VisionTrack Ducati rider Christian Iddon opened his 2021 Bennetts British Superbike Championship campaign with a strong second place finish at Oulton Park this afternoon although it was a more challenging maiden outing for teammate and defending champion Josh Brookes as he came home in tenth place.
Iddon had proved to be the quicker of the two during Free Practice and the SUPERPICKS 12 qualifying sessions before posting second quickest time in the final qualifier to line up in second place on the front row of the grid on the factory supported VisionTrack Ducati Panigale for the first race of the season.
Brookes set the ninth fastest time for a third row start but the Bedfordshire-based Aussie was only three tenths of a second adrift of pole setter and fellow Ducati rider Tommy Bridewell and with less than half a second covering the leading 11 riders, a close race looked in store.
Conditions were again perfect for the 14-lap race and Iddon, now based at Blaydon on Tyneside, made the perfect start to lead the field round at the end of the first lap. Brookes had been shuffled back to 12th which gave him plenty of work to do.
In a similar pattern to last year, Iddon had Yamaha’s Jason O’Halloran in close company, but he successfully kept him at bay for the first six laps before he eventually nosed ahead on lap seven. The duo exchanged positions for the next couple of laps, but O’Halloran hit the front again as the race entered its final third and although he went on to take the win, Iddon pressurised him the whole way, the gap between the two at the chequered flag just over half a second.
For Brookes, it was a lot harder, and he was unable to find a setting with the bike he was comfortable with, or find a setting that enabled him to do the lap times he was doing last September, meaning he eventually finished in tenth place.
Christian Iddon: “To come away from the first race of the season with a trophy is obviously great but it was a hard race and after eight months away from racing it was quite a shock to the system. I don’t think I’ve been riding as well as I can do this weekend so I didn’t want to lead and when Jason came by, he pulled quite a gap straight away, but our bikes are so completely different these gaps can come and go and that’s what happened. We’ve definitely improved, and we’ll look to see if we can make further improvements for tomorrow, but 20 points is a good start to the season.”
Josh Brookes: “We’ve used testing to try a number of things with the bike and did so with optimism and we felt confident we had the package to come here and challenge for the win. For whatever reason though, that’s not happened and even though we eventually put in exactly the same settings as what we had last year, I haven’t been able to get anywhere near where I should be. We know what the issue is, we just need to work out how to solve it. Sometimes you can look at your own shortcomings which I can accept so we’ll sit down and have a good look at what we need to do to make a better fist of things in tomorrow’s races.”
Johnny Mowatt, Team Co-ordinator: “It was a good, solid haul of points for Christian, and he was in control for the first half of the race. When Jason got by, he got a bit flustered and had a couple of big slides, but he settled back in, and the race was very similar to those in 2020 whereby the bikes worked differently in different corners. Second is a good start but hopefully, he can go one better tomorrow. Josh and his side of the garage have been chasing their tails a bit this weekend in terms of set up. With three years with the bike, we know how good it can be around here but something is missing at the moment. We’ll get our heads together this evening and I have every confidence the team will help get Josh back at the sharp end tomorrow.”
Tomorrow’s two races, held over the longer distance of 18 laps, are schedule to take place at 13:45 and 16:45.
Bennetts British Superbike Championship race one (14 laps)
1 Jason O’Halloran (McAMS Yamaha)
2 Christian Iddon (VisionTrack Ducati)
3 Tommy Bridewell (Oxford Racing Ducati)
4 Peter Hickman (FHO Racing BMW)
5 Tarran Mackenzie (McAMS Yamaha)
6 Glenn Irwin (Honda Racing)
10 Josh Brookes (VisionTrack Ducati)