The penultimate round of the 2019 Bennetts British Superbike Championship has been a challenging outing for the Honda Racing team with intermittent weather plaguing sessions across the weekend. However, Xavi Forés and Andrew Irwin made progress during both races aboard the Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SP2 and leave Donington Park with a haul of top ten finishes.
Showing confidence in wet conditions Irwin led the way in Friday’s second free practice and during today’s warm up, but the Honda duo narrowly missed out on the final stage of Saturday’s Qualifying by just 0.024 seconds, which saw them on the fifth row of the grid for today’s opening Superbike race (Irwin 14th, Forés 15th).
With a good launch off the line the Honda duo blasted past their championship rivals making up several places on the opening lap and breaking into the top ten. Lap by lap the Honda-men showed good pace aboard the Fireblade to eventually cross the line with Irwin fifth and Forés seventh.
Although starting further up the grid for the second race they suffered poor starts, which gave them work to do in the opening laps. Despite this, the duo managed to push back through, until the safety car bunched the group back up. With the chasing pack hot on their heels after the safety car, it was a six-way scrap to the finish line, which saw Irwin finish seventh, just 0.176 seconds ahead of teammate Forés. The results from the weekend see Forés defend seventh place in the overall standings with Irwin behind in eighth.
Meanwhile it was disaster for Tom Neave in the National Superstock 1000 Championship race, who crashed out on the opening lap fracturing his left foot. Neave also experienced mixed conditions through his sessions but was looking strong in the morning’s warm-up where he finished second fastest. The Lincolnshire lad has been transferred to hospital for further assessment to his foot.
The team will now turn their attention to the final round of the Bennetts British Superbike Championship, as the series heads back to Brands Hatch in Kent, in two weeks time (18/19/20 October).
Xavi Forés: This weekend hasn’t been easy, but we have made big improvements. The second race the result wasn’t ideal, but the pace was much better. I lost some positions after the safety car, and when trying to catch the group my pace was better and consistent, which means we had a good improvement with the Fireblade. In Race 1 I struggled a little with chatter and wasn’t able to make the step forward that I needed. But we come away this weekend with good points for the championship in order to defend seventh position. We head to Brands now for the final round and I am looking forward to seeing where we can improve – last time it was not so easy, so hopefully with where the Fireblade is now we can have some strong races. Best wishes to Tom, I hope he makes a speedy recovery.
Andrew Irwin: This weekend has been more positive than the past three rounds, we’re leaving Donington with a fifth and seventh and with the weather we’ve had I can’t be too disappointed with that. In the wet conditions we led the second free practice and also this morning’s warm up, so I have confidence in those conditions. We missed out on Q3 which was frustrating, but we showed in the races that we have race pace and can hold our own. Going into the last round I hope we can carry the momentum from this round and end the season on a high. Thanks to the team for all their hard work this weekend and get well soon to Tom!
Havier Beltran, Team Manager: Donington has been a challenging weekend for us for a number of reasons and the weather has played its part making things difficult with machine setup and direction. We arrive, as we always do at a circuit with high expectations, targets and goals and it’s frustrating when things don’t go to plan. Putting that aside Xavi and Andrew have done well progressing and moving forward, we missed out Q3 by two tenths of a second, but we know with the work we have been doing with the Fireblade we have a machine that can progress during a race run, which both guys have done this weekend gaining positions and being strong at the end of the races. I want to wish a speedy recovery to Tom; he’s sustained a fracture to his left foot in today’s Superstock race. He had mixed sessions over the weekend with the weather, he was second quickest this morning in warm up and had high expectations for the race and was caught out on the opening lap at the Old Hairpin.