Second round of British Superbike championship sees Supersport riders provide cheer for Irish fans
The second round of the British Superbike Championship took riders back to Knockhill in Scotland last weekend, a circuit which was missed out by last year’s reduced British championship schedule.
The normally large Irish contingent was reduced in Scotland as the National Superstock 600 class and Junior Supersport races were left off the schedule due to the event being reduced to just two days rather than the usual three.
With Glen and Andrew Irwin continuing to struggle to match the front-running pace in the Superbike class, it was left to the Supersport riders to provide the best Irish results of the weekend. Six of the top 12 places on the grid were taken by riders from the North and South of Ireland, with former double champion Jack Kennedy qualifying best in second place, while Lee Johnston and Korie McGreevy sat on the second row of the grid in fifth and sixth.
The highly experienced Kennedy was expected to be the man to beat in this year’s championship but so far he has not had it all his own way in his first season on a Kawasaki. A good start at Oulton Park brought a win and a second place but Knockhill was always going to be harder as the circuit layout does not suit the 636cc Kawasaki’s characteristics.
“The bike is lacking in acceleration, compared to the Yamaha out of slow corners and with the hairpin before the start finish straight having an uphill exit, this made things even worse,” Kennedy said.
“I had to over-ride the bike a bit and be really on the limit on the brakes to get the results that we did.”
In race one, Kennedy was in the lead battle throughout and had to retake third place from Johnston in the latter stages to keep track of championship leader Bradley Perie. Perie was running second but was gifted the win on the final lap when the leader fell, elevating Kennedy to second and Johnston to the podium. McGreevy was a faller in race one, leaving class rookies Eunan McGlinchey, Scott Swann and Rhys Irwin to come home fifth, seventh and ninth.
The second race was even tougher for Kennedy. It was obvious just how hard he was riding as he battled back from a slow start that left him seventh at the end of lap one. By the time Kennedy got to third place, Perie was long gone in the lead and the Dubliner had his work cut out to catch Johnston.
Kennedy eventually caught and passed his Northern Irish rival with three laps to go, but Johnston moved back past on the straight, as expected, to retake second and hold on for the best result of his British Supersport Championship career.
Third place was enough for Kennedy to keep second in the championship and maintain the pressure on Perie as the championship heads for two circuits that will suit his Kawasaki.
“It was a good weekend’s work under the circumstances,” Kennedy said.
“I think we got the best that we could have out of the bike, without pushing too far. I was on the limit all the time but we got the results we needed and I’m happy with where we are as we move on to the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit in two weeks’ time.”
Lee Johnston was also happy with his weekend’s work, as he felt he had the pace to go one better and take his first win.
“Our pace was really good and in race two, when I got free of the traffic, I could match the leader’s times but unfortunately he was too far ahead by that stage,” Johnston said.
“It was nice to come out on top of the battle with Jack in the last couple of laps and I was happy with second but would have been happier with the win.
“With no road racing planned for 2021, I’ll be doing the rest of the Supersport season and I know after this weekend that we are capable of having results like this every time and challenging for the title.”
Of the remaining Irish Supersport riders at Knockhill, McGreevy again failed to finish race two while McGlinchey and Irwin both matched their race one results with fifth and ninth place.
In the Superbike class, Honda rider Glen Irwin picked up a best finish of eleventh in race two before crashing out of the third encounter. Younger brother Andrew picked up just four championship points on the TAS BMW with a best finish of fourteenth. Waterford’s Brian McCormack suffered another disastrous weekend, with just one race finish following mechanical issues.
Thirteen-year-old London-based Portlaoise youngster Casey O’Gorman had an unfortunate weekend in Scotland. The British Talent cup and European Talent Cup star had taken two wins at the season opener in Oulton Park, but was run into from behind at the end of the main straight during Practice, landing him in hospital and out of the Knockhill weekend.
O'Gorman’s championship challenge is now in jeopardy, as he will miss some rounds while he recovers from the Knockhill accident.