It has been a challenging second round of the 2019 Bennetts British Superbike Championship for Honda’s trio at Oulton Park, with intermittent weather conditions hampering progress for Xavi Forés (BSB), Andrew Irwin (BSB) and Tom Neave (STK) aboard the Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2.
Working through set-up proved difficult over the weekend at the undulating Cheshire circuit with various disruptions to the schedule and changeable weather. Race one took place in near-perfect conditions and was a stark contrast to the morning’s warm up, which greeted the riders with cold temperatures and a rain-soaked track.
Lining up on the grid Irwin was ahead of his teammate in 16th place, with Forés 26th, but as soon as the lights went out it wasn’t long before both Honda riders had made up places and set about hunting down the pack ahead. By half race distance Irwin had made up substantial places and the top ten was in sight. Deep in battle with Josh Elliott during the closing stages of the race, Irwin crossed the line 11th, missing out on tenth place by just 0.022 seconds. Forés also made good progress throughout the race distance and came home 16th.
For the second race of the day Irwin again pushed hard from his 13th place grid position and by the first lap had moved into 11th. Keeping consistent lap times throughout the race, he carved his way up the order to finish ninth, collecting further points towards the championship where he’s currently seventh. Forés also pushed on from his starting place of 23rd, moving through the pack he was sitting 15th at one point, but dropped back at the end to cross the line 17th.
In the National Superstock 1000 Championship Neave was also a victim to the weekend’s track disruptions, and before today’s race had only managed 36 flying laps. Conditions were declared wet for the shortened 14-lap race and Neave lined up 13th on the grid. Getting pushed back in the opening lap, he dug deep and started to make his move back up through the field. By lap six the Lincolnshire man had made his way to the top 10 and with consistent lap times he eventually crossed the line eighth. The results from the weekend see Neave hold his position in the overall championship standings where he’s sitting sixth with 26 points.
The team now look forward to the third round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship, which will be a triple-header event at Donington Park’s National Circuit on 24-26 May.
Xavi Forés: Oulton Park is a tough track! But honestly the second race for me was a bit better; I kept my pace and was a little faster than the first race. I struggled a lot all weekend to get traction and to make the Fireblade strong, but I do feel many positives with the bike; we’re strong braking and also turning on the speed cornering, but when I open the gas I am missing a lot of traction, so this hasn’t helped over the weekend. We now have a lot of data for the next time we visit Oulton later in the season, so we should be less on the back foot. Now we try again at Donington, it will be another kind of track for me, but it’s a track I know from the past, and I think the Fireblade will go quite well there. We will keep working and try to keep calm – when things aren’t so easy is when you have to work hard and also with the team, so lets try again at the next round and see what we can do.
Andrew Irwin: It has not been the best weekend really and there’s no hiding from it, at Silverstone the results were better, but you have to make the most out of bad weekends and we did that! Maybe I should have been 10th this morning and got past Elliott, but I didn’t and that’s how racing goes sometimes. In the second race we finished ninth and I think that’s the best we could have hoped for today. I got a bit tied up in the middle of the race and then at the end I didn’t have much to be able to catch onto Jason and Keith, who were a few seconds ahead by the time I’d made a pass on Ryan – so it was a big ask to get close to those guys. Coming away with an 11th and ninth isn’t so bad; it’s more points and I’ve been consistent throughout with my lap times so I can’t really complain. As long as we keep making points in bad races, then with the good races hopefully we can get closer to the top six, which is where I believe we can be and we’ll keep working hard to get there.
Tom Neave: Today’s race was fun but I did make it hard work for myself starting from 15th on the grid! We did have really tricky conditions with a skinny dry line so you couldn’t really pass anywhere, but I did manage to make passes and work my way up through the group. Next time I really need to work on getting a better qualifying position and making my life a bit easier! The weekend was made harder as we didn’t get many laps in with red flags and bad weather, then warm-up being cancelled this morning, but I think we made the best of a bad job and were able to salvage what we could. We got another top-ten finish and points towards the championship, so yeah I’ll take that!
Havier Beltran: This weekend has been extremely difficult and challenging at times, and not the results we believe we are capable of getting. But throughout all the conditions we found ourselves making some progress. I appreciate we have work to do for Xavi and to get him comfortable and understanding the Fireblade better in order for us to move forward through Free Practices and Qualifying. I’m happy with Andrew’s progress and for him to move through the group from 13th to finish in ninth is making progress, again we just need to close that gap in Qualifying and make sure we can get ourselves in a better position starting the races. In the Superstock race, Tom had very tricky conditions and I’m really happy with his progress. He started 15th and got through to finish eighth, so fair play to him! It’s all about building and a key point for us is to get the first few rounds under our belt. I’m looking forward to Donington Park; I know he’s going to have a good run there on the short circuit and I’m pleased we’re keeping the consistency, and moving forward, developing and learning.