time in 2021. Ryde continued to improve at his home circuit as Ray struggled in the wet conditions as the Nottinghamshire native outqualified his teammate. A wet race one was exactly what Ryde needed to lift his spirits around his home circuit as a stunning ride saw him splash his way home in second place to take his first podium of the season to the delight of the team and the huge crowd trackside. A dry race two brought further joy as Kyle took a strong sixth place, equalling his previous best result of the season as Brad Ray implemented damage limitation in the fight for the Rider's Cup.


Pole position for Billy McConnell started the weekend off in the best way as the former Yamaha R6 Cup winner headed the front row for the first time in 2021. Disaster was to follow sadly as a visor coating caused vision issues during the opening Superstock race leading to a heavy crash at Coppice as he high-sided out of second place and out of the race. Sunday brought redemption for McConnell after a huge battle with Mackenzie saw the English Scotsman snatch the win with Billy a close second. A return to the podium but work to do in the championship as the first win of 2021 eluded him.


Brands Hatch brought the curtain down on a difficult but rewarding season for the RICH Energy OMG Racing team. Brad Ray still had a strong chance of the Rider's Cup as the battle went to the final race of the year with only one way the Cup would be decided; whoever finished ahead of the other between Jackson on Ray would lift the Cup for 2021. In Superstock it was slightly less straightforward as McConnell had to win and Neave finish fourteenth or worse. In the end it wasn't to be for either rider as Jackson rode well to take the Cup honours, marshalled well by his teammate but the delight at McConnell taking his first win of the year in the final race was a fabulous moment for McConnell and his crew, despite Neave finishing well in the points to take the 2021 Pirelli National Superstock Championship by just five points from McConnell.


There are highs and lows in every team up and down pit lane across the season and while there have been times of disappointment, the joys of podiums and a win outweighed all of the negatives. The switch to fully supported Yamaha R1 machinery for 2022 heralds a new beginning for the RICH Energy OMG Racing team and the retention of their three riders for next season is a crucial step on that new path. This season's successes have set the foundation for what is to come, and the challenging times have only made them stronger as a team.


We're excited to see the journey unfold.













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