Lee Jackson set the fastest time at the official BSB British Superbike test day organized by the championship promoter MSV Racing. On Donington Park’s 'National' layout, the riders of the British domestic series resumed action after 147 days, in view of the start of the 2020 season on 7-9 August at the same track.
British Superbike is the national SBK championship par excellence, where the riders don’t have any kind of electronic help on their 200+ hp machines. Criticized too hastily, this formula has now become a globally recognized brand, and a reality that is fully integrated as a stepping-stone between the world championship and the various SBK domestic series.
Jackson leads the way, Buchan and Honda Racing UK impressive
With a benchmark lap of 1'06.583, Lee Jackson hoisted himself to the top of the timesheets at the end of the only day of official tests before the start of the season. The British SuperStock 600 champion in 2012, following a happy two-year period in British SuperStock 1000, opted for a return to the premier category of British Superbike together with the Massingberd Mundy Kawasaki team. If in today’s first three sessions he tried to fine-tune his feeling with the bike, during the final session he surprised everyone by setting the quickest time after bolting on a new rear tyre.
"The day was very productive - Jackson said - in FP4 we changed tyres in the last twenty minutes. With some technical modifications, I managed to finish in first position. I am very satisfied. I have to thank the team for their great job, my Kawasaki rides divinely. It’s going to be a tough season, there are a lot of fast riders."
Second place went to Jason O'Halloran, also with new rubber, just by 14 thousandths. The McAMS Yamaha man was the protagonist of a slight crash at the Roberts chicane during the second session, without any consequences, which slowed down the team's work. It was still an important day for Steve Rodgers' team, in search of the right development of the R1 2020 version which still needs a considerable amount of work.
Third place for Spaniard Hector Barberà, with a time of 1'06.600. Despite being obtained in 'time attack' spec, the OMG Racing rider proved fast throughout the day. The world 250cc championship runner-up quickly adapted to the BMW S1000RR, so much so that he was consistently inside the top positions in the tests in Spain at the beginning of the year. Both Hector and the team are preparing to experience a season as protagonists.
Instead, a positive surprise came from the two Honda Racing UKs of Glenn and Andrew Irwin. Despite missing the tests held at Monteblanco and Jerez, Havier Beltran’s team continued the non-stop development work on the Fireblade CBR 1000RR-R SP. In this first direct confrontation with the rest of the grid, the new bike certainly did not do badly; on the contrary, it put behind it some more competitive machinery. Andrew Irwin immediately set the best provisional time in the first two sessions of the day, while his brother Glenn in the third, both without obsessively seeking fast lap times. In action with the magnificent "Stealth Mode" livery, the 'Irwin brothers' have shown themselves to be very competitive both over race pace, especially Andrew, and over one lap. Without forgetting that the new CBR 1000RR-R will be able to run at 15,900 rpm, the result of the regulatory concessions in force in BSB. Things look good for the new Honda rocketship…
“We probably didn’t expect to be as close to the front as we were,” explained Andrew Irwin. “The Fireblade is completely new and we don’t have a lot of different parts on it from the road bike, so that’s a positive of how good the bike is out of the crate. I have good race pace and I’m feeling strong ahead of the first race”.
Excellent sixth position for Danny Buchan with the second Kawasaki of Team Massingberd Mundy, with the Essex rider working hard on his race set-up. It is no coincidence that he and the two Honda Racing UK men are the ones who have surprised the most in terms of consistency and speed. Having this year become the Akashi manufacturer’s benchmark outfit in the UK, Nigel Snook's team is now expected to make a definitive leap in quality after the two wins achieved in 2019.
Ducati V4s behind
The first of the Ducati V4s is that of the 2019 runner-up Josh Brookes (VisionTrack PBM), in seventh position in 1'06.719. Despite everything, the Australian was just 0.136s away from the top slot. Today the team aimed above all to find the right set-up in view of the opening round, to the detriment of some technical problems in the third session. In FP4, however, Brookes significantly improved his times, making up several tenths in the final stretch of the track. This will be an important season for the Ducati rider, and many observers see him as the number one candidate for the conquest of a title that he won for the first time in 2015.
Although it was just a test day, the presence of only one bike from the Borgo Panigale manufacturer in the top ten stands out. Tommy Bridewell finished in 14th position with the MotoRapido Panigale V4, almost half a second off the pace and still looking for the right set-up. Down in eighteenth was the second V4 VisionTrack PBM of Christian Iddon, 0.787s down, and still getting to grips with the new bike.
Eighth position for Ryan Vickers (Lee Hardy Racing), who had a harmless crash in FP1, ahead of Joe Francis (PR Racing) and Bradley Ray (Synetiq TAS BMW) wrapping up the top 10. Thanks to the short length of the track, the gaps were really small with six riders in just 0.81s. Eighteen even within one second.
The BSB British Superbike riders will be back on track in ten days’ time, on the same track, for the first round of this crazy 2020 season.