It was a fantastic weekend at the opening round of the MCE British Superbike Championship at Brands Hatch this Easter for the Gearlink Kawasaki team. The team were making their debut in the British Superbike class with their rider Ben Wilson and had two superb results with a fourth and 10th place in the races. In the Motorpoint British Supersport Championship, Glenn Irwin took a fantastic win and fifth place and Luke Hedger gained a sixth place and was unfortunate to crash out in race two.
The Gearlink team have no previous data for any of the tracks so each visit will be a new challenge for them to collect as much technical date as possible for the Kawasaki Ninja ZX-10R. The weekend was challenging for the team and in the dry they struggled to find a good set up to suit Ben's distinctive riding style on Friday and Saturday.
The heavens opened for qualifying on Sunday and Ben upped his game and went through both first and second qualifying to finish in a very creditable seventh place in the final third and final qualifying session for the opening race on Monday in horrendous weather conditions.
In the first race Ben shot off the grid and was up to third by turn one and fighting off the challenges from former World Superbike and MotoGP rider John Hopkins. On lap 16 the race was red flagged to clean up a riders blown engine and the re-start was delayed. The riders re-grouped on the grid for the 12-lap sprint race. Ben once again got a fantastic start and was up to third by turn one, only Ellison got past him and Ben had to fend off the attacks from John Hopkins, Stuart Easton, Tommy Bridewell and Richard Cooper.
The second MCE British Superbike race was more challenging for Ben and he was not able to make the break off the line that he got in race one. He sat in 10th place for the majority of the race and left Brands Hatch with a comfortable bag of points lying in sixth place in the Championship standings.
Ben Wilson - "To be honest, although sometimes I was a little frustrated at times trying to find a suitable set up we got there in the end and by the end of today I'm pretty pleased with how things turned out. The rain actually played in our favour in qualifying and to end up in seventh on the grid I was really pleased about as we had been struggling up to that point.
I was able to get two fantastic starts in race one and in the re-start of race one and if you had said to me on Friday I would be finishing in fourth place I don't think I would have believed it. Everyone at Gearlink have worked really hard over winter and over this weekend to get things right for me and I really appreciate it. I wasn't able to make a decent start in race two and lost time on the front runners and rode a bit of a lonely race out there. I'm so pleased with the weekend and can't wait to get to Oulton Park and get back out there again."
Motorpoint British Supersport
In the Motorpoint British Supersport class it was a fantastic opening day for Ulsterman Glenn Irwin who took his debut win in Supersport and also the opening win of the Championship for the Gearlink Kawasaki Team. Glenn had been riding well all weekend and during the very wet qualifying session on Sunday morning he put the Kawasaki on pole position. He battled hard throughout the race with Luke Jones and Jake Dixon and took a stunning win for the team. Luke Hedger who is making his first appearance in the fiercely competitive Supersport class this season rode a fantastic first race and secured a great fifth position.
In the main race on Monday the two Gearlink Supersport riders had a mixed bag of results; Glenn started the race in second place on the grid and just was not able to keep the pace he set on Sunday during the sprint race and dropped to a creditable fifth place. Luke Hedger was also having another strong race but was unfortunate to crash out of the race on the final lap whilst lying in sixth position.
Glenn Irwin - "This weekend has gone really well at the first round with my new team Gearlink Kawasaki. To take my first British Supersport win yesterday was such an awesome feeling, everything just felt right and the Gearlink team got my bike working perfectly in the wet. I was nervous with my first pole position but I was also keen to have a good strong race, I pushed hard the entire race and Luke Jones was challenging me on several occasions for the win but I was so keen to be up at the front. It was a real confidence boost going into the main race on Monday and I was starting on the front row again. The second race I knew would be hard in the dry and I just wanted to use my head and try and ride a mature race. We know what we need to work on now to progress and move things forward at the rest of the races. I'm happy with fifth place and I am leaving Brands lying in second place in the Championship standings which is brilliant, thanks to everyone who is helping me this season."
Luke Hedger - "This was a huge learning weekend for me and now I'm out there playing with the big boys. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed my riding and in every session I was learning something new. Everything seemed to get better as the weekend progressed and I was just pushing a bit too hard on the last lap when I crashed but I am looking forward to the rest of the season. A big thanks must go to 1st Choice Flooring and all my sponsors for their support and the entire Gearlink team for working so well all weekend."
Team Manager Michael de Bidaph - "It was an amazing weekend and amazing start for us. We had a lot of problems in Superbike testing with Ben so he has not had much track time at all or to get a feeling for the Kawasaki Superbike. As the weekend progressed we, very quickly, found a good set up in the dry and in the wet and this showed from the results we were able to gain today. The majority of the credit this weekend has to go to Ben, he dug deep and proved what an awesome rider he is to have no testing and to run with the top boys.
The Supersport riders had a fantastic weekend also, Glenn rode a very mature race on Sunday and we are delighted he was able to take his debut Supersport win on a Gearlink Kawasaki. We knew it would be tough in the main race today but he was clever and took some very strong Championship points. Luke has stepped up into Supersport well and his first race result of fifth yesterday was great. He was trying hard today when he was unlucky to crash out but he is ok and was pushing hard.
We are really happy with how things went this weekend and hope it will carry on for the rest of the season. The entire Gearlink team have worked really hard over winter and especially this weekend and I thank everyone for that including the riders."
Pictures by - www.johnywills.co.uk