The fifth round of this year’s World Superbike Championship at the Imola venue saw Alvaro Bautista and Ducati’s stranglehold on the series finally ended.
Double top for Haslam in BSB
Round three of the 2018 British Superbike Championship at Oulton Park saw some stunning weather and some stunning riding from Leon Haslam with the JG Speedfit Kawasaki rider not only taking a double victory but also catapulting himself to the top of the title table.
The Derbyshire rider has now won eight of the last ten races at the Cheshire venue and, in truth, his victories never looked in doubt as he shadowed Jake Dixon in the early stages of each race before making his move. The next two rounds are at Snetterton and Knockhill which weren’t good for him in 2017 so he’ll be hoping for a change in fortunes this time around to ensure he keeps the rest of the field in check.
Ducati struggle in the heat
Having been in blistering form at both the official test in April and again in qualifying, the Be Wiser Ducati pairing of Shane Byrne and Glenn Irwin were left mystified on race day as they were unable to replicate their times and what promised to be a weekend full of silverware was anything but.
The warm temperatures were expected to work in their favour but the opposite happened and Byrne’s third place in race one was the only podium they took as he suffered with front end chatter and had two of his hardest BSB races in a long time. Irwin, meanwhile, was puzzled by his first race crash and with fourth and fifth in race two, the team will be looking to regroup at the next round at Snetterton which has traditionally been a happy hunting ground for Byrne.
No podiums but Ray remains second
For the first time this season, Bradley Ray failed to finish on the podium with the Buildbase Suzuki rider taking fourth and seventh in the two races. His cause wasn’t aided by a spill in qualifying which left him back in ninth on the grid so fourth place in race one, was a good effort all things considered and, as he said afterwards, you can’t win them all.
The 20-year old wisely settled for some decent points instead and although he lost his Championship lead, second overall after three rounds is a position he’d have readily took if offered at the beginning of the year.
Dixon back to his best
Prior to Oulton, it had been a very low key start to the season for Jake Dixon and the RAF Regular & Reserve Kawasaki team as they struggled to produce anywhere near the kind of results that got them in the Showdown in 2017. However, that all changed at Oulton Park with two superb – and mature – rides.
Having failed to find a setting with the front end that he felt comfortable with, Dixon made a breakthrough at Oulton and after qualifying second, on a used tyre, he converted his pace into two fine results. Second and third place were very impressive finishes, especially the former that saw him finish a fraction behind Haslam. Equally impressive was the way he looked on track, with an almost effortless, smooth style resulting him jumping up to sixth overall in the Championship.
O’Halloran makes his mark
Just as Dixon pressurised Haslam in race one, Jason O’Halloran did the same in race two and the Honda Racing rider was only a whisker away from his second ever BSB race win. As expected, the Honda Fireblade is looking a far better machine in its second year and with his second podium of the year, the Australian is already looking good for one of the Showdown positions.
His sole BSB victory came at Snetterton two years ago and with the Norfolk venue hosting the next round, he must be feeling confident about serving up a repeat performance.
Weekend to forget for BMW
From the high of a podium finish at round two at Brands Hatch, Tyco BMW were brought back down to earth with a bang – literally – at Oulton Park with just three points from the two races. Michael Laverty’s third place became a distant memory as he again struggled at the Cheshire venue, which, by his own admission, is one of his worst circuits not just in the UK but in the world!
He struggled to break into the top 20 during practice and qualifying and after crashing in the opening 18-lap race, he could only manage 13th in the second encounter. At least he was still in one piece though with team-mate Christian Iddon’s weekend ending on the first day as a practice crash left him with broken bones in his hand.
Having started watching motorcycle races all over the world form childhood, Phil Wain has been a freelance motorcycle journalist for 15 years and is features writer for a number of publications including BikeSport News and Classic Racer, having also been a regular contributor to MCN and MCN Sport. He is PR officer for a number of teams and riders at both the British Superbike Championship and International road races, including Smiths Triumph, Quattro Plant Kawasaki, John McGuinness, Ryan Farquhar and Keith Amor. He is also heavily involved with the Isle of Man TT Races, writing official press releases and race reports as well as providing ITV4 with statistical information.