With most of the British Superbikes Championships decided previously at Silverstone, and Josh Brookes already crowned Champion on Saturday, there was still a lot of exciting racing to watch on Sunday down at Brands Hatch.
Here’s a glimpse of what the day was like through the eyes of a spectator.
‘Up before the sparrows, I made my way down to the famous 2.43 mile GP circuit in Kent and arrived just before the pit lane opened – time for a strong coffee. The open pit lane or ‘Pit Walk’ is a great opportunity for racing fans to get right up close their track heroes. Top motorcycle racers have so much to concentrate on before they go out on the circuit to compete, but it doesn’t stop them giving full attention to the fans. The weather may have been dismal and damp, but the pit lane was buzzing as Britain’s top motorcycle racers signed autographs, chatted away to wide eyed kids and smiled for photos and selfies.
Watching last year’s British Superbikes champion, Shane ‘Shakey’ Byrne and newly crowned 2015 Champion, Josh Brookes, as they talked to their fans and signed posters, showed what true professionals they really are.
Nothing seemed too much trouble.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Brands Hatch support staff, teams and crews were preparing for the days sport. The Marshalls, unsung heroes in my book, and mainly volunteers, made way to their positions out on the track. Soon after you could hear bikes burst into life and the atmosphere began to change. The business of racing was about to start.
Josh Brookes had already set out his intentions the day before by setting the pace for all the others to follow. He put himself on pole position with a time of 1 minute 25.2 seconds, just a shade under his own lap record. On a cold track, which in places was made sketchy with damp spots, his intentions were clear from the very start.
While the riders were getting ready I took a sneaky look around the back of the garages at the impressive, enormous race trucks and trailers; many of which are home to the team’s mechanics. They carry so many spares, equipment and parts they’re like rolling motorcycle shops.
In complete contrast some of the supporting motorcycle classes, who live in the Paddock all weekend, have much smaller set ups. Temporary shelters and awnings – some that look like garden marquees – are erected to provide work space for the smaller teams and competitors.
It’s a great friendly atmosphere where mechanics, riders and their families welcome a chat with anyone who passes by. Matt Wigley, a young 600 Superstock rider, was raising money for Cancer Research – a worthy cause. For a small donation you could sign the tank on his bike. I gladly took the opportunity to get involved. Unfortunately my signature wasn’t very lucky for him – he crashed in a 5 bike melee later on in the day. No-one hurt, thankfully, but that’s 600 racing for you. It’s full of young enthusiastic, and at times, over exuberant teenagers that don’t seem to have any fear!
Soon the warm-ups were out of the way and the track started to dry out. It was turning out to be a nice day.
The Tri Options Ducati Cup kicked off the day’s racing – and what a start. It was a blistering ride from number 45 Robbie Brown. He picked his way through the field from around 8th place to win the 10 lap race and the title for 2015.
Next up was the hotly contested Superstock 1000 race. These guys don’t hang around on bikes that are pretty close to the standard sport bikes you can buy from a dealer; their lap times are not far off the Superbike times!
Then it was British Superbikes time.
For most of the season Josh Brookes had dominated, but I was hoping Shane Byrne would do well on his home circuit in front of the many fans that had still made the effort to turn up and cheer him on.
Byrne took the lead from the start and held his own until halfway through the 20 lap race. It was a close battle, but once Brookes got past, Shakey didn’t have an answer.
The second British Superbikes race at the end of the day was another story though. Hopkins on the Ducati shot into the lead. Then Ellison, Laverty and Byrne joined him at the sharp end with Josh Brookes down in 6th. Surely, I thought, Byrne could do it now. It was a cracking race, more like 600s as they swapped places for the entire 20 laps. Brookes managed to catch the leaders around the halfway mark and, having just settled into third, he crashed out at Graham Hill Bend. At the flag it was Michael Laverty on the TYCO BMW from James Ellison, on a Kawasaki and finally a frustrated, but not dejected, Shane Byrne in third. There was only half a second between the three of them.
Brookes took his spare bike out for the lap of honour at the end and received a huge ovation from the crowd. The only other Australian to win a British Superbikes Championship was Troy Bayliss back in 1999 so it was a ‘G’day’ for Brookes. With all the other races, including Supersport 600, the 125cc 2-stroke and 250cc 4-stroke Motostar Championship races, it was a ‘G’day’ for me too. ‘
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