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Snetterton BSB round-up: Superb Jack Kennedy cements British Supersport top spot

Mixed weekend for Donegal’s Rhys Irwin as Ulster rider Lee Johnston takes maiden victory

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Jack Kennedy fought hard for a win in Race Two at Snetterton

Jack Kennedy fought hard for a win in Race Two at Snetterton

Casey O'Gorman took his sixth British Talent Cup win at Snetterton

Casey O'Gorman took his sixth British Talent Cup win at Snetterton

Jack Kennedy in action

Jack Kennedy in action

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Jack Kennedy fought hard for a win in Race Two at Snetterton

Jack Kennedy put in one of the rides of the season in Race Two of the British Supersport Championship at Snetterton on Sunday, to overcome a straight-line speed disadvantage on the high speed Norfolk track and take his third win of the season. The win enabled the Dublin based Kawasaki rider to maintain his slender championship advantage over Australian Ben Currie, despite barely making the grid following a last minute issue.

Saturday’s Supersport race one had gone the way of Ulster rider Lee Johnston who took a long overdue maiden victory in the class, while Donegal’s Rhys Irwin had his strongest run of the season until he crashed out of race two.

Kennedy headed to Snetterton having lost ground in the championship at the previous two events following a retirement in Donington and a rare crash at Cadwell Park. The fast ex-airfield circuit was not going to suit his Kawasaki, which has suffered all season from a slight straight-line speed disadvantage, so securing pole position for race one was an important first step.

Having dropped back to sixth on lap one of the opening race, Kennedy had to work hard to get back on terms with the lead group, but by half distance he was back in contention. Up ahead Johnston had impressively worked his way into the lead, and while his rivals held each other up he pulled clear to take a hugely popular maiden win. All of the battling for the podium positions allowed Kennedy to stay in touch and on the final lap he grabbed third to finish just behind his main championship rival, Currie.

The grid for race two was set to line up with Kennedy once again on pole, courtesy of fastest lap in race one, with Johnston and Currie joining him on the front row. With less than ten minutes to go, his team had to unexpectedly start working on his bike as a water leak was discovered. Amazingly, the 636 Kawasaki was ready on time and made it out on to the grid just before the pit lane closed.

“Ten minutes before the race a leak was discovered and my crew had to pull the water system apart to fix it,” Kennedy said of the frantic race build-up.

“This involved them draining the system and risking getting burned as the water was boiling due to the bike having already been warmed up. They did an unbelievable job and somehow got me out on the grid just as I was expecting to be starting from the pit lane.”

A less than ideal getaway put Kennedy down to fourth but another fight-back began straight away as he climbed up into the lead by lap six. Unfortunately things did not go so well for the other Irish riders to feature in race one, as Rhys Irwin’s impressive weekend finished with a crash on the opening lap, while Johnston was unable to match his earlier place and dropped back to eventually finish seventh.

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Irwin had started from the second row of the grid, his highest starting position of the season, following a strong run to sixth place in race one. The young Donegal racer had been closer to the pace of the front runners than at any time since graduating to the Supersport class and was running at the front in the early stages of race two before he crashed out.

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Jack Kennedy in action

Jack Kennedy in action

Jack Kennedy in action

At the front, Kennedy was very obviously pushing right to the limit in order to keep his lead as one by one his rivals dropped away, leaving just Currie between him and the victory. Having swapped places a number of times over the closing laps, Currie used his superior top speed to take the lead heading onto the final lap. Kennedy was not about to settle for second, however, and managed to push his way past at the end of the back straight and hold on through the remaining corners to take a vital and unexpected win.

Speaking after the race, Kennedy explained how much work had gone into his latest victory.

“We had struggled for speed once again on Saturday, so myself and my crew chief worked late on Saturday evening to see if we could improve the set-up of the bike to allow me to go even harder through the corners.”

"We also changed the seat to allow me get tucked in behind the fairing better on the straights,” Kennedy said.

"I was flat out from the start, as my plan was to stretch everyone and see if I could avoid being part of a big group on the last lap. My plan worked and the only one who could go with me was Ben.

“We had an amazing battle in the last couple of laps and I really enjoyed it. I had to get a really good run on to the back straight for the final time to be able to stay close to Ben on the straight and get the best of his slipstream.

"I managed to stay with him and braked as late as I ever have at the end of the straight to take the lead. I then put in a really strong last sector to hold on for the win and stay ahead in the championship. The lads in the team are working to find some more speed for me for Silverstone and if they can we will be in a strong position to bring this championship home for the Kawasaki 636.”

There was further Irish success at Snetterton as 14-year-old Casey O’Gorman returned to winning ways. The Portlaoise native, who is an English resident, took his sixth British Talent Cup win of the season just one week after he had stood on the top step of the podium at the British MotoGP support race. O’Gorman now sits second in the series despite having missed six races due to the injuries he sustained in his Knockhill accident.

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Casey O'Gorman took his sixth British Talent Cup win at Snetterton

Casey O'Gorman took his sixth British Talent Cup win at Snetterton

Casey O'Gorman took his sixth British Talent Cup win at Snetterton

In the Junior Superstock Championship, Caolán Irwin has been improving steadily following his return to the class mid-way through the season. The former race winner had started 13th but was quickly on the move as he climbed into the top six by the end of lap four.

The Principal Insurance Ireland-backed rider was one of the quickest on track as he remained sixth but closed the gap to the leaders to less than a second. On the penultimate lap he pushed too hard in his efforts to make the podium and ran off the road, dropping him down the field and out of the points.

“I made a mistake near the end and you just can’t do that as this championship is so competitive” Caolán said after the race.

“I was one of the quickest out there and for the first time since returning to the class I felt like I had the pace to get on the podium, but it wasn’t to be.”

It was a disappointing weekend also for the Antrim Irwin brothers, as both Andrew and Glen suffered crashes.

In Glen’s case, the weekend had started well as he put his Honda on pole position, but a crash while leading hurt his already damaged shoulder and slowed him for the remainder of the weekend. Andrew was also involved in a couple of incidents including a multiple-bike crash, when his team-mate dropped fluid on the track to bring out the red flag in race three.

The British Superbike paddock will barely have time to catch its breath this week as the action returns at Silverstone this coming weekend.


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